Here’s an excerpt of Hipster Christianity worth reading.
“Part of the new ‘rethink everything!’ disposition of evangelicalism in the eighties and nineties was an aggressively commercialistic development of an evangelical subculture. A mind-set of ‘whatever the secular culture can do, we can do too – only Christianly!’ arose. As a result, we saw the birth of Christian retail chains and everything from Christian sci-fi novels to Christian computer games, Christian animated cartoon series…and Christian T-shirts (that often mimicked current popular T-shirt brands, such as No Fear). If the secular market produced anything remotely cool, trendy, or popular, you’d be sure to find a Christian version in no time.”
“This was all very clearly seen in Christian music. Throughout the eighties and especially in the nineties, the CCM machine quickly churned out Christian versions of whatever style of music was currently cool. Desperately trying to stay relevant and appealing to the fickle tastes of the youth culture, the industry adopted a comprehensive ‘if you like so-and-so, then you’ll like…” methodology of artist development. If you liked the Beastie Boys, there was dc Talk (circa Nu Thang); if you liked Nirvana, there was Audio Adrenaline; if you liked Hootie and the Blowfish, there was Third Day; if you liked NSYNC, there was Plus One; if you liked Korn or Limp Bizkit, there was P.O.D., and so on.”
“In the 1990s, then, cool Christianity took on a couple different forms. One one hand, it existed as an industry, as an establishment: churches, pastors, conventions, and festivals that clamored for the attention of youth by branding Christianity just as cool as anything on MTV. These were the big-budget youth groups with high-tech lighting, frenzied lock-ins, laser tag, paintball, and worship leaders with dyed hair and tattoos who played Plankeye songs. These were the glossy megachurches with in-house climbing walls, coffeehouses, skate parks, gyms, ropes courses, and everything your average X-Games fan would find appealing. This was a top-down method that believed the flashier, more entertaining Christianity was, the more kids would come and think it was cool” (p. 85-88).
Though I wasn’t raised in evangelical circles, I had friends who were, so I fully understand what McCracken is saying. He’s exactly right. This book, along with others I mention here from time to time, very much reveals these aspects of our Western culture that have infiltrated the church: consumerism, individualism, anti-intellectualism, and an inordinate focus on feelings, entertainment, and youth. Here’s the book info if you’re interested: Brett McCracken, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010). You can find used copies for under $10.