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.”

“The Frugal Collegians” – A huge number of Christian hipsters are college students or newly graduated wayfarers. Birthed in vast quantity on the campuses of Christian colleges, these sorts of Christian hipsters embody that newbie, activist spirit of “just now discovering that I can be Christian and care about the poor.” Because they are jobless or saddled with school loans, their hipster evolution has yet to reach advanced stages of Fred Segal materialism. Instead, it’s mostly conceptual. With one foot in their old Baptist youth group and the other on the unsteady terrain of viewing missions through the lens of post-colonialism, these kids are horizon-broadened, foundation-shaken and mind-blown on a daily basis, as they encounter such things as genocide, non-western plumbing, or Camus for the first time in their lives. All the while they are learning to live lives of unconventionality–dabbling in post-legalism rebellion and vice (cheap alcohol and tobacco mostly) while figuring out how to sustain a more authentic and substantial Christianity than the feeble religion of their upbringing.

“The Monied Yuppies” – Typically in their late 20s or early 30s, the Monied Yuppies are the types of Christian hipsters that gladly open their well-appointed homes for house churches or small groups (serving expensive wine or whiskey cocktails for each such occasion). More established in their tastes and less susceptible to fickle trends, these arts-patrons will not hesitate to pony up $100 to see Sufjan Stevens play Carnegie Hall. They eat well, drink well, love concerts, and attend churches with Vegan options at potlucks. More than likely they’ve thrown a Mad Men 60s-themed party or been involved in a discussion group for a book by Donald Miller, G.K. Chesterton or N.T. Wright. Gleefully at home in Anthopologie or Crate and Barrel, these stylish hipsters are highly recruited by the pastors of wannabe hip churches seeking young, culturally-savvy congregations that also have money to tithe.

“The Bookish Intellectual” – Usually a grad student and/or hardcore lifetime learner, this erudite iteration of the Christian hipster priortizes the life of the mind over the life of the wardrobe (though make no mistake: every inch of their appearance is carefully calculated in that patented “I’m a philosopher so don’t have time to look in a mirror” sort of way). Thoroughly conversant in all manner of mid-century Christian existentialism (Tillich, Bultmann, etc), the Bookish Intellectual is a frequent user of such words as “Other,” “problematize,” “ecclesiology,” and “historicity.” Typically well-traveled (semesters in Oxford or Berlin most likely) and impressively well-read (or at least impressively well aware of all the right books), this is the type of hipster who thrives anytime serious thought is given to just about anything. Is there a theology of corned beef and cabbage? Probably not, but the idea excites the Bookish Intellectual. They live and breathe implications… whether it be the cadence of words in their Anglican church’s liturgy, a feminist reading of McGee and Me, or the eschatological significance of the rise of Twitter. It’s all worthy of inquiry.

20 responses to “Anatomy of a Christian Hipster

  1. Pingback: A Little Too Close To The Bone? at Zoomtard

  2. I’m a Bookish Intellectual with a hint of Artistic Searcher.

  3. “The Frugal Collegian” feel. Yep. This is great stuff.

  4. Found your blog after reading your article in the WSJ. Fantastic last paragraph! I’m enjoying your blog. (I’m a monied yuppy.) Check out Looks like you two might have something in common!

  5. Wow, the interactive pages were pretty interesting and detailed. This is too funny. I went to a small interdenominational Christian University, and personally knew people who from each of these categories. I am mostly a bookish intellectual with a hint of one or two others. I will definitely have to share this page with other. Thanks, AE

  6. Found you at WSJ too. I’m a pastor’s kid who grew up in a Baptist church, attended Liberty U (while The Unlikely Disciple was being written), graduated and am now married to a youth pastor. These descriptions are so accurate in many of the Christians I have encountered in my age bracket, particularly “The Monied Yuppies.” I could see little bits in myself to be quite honest. It isn’t hard to see in God’s Word what a true follower of Christ looks like. But so few of us really try to be like Christ. 1 John is one of my favorites, reminding me what my identity is to be wrapped up in & who I am in Christ.
    1 John 3
    23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

  7. Good cultural analysis, something I always appreciate. I don’t think the 4 categories quite wrap it all up. For one thing, there should probably be space for those that are part of this culture but have ended up in some sort of ministry. I’m not talking about the pastors who are trying to harness the culture to grow their church, but those who are really part of it and trying to reconcile their doubts about traditional Christianity with a desire to devote themselves to a lifestyle of missions. Perhaps that’s a topic you’ve addressed in your book…

  8. Intellectual and Christian are compatible? Looks like some of the people in your photos are wearng mixed fabrics, which is clearly a sing as denoted in Leviticus, c. 19 v.19.

    What kind of shabby version of Christianity do you practice? Why do you get to pick and choose which of GOD’s rules you’ll obey?

    And did you ever think that maybe the reason so many young adults are walking away from churches is because of the divisivness and hatred that evanglism has fostered in this country?

