Anatomy of a Christian Hipster

Confused about what a Christian hipster looks like? Fear not. There are interactive photos on the official Hipster Christianity website designed to describe (in great detail) what Christian hipsters look like. Click on the images below to find out more.

“The Artistic Searcher” – One of the most common types of Christian hipsters, the Artistic Searcher is the person whose deep spirituality manifests itself in the dark room and on GarageBand. They are poets, painters, writers, musicians, designers and creators who see themselves as image bearers of the Creator and thus charged with the task of incarnationally concocting and enjoying culture. Frequently art majors at evangelical colleges whose intellectual life was rocked by That One Art History Professor Freshman Year, these Christian hipsters usually undergo dramatic shifts in their views of art between the ages of 18 and 25. They grew up loving Thomas Kinkade-esque impressionism, later graduated to an affinity for abstract expressionism, and currently enjoy installation or video art by the likes of Tim Hawkinson and Matthew Barney. But mostly they just like to create–not didactically or in ways that are obviously “Christian,” but in ways that are subversive and individual and a true reflection of that ineffable, Chestertonian sense of “divine discontent.”

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Thoughts on the Release of Hipster Christianity

Five summers ago, I was a just-out-of-college intern for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, working on the Oxbridge ’05 conference in Oxford and Cambridge. It was one of the most enchanting, life-changing summers of my life. On top of the many brilliant lectures I heard in Oxford and Cambridge, I had dozens of conversations over pints and pipes—at pubs at 2 in the morning, after an evensong service in some magical cathedral, or in the garden of The Kilns (C.S. Lewis’ home in Oxford).  These were the conversations that sparked the first true ideas that would eventually become Hipster Christianity. When I got back home later that summer, I wrote “A New Kind of Hipster” for Relevant. Five years later, Hipster Christianity is out in stores (as of Aug. 1—the official release date).

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Key Dates in the Formation of Hipster Christianity

How did today’s Christian hipster come to be? Here are some key dates in the formation of hipster Christianity:

June 5, 1955: Francis Schaeffer opens L’Abri.

1967: The Living Room coffeehouse opens in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district; origins of Jesus People movement.

1969: Larry Norman’s Upon This Rock (Capitol Records) is released; major release of a “Christian rock” record.

June 21, 1971: The Jesus Movement is profiled in Time magazine article, “The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!”

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Christian Hipster Bookshelf

One of the best ways to learn about the type of person someone is is by looking at the books that populate their bookshelves. Books, I’ve found, play a large role in shaping how any of us understand and inhabit our worlds–so naturally they are a good place to go when seeking to understand a subculture. For example, the following is a list of the types of books that define the Christian hipster subculture.

How many of these 50 books have you read? If you’ve read more than 20 of them, there is a good chance that you are a Christian with artistic or intellectual tendencies. If you’ve read more than 30 of them, you are most likely a Christian hipster. If you’ve read more than 40 of them, let me know. You could probably write the sequel to Hipster Christianity.

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Catalyst Comes to a Close

What do you get when you bring together gum walls, skinny jeans, confetti, creepy mustache's on twenty-something’s, poetry, comedy, rock music, hipsters, rap music, any and all music really, Tenley from last seasons The Bachelor, time travel, 6 roach coaches and powerful speakers like Eugene Cho, Kay Warren, Mark Driscoll, Wes Stafford and Donald Miller, just to name a few?

Catalyst West Coast.

The two-day leadership conference came to a close yesterday afternoon as Andy Stanley taught leadership to the 3400 leaders present. He made comment like, "As leaders, you should be making as few decisions as possible" and "Only do what you can do." He also said "Leadership is about getting things done through other people."

Earlier in the day, Wess Stafford of Compassion International said, "I'm convinced the prayer of a child in poverty or in abuse is the most powerful force." Just before making that statement, he said something that really struck me. He said, "We may not be committing the sin of endangering a child, but we are committing the sin of omission by allowing a child to be endangered."

Erwin McManus talked about how Solomon got it wrong when he said "there is nothing new under the sun." Erwin said "God created us for originality; not just effectiveness. Everything God does is new. He is constantly creating the new. Only in the new do we find the beautiful. Live lives of story and meaning and create new beauty."

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"Jesus was a Rebel"

“Jesus was a rebel” is a favorite slogan of Christian pastors and authors trying to “reach twentysomethings,” as they say. The logic? 1) Young people think Christianity is tired, boring, stale. 2) Young people are naturally rebellious and contrarian. THEREFORE… 3) Maybe Christianity will be fresh and exciting to them if it is framed in the context of subversion and rebellion.

But I’m not so sure that’s a sound syllogism.

It’s not a stretch to say that Jesus was a rebel. He was. He was bucking the system, turning over tables, and saying all sorts of subversive things in the days when he was walking the earth. It is perfectly appropriate, then, for Christians to call Jesus a rebel or a subversive. And it certainly fits neatly into any sort of a “Christianity is hip” PR ambition a church might be undertaking. Hipsters love rebels, and even if they loathe church or Christians, most of them still think Jesus is pretty dang cool.

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Top Ten Cities for Christian Hipsters

As an entirely unscientific but perhaps accurate summary of the geographic loci of Christian hipster, here is a list of what I suggest are the ten most important cities for Christian hipsterdom. These may not be the cities with the most or the highest concentrations of Christian hipsters; They are simply the most important—for a number of reasons.

10) Orlando: This seems like an unlikely spot for a high hipster population, and indeed it is. But Orlando is the home of Relevant magazine, which immediately puts it on the Christian hipster map. It is also home of the ridiculously unhip Holy Land Experience, and hip churches with names like H20, Status and Summit.

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"Hipster Christianity" Book Cover Revealed!

Ladies and gentlemen, readers and passersby: My book has a cover!

HIPSTER CHRISTIANITY: When Church and Cool Collide also has a release date:

August 10, 2010.

That’s still 9 months off, but fear not! You can already pre-order a copy on the Baker Books website as well as Amazon … so get it while you’re thinking about it!

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Hipster Church Tour: Life on the Vine

life on the vine

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. The goal is to gain a good bit of qualitative data on the subject I’m writing about and 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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Interview With Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne is someone I’ve been following for quite some time—someone who I greatly admire and who I believe is an important, prophetic voice for the church today. If you’ve read his books or heard him speak, you know how provocative and compelling and fascinating he is. In my book on Christian hipster culture, Shane gets more than a few paragraphs mention.

I recently had the chance to interview Shane as an online feature to go along with the cover story for the latest Biola Magazine. You can read the interview by clicking here, but here is a little excerpt:

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