Falling Into the Culture Gap: The Allure of “Hipster” Christianity

Recently Gap Inc. reversed its plans to change the company’s familiar logo because of the widespread unpopularity of its new image. Visitors to the Gap’s website scorned the new logo, ridiculing it for its ugliness and complaining that it was something a child could have created using clip art.

 It seems reasonable to assume that Gap Inc. returned to its old logo because they were afraid that consumers’ dislike of its new symbol would adversely affect corporate sales. I am not criticizing the Gap for changing its mind in this matter. This seems like good business sense to me. Some have even speculated that the whole thing was merely a publicity stunt–perhaps an ingenious variation on the old “new” Coke strategy.

 But I do wonder what all this says about us as a culture.  Are we really so image conscious that we would refuse to purchase a product because we didn’t like the company’s logo? I suspect that for many the answer is yes and I fear that the church is not immune. We live in an age where image is everything and cool is king. Congregations care more about a preacher’s style than the content of his message. It is the age of what Brett McCracken calls, in a recent article in Christianity Today, “hipster Christianity.” This is a Christianity that is not so much a faith as it is a style and whose chief vulnerability is “its fundamentally disposable, moving-on-to-what’s-next transience.”

 Our fashion conscious culture lends itself to a style oriented church. I do not see this as a new problem. It is essentially the same mentality that prompted the Corinthians to so align themselves with their favorite teachers that one said, “I follow Paul” and another “I follow Apollos” (1 Cor. 3:4). Paul, despite having a following of his own, adamantly refused to adopt the trappings of Corinthian coolness, preferring to cling to the decidedly unhip message of the cross. He might have been more “effective” if he had paid more attention to Corinthian tastes. But for him the cost of being hip was just too high.

Read Brett McCracken’s interesting article on the Christianity Today website: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/9.24.html?start=7

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John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

3 thoughts on “Falling Into the Culture Gap: The Allure of “Hipster” Christianity”

  1. On the other side of the coin, the church can try to be so anti-current culture, that it clings – not to the culture of the gospel – but the culture of earlier generations.

    There is a danger any time a Christian, or a church defines their church by the way they do things, in-style or out-of-style. There is also a danger when we define other Christians or churches that way. It diminishes the unity of the greater body of Christ and the impact of our faith on society. As Paul did, we must define our faith by our relationship to the cross. If we do that, the style we adopt shouldn’t matter.

    Be “hip”, be “country”, be “gen X”, be “traditional”, be “contemporary (which often isn’t contemporary anymore).” But be that for Jesus and for His redemptive purposes. And let others be who they are, for Him too.

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