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Another take on ‘Hipster Christianity’

Back in August I linked to a piece by Brett McCracken wherein he decried what he sees as the evangelical temptation to “be cool” at the expense of real, genuine faith. My initial read resonated with the column, and I was a bit surprised when some folks I quite respect took issue with McCracken’s book.

I’ll admit that I haven’t read the book, and absent a copy finding its way into my hands for free, I probably won’t. However, I came upon an insightful review today that puts McCracken’s book in a different (and much less favorable) light.

James K. A. Smith, posting on, says that McCracken needs to add the word “poser” to his lexicon.

McCracken’s analysis ends up being reductionistic: he thinks anyone who looks like a “hipster” is really just trying to be “cool.” This, I think, tells us more about Mr. McCracken than it does about so-called hipster Christianity…

McCracken sets his sights on his own generation: hip millennials who are taken with incense, hemp clothing, Wendell Berry, and Amnesty International. McCracken is worried that this is just the next generation of cultural assimilation in the name of relevance.

But his analysis only works if, in fact, all hipsters are really just posers. That is, McCracken effectively reduces all hipsters to posers precisely because he can only imagine someone adopting such a lifestyle in order to be cool. Let me say it again: this tells us more about McCracken than it does about those young Christians who are spurning conservative, bourgeois values. [Emphasis in the original.]

Smith acknowledges that there are, indeed, Christians who are trying to be “cool” or “hipster” simply for the sake of being cool, but he asserts that they are the “posers” and are not representative of the “Christian hipsters” he knows:

In short, the lives of the Christian hipsters I know are a gazillion miles away from being worried about image or trendiness; they live the way they do because they are pursuing the good life characterized by well-ordered culture-making that is just and conducive to flourishing—and this requires resisting the mass-produced, mass-marketed, and mass-consumed banalities of the corporate ladder, the suburban veneer of so-called success, as well as the irresponsibility of perpetual adolescence that characterizes so many twentysomethings who imagine life as one big frat house.

I very much appreciate Smith’s review and analysis and recommend it as worthwhile reading.

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