I have an article in the May/June issue of Relevant magazine entitled “The Rise of the Ironic Class,” which takes a look at why my generation is such an ironic one, what it means for our relationships, for communication, etc…
You can read the whole article here (the picture above is from the article’s title page), but here is a little excerpt:
It’s no secret: our generation—let’s very roughly say those of us currently between the ages of 15 and 40—is very, very ironic. That is, we look at the world, especially pop culture, through a highly sarcastic, “you’ve got to be joking, right?” lens. More self-aware and media savvy than ever, we are a growing class of ironists who speak in terms of pastiche, in Internet bits and pop culture bites, film quotes and song lyrics and “oh no she didn’t!” tabloid tomfoolery. We look the stupidity of culture in the face and kiss it—embracing The O.C. and drinking swill like Pabst because, well, because no one expected it and it doesn’t mean anything anyway.
There are reasons for our embrace of irony. We grew up in a world where earnestness failed us. Cold Wars were waged very sincerely, ideologies were bandied about with the best of intentions. Our parents married and divorced in all earnestness, and wide swaths of American homes were devastated by the sort of domestic disharmony that shattered any pretension of white-picket fence perfection. Meanwhile, we grew up in a constant orgasm of advertising and brand messaging. The conglomerates cornered the markets, the ad agencies figured us out, and MTV sucked our souls dry. But we also became savvy, and with the Internet and all the wiki-democratization it offered, it became easier to see through the charades of various culture industries and power-wielding hegemonies. Flaws were exposed, seedy schemes revealed amid the formerly shrouded machinations of “the man.” Nothing was sacred anymore, and all was ridiculous. (Read the rest…)
If you are a Christian of a certain age (let’s say 21-50), and you grew up in the Christian church (especially in the 80s or early 90s), you probably love making fun of the evangelical subculture. I know I do. I love nothing more than laughing about and ironically consuming vintage Christian kitsch items. Whether it’s McGee and Me, DC Talk, Left Behind or any number of other bits of Jesus junk, I always enjoy reminiscing about it. In the same way that the rest of our generation ironically talks about Zach Morris or Labyrinth or those years when it was cool to roll up your jean shorts, Christians are finding great amusement in recalling the nonsensical oddities of the evangelical world.
One of the things Christian hipsters love to point out is just how sickeningly derivative evangelical culture is—that we always have to copy what the secular world is doing, usually a few months or years later (case in point: the new Christian version of Guitar Hero). These are also the Christian hipsters who take joy in looking ironically upon the maudlin kitsch that birthed them. It is the ultimate bit of irony, then, that Christians have coopted the irony industry to make out of it an evangelical alternative. For your consideration: larknews and stuffchristianslike:
Lark News: This is the Christian version of The Onion. It’s a fake news rag with infrequent but hilarious updates, with headlines like “Denominations reach non-compete agreement” and “Missionaries maintain obesity against long odds.” It’s a great source of laughs at the expense of our evangelical ridiculousness. The website also features a shop where you can buy snarky, make-fun-of-ourselves t-shirts.
Stuff Christians Like: This is the Christian version of Stuff White People Like—the runaway blog success that revels in smarmy self-loathing and the purging of white bourgeois guilt. The Christian version, which began on Jan 1, 2008 and features the same “countdown” format as its mainstream predecessor, includes such entries as “#31: Occasionally swearing,” “#393: Family Fish Bumper Stickers,” “#382: Perfectly Timing Your Communion Walk,” and “#93: Riding on the Cool Van in the Youth Group.”
Of course, there are many other examples of this sort of thing that I could mention. The Wittenberg Door, Relevant, and countless evangelical college humor magazines have been doing this stuff for years. But it seems that Christian irony is increasingly prevalent these days, maybe because all of us naïve children are grown up now and stunned by the crazy things we grew up in. Sometimes all we can do is laugh.