I was amazed to find that my friend and fellow writer Carson had recently posted about "Hipster Christianity" as a movement.
I read an article (which I am unable to find) about "Hipster Christianity" a few months ago and proceeded to write a bitter post about it, which I subsequently deleted without posting. What follows is perhaps a more measured set of thoughts regarding this "movement." Perhaps.
I use the word movement loosely for two reasons.
Firstly, the Emerging Church seems to have been the previous "movement" in Christianity, and it lasted perhaps 5 years, if that. Though my exposure to Christian subculture has been to a small community of conservatives for the most part, it seems like most people missed the point entirely of the Emerging Church when it was around. Indeed, when I can read an article citing Rob Bell's book "SexGod" as an example of Hipster Christianity and as shock value, when Bell was previously lumped in with the Emerging Church, it seems like we're talking about nothing of substance, more than people moving from one fashionable thing to another. If I remember correctly, the point of the Emerging Church was for Christians to embrace those around them, to listen instead of reacting and respond with understanding, as opposed to the knee-jerk represented so often in pop-culture that is sadly typical of many religious people. Has this movement died? Has it institutionalized already? I have observed very few people in my time in Christian subculture that responded to Emerging and newer writers that challenged the "status queue" (rather new itself, relatively speaking, even if we're speaking of Luther), and only a few reactions. Some chose to say that Postmodernism is dead and that the Emerging Church is irrelevant to anything, some chose to call the Emerging Church heresy for no good reason that I could find, and still others simply bought it, hook line and sinker, with obviously no understanding of what it is. This third reaction leads me to my second point.
"Hipster Christianity" seems to me to be the logical extension of those that liked the Emerging Church without understanding the Philosophical background and the reason it existed. There are now multiple stereotypes of a hipster Christian, and another subculture within a subculture has formed. This is not a movement, this is a subculture. A movement implies change, a subculture is a binding force with social acceptance at the center. Movements frequently operated counter to social acceptance, and in general are seeking truth in some way.
Hipsters have been around for a while, and it's just a new word for people that enjoy fashionable things. This is fine, let them do what they like. But to call this thing a "movement" seems sadly indicative of the lack of intellectual freedom and critical thought present in not just a lot of Christianity, but in many that choose to throw their support behind things without thinking about it.
I'll not doomsay our culture, for I have no authority to make predictive claims that will put my foot in my mouth later. However, I am understandably dissatisfied with a subculture that would make things that are intended to arouse critical thought, such as the work of Rob Bell, into a mere fashion statement, and denigrate critical thought to the level of merely being contrary. It is understandably frustrating to me, having had my life literally changed by reading the work of Bell and others like him.
In conclusion, I do believe the Emerging Church movement is completely dead, and has been dying a slow death for some time, culminating in this "Hipster Christianity" fad. Or perhaps my age is finally beginning to show. Either way, I can only look to those people that do still practice critical thinking and choose to respond to circumstances rather than reacting without seeing or understanding. Perhaps one day I'll return to church because of those people.
Comment is invited. If you know more than I do about this, please feel free to share.