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Editorial Reviews


"[McCracken] has a strong, C.S. Lewis-like approach to navigating the space between excessive consumption and legalistic abstention." -Christ and Pop Culture

"A balanced and versatile book." -The Gospel Coalition

"If I were still involved in youth or college ministry, I would be leaving copies of this book laying around on every horizontal surface in my office, to be perused by students, parents, pastors, and ordinary church members." -Fred Sanders, The Scriptorium

"An accessible, readable approach to the issue of 'culture' ... a helpful introduction to thoughtful and spiritually-aware engagement of the created order." -Christianity Today

"A valuable guide for any Christian who seeks to live out an incarnational faith... packs a lot of wisdom for anyone who just wants to be a better--more thoughtful, informed, discerning--consumer of culture." -IMAGE Journal

From the Back Cover

Culture. As Christians we're encouraged to engage it, create it, redeem it. And today many of us are actively cultivating an appreciation for aspects of culture previously stigmatized within the church. Things like alcohol, R-rated movies, and secular music have moved from being forbidden to being celebrated. But are we opening our arms too wide in uncritical embrace of culture? Can there be a healthy, balanced approach--or is that simply wishful thinking?

With the same insight found in his popular Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken examines some of the hot-button gray areas of Christian cultural consumption, helping to lead us to adopt a more thoughtful approach to consuming culture in the complicated middle ground between legalism and liberty.

"McCracken charges headfirst into controversial questions and leaves no stone unturned. The result is a truly spectacular book that carves a path between an oppressive, rules-based religion and a powerless, free-for-all 'faith.' If you start reading it, beware--you won't be able to put it down."--Jonathan Merritt, faith and culture writer; author, A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars

"A helpful, critical, reflective exploration of how we should consume culture as Christians, one that is neither reactionary nor defensive, triumphalist nor despairing. Few younger Christians have navigated these turbulent waters with as much even-handed clarity as this book does, which makes it an important read."--Matthew Lee Anderson,; author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter for Our Faith

"Idealism is all the rage among bright young evangelicals today, but Brett McCracken brings something all too rare to the table: he holds his earnest idealism in tension with lucid good sense and winsome moderation. May his tribe increase!"--John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture

"Martin Luther said the world was like a drunken man, first falling off one side of the horse and then the other. With a fresh and thoughtful look at challenges such as food, music, film, and alcohol, Brett McCracken has offered a new generation a way to stay on the horse."--Roberta Green Ahmanson, writer and speaker

Brett McCracken is a Los Angeles-based journalist. He is the author of Hipster Christianity and has written for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, and Relevant. A graduate of Wheaton College and UCLA, Brett currently works as managing editor for Biola magazine and teaches journalism at Biola University. Follow him at his blog, The Search, at
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801014743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801014741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brett McCracken is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist. A graduate of Wheaton College and UCLA, Brett currently works as managing editor for Biola University's Biola Magazine and is pursuing a Master's in Theology at Talbot School of Theology. He also regularly writes movie reviews and features for Christianity Today, as well as contributing frequently to Relevant magazine. He comments on movies, media, and popular culture issues at his blog, The Search (

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By C. Williams on September 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read Gray Matters last month, I came away agreeing with McCracken more often than not. He also helped to positively shape my thinking in some areas. I esp. benefitted from his thoughts on consumption in general as well as the historical context he laid out in each major section.

But I did have one hangup and definite caveat to recommending the book to others. Though I appreciate his focus on knowing where to draw the line in chapter 7, too many statements in that chapter and less than subtle movie recommendations gave me reason for concern. I really could not imagine much benefit that one might gain from watching movies with explicit sexual content. Despite the current pornography epidemic we're facing in our day, he seemed to presume that most readers would not struggle with sex and nudity in movies (with artistic and storytelling value) save for the few exceptions who have an abnormal struggle with pornography. This seemed to me a naive assessment of our culture. And culture is his area of expertise. I can think of few stumbling blocks more pervasive in our sex-crazed culture than sex in our film-watching. And more than that, when it comes to sex in movies, no matter the artistic telling of the narrative, Christians need to remember that the actors and actresses are real people with real mothers and fathers. Personally, I would grieve deeply over the knowledge that my daughter was taking her clothes off for the world to watch, no matter how artistic or beautiful the tale the film told. These factors alone would seem to overshadow any potential merit that could come through such movies.

I think Josh Harris' advice in "Sex is not the Problem (Lust Is)" proves to be less complicated: "This is not a simplistic test, but wholesomely biblical.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brandan Robertson on July 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
I am a fan of Brett McCracken. As a young evangelical I can relate to a lot of the thoughts and sentiments that Brett writes/blogs about. When I read his book Hipster Christianity last summer, I was encouraged and informed about many of the movements taking place within modern Western Christianity. So when I recieved the manuscript of his newest book from Baker Publishing, I was thrilled.

In his new book, Gray Matters, Brett tackles a very important issue that most young evangelicals are facing today- how are we to view things like smoking, drinking, cussing, and secular media. Because for most of us who grew up in the Evangelical subculture, we were taught never to drink, never to smoke, never to watch anything over a PG rating, and to stay away from "secular" music. However, most of us who grew up in that mindset now smoke, drink, watch everything, and listen to everything (or at least don't have a problem with any of those things). In this book, Brett attempt to shed some light on these "gray matters" and helps young evangelicals to think through these issues from a fresh and biblical perspective.

The book is broken into four main sections addressing four major gray issues for evangelicals- Eating, Listening, Watching, and Drinking.

Now, If you did not grow up in conservative evangelicalism, you may find the need for such a book laughable. Mainline-Progressive-Emergent-Liberal Christians generally all have no problems with these issues and have never dealt with these ideas as "gray matters". This book is really not for those people. It is rather for young evangelicals who really do have serious questions about these issues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul Mastin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I am a pretty voracious consumer of culture. I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, some good, some bad, some edifying, some not. Christian approaches to the consumption of various media range from teetotalism to unrestrained embrace, and most guidance for Christians tends toward legalistic black and white evaluation. Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity, offers some guidance of a different sort in his new book Gray Matters.

McCracken's main target is younger Christians who come from the teetotalism end of the spectrum: no drinking, no secular music, no movies, or at least no R-rated movies. He notes that Christians, especially 30 and under Christians, have become much more open to such cultural expressions. Given that openness, McCracken wants to provide guidelines for "consuming culture well: discerningly, maturely, thoughtfully . . . a more mature consumption of culture, . . . to help us think about how a healthy consumption of culture honors God, enriches the Christian life, strengthens community, and advances the Christian mission."

Covering four major areas of consumption, food, movies, music, and alcohol, McCracken holds to some solid scriptural benchmarks. First of all, "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." But, he continues, we should always be aware of the "weaker brother" so that we don't cause him to stumble, as well as paying attention to our own weaknesses, while acknowledging that what is permissible may not be beneficial.

I enjoyed his take on food and alcohol.
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