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Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide Paperback – August 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Being hip is about valuing independence, freedom, and reinvention. But when evangelical Christian culture adopts hip's rebellious nature, what happens to the message of the institutional church? In his book debut, magazine editor McCracken steps outside of his own hip subculture to question whether the quest to be hip is "turning Christianity into a shape-shifting chameleon with ever-diminishing ecclesiological confidence and cultural legitimacy." This critical analysis reads like a sociological study aimed at evaluating a demographic segment of churchgoers. From the Jesus People of the 1960s to the Missional Church movement of today, McCracken demonstrates how hip came to collide with the values of the church. By bowing to trends in order to reach youth, Christianity may be sacrificing content and authenticity. McCracken's analysis isn't wholly scientific and unbiased; with lists like the "12 common types of hipsters" and an appreciation of pop culture, he may unintentionally fuel the very subculture he's attempting to question. Yet his "gut check" offers a much needed perspective that will make Christian leaders question the direction of their postmodern undertakings. McCracken successfully sets the stage for an important debate.
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From Booklist

Self-professed hipster McCracken grew up an Evangelical Christian who snuck peeks at MTV when no one was looking; years later, he became a writer and frequent contributor to progressive Christian magazines such as Relevant. So who better to write the play-by-play on the church’s current wrestling match with the ideology of “hipness”? The result is a coolheaded and clever rumination on the history of coolness, its effect on a church determined to prove its pertinence to an image-obsessed culture, and its newest subcategory of devotees—hipster Christians. As with any major cultural collision, questions arise: Who are Christian hipsters, and where did they come from? Can hipster Christianity be a positive thing? And, most importantly, can the church ever be considered cool? While McCracken’s arguments are clearly shaped by his Evangelical Christian background, anyone interested in the church’s modern permutations will find something of interest in these pages. --Taina Lagodzinski
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (August 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801072220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801072222
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,597 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on August 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought Hipster Christianity after reading Brett McCracken's Wall Street Journal article "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity." That article was quick and incisive, and put into words a lot of things I've been feeling about modern Christianity. The article sparked debate among my friends, some of whom appreciated the article as much as I did and others of whom started throwing around words like "fundamentalist." I wanted more of McCracken's perspective.

Now that I've read McCracken's book, I have mixed feelings about it. His WSJ piece, on a second reading, remains a beautifully concise indictment of the Christian hipster subculture, but the book is a much more muddled affair.

The book begins with a "history of hip" that purports to trace the ancestry of today's hipsters. I wasn't convinced by McCracken's summary of that ancestry; it was very, very short and jumped between seemingly unrelated "cool" movements. I have to guess the research involved was scattershot. The following chapter on the history of cool since the 1960s is much better, but still not comprehensive. In what is perhaps the book's most entertaining chapter, McCracken sketches the most common kinds of hipster. McCracken then examines the birth of "Christian cool" among the "Jesus People" of the late 60s and early 70s as well as the modern heirs of their culture.

The second section of the book examines Christian hipsterdom in the present, including summaries of McCracken's visits to numerous hipster churches in both the United States and Great Britain. He also examines the "emerging church," which he describes as a movement already falling by the wayside, and the "missional" movement which is supplanting it.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By EarlKid on December 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
In "Hipster Christianity," Brett McCracken takes up an entire book to think out loud. For a fascinating topic, he's constructed a wildly vacillating narrative in which he alternately defends so-called Christian Hipsters, questions their spiritual credentials, criticizes modern churches, praises modern churches, condemns hipsters and even questions himself.

Needless to say, not exactly an authoritative approach.

The result of his uneven narrative is a book that seems to blatantly ignore major forces affecting Christianity in the world today. If you knew nothing about these forces but read this book, you'd come away thinking hipsters were about to take over the church. The reality, of course, is that hipsters are a minor -- perhaps even infinitisimal -- force in Christianity. Whether or not you agree with them, people like James Dobson, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Franklin Graham have an immeasurably greater impact on Christianity than the sum total of all Christian hipsters today. The rising influence of prosperity Gospel preachers, too, undercuts the entire premise of "Hipster Christianity." But the book largely ignores these forces. Thus, it lacks basic context.

In addition, the author seems to allow his own (acknowledged) hipster biases to disproportionately inform his writing. That is, for example, he invariably emphasizes obscure Christian hipster music artists as examples of how hipsters' influence on the religion is burgeoning. In reality, though, hipster musicians like Sufjan Stevens -- whom McCracken clearly adores -- have little impact on the Christian music industry, not to mention the religion itself.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Kenney on September 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
You'd think buying a book called "Hipster Christianity" would dial you in to the what's-what and help you comb your faux hawk just right. Sadly this is not that book. Brett McCracken's book is more of a tale and less a "guide."

Brett writes with a touch of wit and wry sarcasm, and he drops named like Dennis Miller on speed. But again, I warn you, don't buy this book if you're in a dying church and you're hoping to steal some "cool-points" and rev up your congregation. This is not a "how-to" book.

Paul Grant defines cool as: "I am an individual; you are a clone. I know what's really going on here; you don't. I can get out of here; you can't."

The book chronicles the rise of "cool" through church history, from Godspell to Stryper to Relevant Magazine; Brett has really done his homework. That said, I would also offer the book is extremely dated - Brett lists several "hipster" churches, their pastors, books, fashion and "where hipsters hang out" in his book - all of which will surely change in the years (months?) to come as fashion forward moves... well... forward.

Interestingly enough in Brett's "hipsters today" he describes my hipster personality "type." Turns out I am the Detached Ironic. "Media savvy...class-clown...with an ever ready arsenal of witty remarks...popular in large groups... distant in close personal relationships... blogger."

And while you may shun the "hipster" title and decide that neither church nor Christians need be relevant or cool - you may also find yourself (or your church) described within Brett's book (unless you're over 50).

Brett says the reason he wrote the book was because he loves the church. "I want to see her thrive, expand and be all that she can be for the world.
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