Hipster Church Tour: Mars Hill

As part of the research for my book, I’ve been visiting churches all over the country over the past year—a tour of “America’s hippest churches,” you might say (though soon to expand to Europe as well). The goal is to gain a good bit of qualitative data on the subject I’m writing about, to understand firsthand how various church bodies are fitting in to this whole thing. I have stopped at dozens of churches in many states and talked with countless people, and every now and then on my blog I will describe in depth my various observations about these churches.

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Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father


Dear Zachary is a documentary by an average guy—Kurt Kuenne—who set out to make an homage film about his best friend who was tragically murdered. It’s not an average film. It’s a masterpiece that had me in tears pretty much start-to-finish. I haven’t been as punched-in-the-gut wrecked by a movie since the last 20 minutes of United 93. Dear Zachary came out in 2008 and would have made my top ten list for sure. It’s now out on DVD and available to “Watch Now” on Netflix. WATCH IT NOW. But beware: it is relentlessly affecting.

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Talking About Blogging

I figure the best way to end this little “Talking About…” communication series is to get really meta and write (very briefly) about blogging. It’s a form of communication I’ve been quite familiar with for the better part of the last two years, and it’s something I’ve always approached with a critical eye. I started my first blog on wordpress 2 years ago, and have faithfully posed at least twice a week ever since.

So, now that I am nearly 2 years in to the blogging world, what are my thoughts? Well, here are a few in no particular order: 1) Blogging is first and foremost valuable to the blogger. Not only does it give you a platform to talk publicly about things you are passionate about, but it forces you to communicate in a lucid, readable, appealing manner.

Talking About Facebook and Twitter


I reluctantly joined Facebook back in September. I’ve been on it for like 9 months now, and I suppose you could say I’m a little less antagonistic about it than I once was… like when I wrote this article back in 2007, or even this one back in February. I mean, I still have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but I’m definitely less extreme about it these days.

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Talking About Online Chatting

Since some time in the late 90s, online chatting has been a popular form of communication among people below a certain age. Whether AIM, gmail chat, facebook chat, ichat, or whatever other mode of usage, the online ping pong form of communication is something most of us have participated in or do participate in on a daily basis.

And as with most forms of communication, I have mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, I really enjoy the way that online chatting allows for more thoughtful back-and-forth. Certainly it doesn’t always happen, but at least the form lends itself to more thought-through responses. In face-to-face communication, if you pause for too long or look nervous trying to come up with something to say, it makes the situation awkward. Online, it’s accepted. You can take all the time you want to craft a message before you hit “send,” and both parties accept that this is how it should happen. Face-to-face, we often fill awkward silences with rushed statements or uncomfortable silence-fillers. Online, we can go about it slower and more methodically, crafting just the right response to communicate exactly the right thing.

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Talking About Talking: Part One

I was a communication major in college, and I taught communication theory in grad school. I got an MA in media studies and am a journalist by trade. Needless to say, I often think about communication. So it’s time to start a multi-part series about it on my blog. What can I say? I’m nostalgic for grad school.

There are a LOT of different kinds of communication. Everyone does it slightly differently. It’s one of the things I like most about people. I love observing how they talk and listening to them and learning about their stories. I’m a journalist, so it’s kinda what I do.

People are super interesting, and there’s nothing like a human conversation and what happens when people open up to each other and express things and make meaning through communication. It’s the “miracle of communication,” as theorist James Carey would say.

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"In" and "Out" is so 2009


I’ve been thinking a lot about trendiness of late (probably because I’m writing a book that deals largely with questions of cool, relevance, and trendiness in the context of Christianity). I’ve also been thinking about transience in general—impermanence, aging, death, things like that (probably because I just watched Synecdoche New York again). The two are related, of course. Nothing lasts in life—whether we’re talking about youth or our favorite TV show.

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The Limits of Control

I love Jim Jarmusch. So I was delighted to be able to see his latest film, The Limits of Control, and write a review for Christianity Today. The film is a strange one, to be sure. It’s like Lost in Translation meets Inland Empire, with a dose of 60s-inspired critical theory thrown in. It’s made by and for hipsters, so expect a lot of ambiguity, ambient Japanese rock music, and Bill Murray (actually, just a little Bill Murray).

Anyway, you can read my full review here, of which the following is a brief excerpt:

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A Bridge to Somewhere


I’ve visited dozens of churches this year as part of the research for my book. I’ve enjoyed the experience, but I always enjoy coming back to my local church. I think it’s so important to be involved in a local church.

I wanted to take a minute to write about the church I attend, because I think it’s a fascinating example of what a church can look like in a 21st century landscape of Christianity that is going through something of an identity crisis.

The church I attend is called “The Bridge,” and it just started as a partnership between Bel Air Presbyterian (the church I’ve attended for the past four years) and Union Church of Los Angeles, a struggling Japanese congregation in the Little Toyko section of downtown Los Angeles. Essentially, Bel Air Pres—a thriving congregation up in the Hollywood Hills above the posh mansions of Bel Air—struck a deal with the Union Church leadership that would allow a new church to be born and housed on Sunday nights in the Little Tokyo location, where Union and Bel Air folks could worship together and hopefully nurture a self-sufficient congregation that would eventually attract a local crowd from those who live downtown—whether loft yuppies or box-dwelling homeless in nearby Skid Row.

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Don't Answer if You Don't Agree With Me

In the latest pop culture dust-up over California’s Proposition 8, a pair of queens at a beauty pageant this weekend touched off a media firestorm when one of them asked the other for their opinion on gay marriage and that person dared to speak her mind. The queens in question were celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (the self-proclaimed “queen of all media”) and Miss California, Carrie Prejean, and the pageant in question was Miss USA. If you haven’t seen the video clip, you can watch it here. But essentially it goes like this:

[during the judges’ questions stage of the competition]

Perez Hilton: “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”

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Brett currently works full-time for Biola University as managing editor for Biola magazine. He also writes movie reviews for Christianity Today and contributes frequently to Relevant magazine.

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