  9. Pingback: 4 types of Christian Hipsters « JesusWire

  10. I’m like Travis – a bookish intellectual with some “artistic searcher” in me (although, I can’t in good conscience rock a scar yet). Hilarious guide to hipster Christianity, Brett. And spot on, I might add.

  11. Hey Brett,

    I’m not going to lie – I’m a bit confused by the idea of your book & the posts. Having not read your book (yet) but listening/reading various reviews and trying to give you the benefit of the doubt it seems your central concept is that Christ does not need to be hip/cool because He is Christ, and therefore His Church should not focus too much on being hip/cool/relevant. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and the Gospel is always relevant with culture. I appreciate that & could not agree more.

    What confuses me is the connection between being “hip” and watering down theology or conforming to society. My bit of self-disclosure – I’m a grad student in History. My book shelf is filled with NT Wright, Rob Bell, McClaren, GK Chesterton, Greg Boyd, CS Lewis, Graham Greene, Jim Wallis & Eugene Peterson. I love Sufjan Stevens and generally any band where I find glimpses of the sacred (e.g. Mumford & Sons). I have traveled through Europe and love Irish whiskey. I worked for two years as a Community Organizer with an inter-faith non-profit doing community focused social justice work. I voted for Obama. I am currently typing on a Macbook. I’m 26 and was raised in an A/G church, and left it for an Anglican church in the heart of Pittsburgh’s east end.

    But I don’t get it…does that make me somehow a watered down Christian cause I’m interested in issues of social justice, seeing the sacred in the secular, or generally wanting to learn about the world and God intellectually and not just experientially/emotionally? It seems that the emerging church conversation (just as an example) has pushed Christians to think about not simply orthodoxy (right thinking) but towards orthopraxy (right doing). My generation cares about the poor in a way that seems much more holistic than my parents’ generation. And it seems that this generation is more concerned than ever with how Christians act than what they think —> this sounds like Jesus’s chief concern in relation to the Pharisees in Matthew (I am thinking of the white-washed tombs and dirty cups images)

    So, maybe I’m being defensive because I identify with some of the things you’ve written about in your blogs. However, ultimately, I don’t quite understand whether you’re poking fun, encouraging, or falling somewhere in between. I guess I’ll find out once I have money to buy your book because while I suppose I may be a “bookish intellectual” I am not yet a “moneyed yuppie” — we’ll see if/when I ever finish this PhD and get tenure.

    Grace & Peace.

  12. “A feminist reading of McGee and Me” is one of the funniest phrases I’ve ever read. I love it. I definitely fit into the “book intellectual” category … inasmuch as I fit into an hipster category. I’m not the hippest person in the world.

  13. Hmm, yeah I’m with JR above. Not quite sure if this is self-effacing or a slam. It seems that, if I call myself a Christian, than it is a contradiction to like whiskey, listen to Sufjan Stevens, care what clothes I wear or read a lot. I can completely agree that churches need to do a lot less “image reboot” and more just preaching and living the gospel. And I say that after being at a smaller Seattle church (some would say hipster, but how hipster can a 75-year-old Presbyterian church be)?

    On the flip side, I just took the “hipster quiz” which was kinda fun and scored 83/120, which apparently qualifies me as one.

    I guess I can call myself hip now?

  14. What Matthew said.

    I wish I’d had that idea in grad school — would have made a great thesis. :-)

  15. Pingback: brett’s morning blend (17aug10) « aliens and strangers

  16. Oh my goodness… I needed that laugh! You captured us all somewhere in this post. Definitely passing along!

  17. Brett, it’s like you visited me and my even-cooler-than-me friends and wrote a book about our lives. You have me pegged right down to the contents of my bookshelf: the ESV, N.T. Wright, Mark Noll, and my alternative weekly. I ordered your book today and can hardly wait to read it.

    In response to some of the other dialog I’ve seen on your website, I have to say that for me, Christian Hipster culture isn’t so much about trying to make Christianity cool as it is a mash-up of rebellion against my stuffy Baptist upbringing and a joyful response to the flood of thought and culture I experienced at my evangelical undergrad.

  18. Pingback: brett’s morning blend (17aug10) | shahverdY

  19. Hey there!

    Yah, I am with JR, too. It seems to me that you just don’t like hipsters and if they happen to self-identify as Christian, well, how dare they?? I apologize if I don’t understand your tone, but I agree, it’s not clear. Is is hipsters you don’t like, or hipsters trying to be Christians? If one is 35 or under, should we just profess Christ and skip the skinny jeans?
    To me, this new generation seems to have found a way to combine aspects of traditional Christianity with the postmodern world that we all inhabit. Are you questioning the sincerity? Do you feel that being a Christian is just one more accessory to add to the PBS, tat, and beard? Can you imagine that it might also be that people who reject the mainstream middle American culture also find themselves professing a belief in Christ and have the unique vision to break free from traditional labels and stereotypes about who can be a Christian and what that looks like? For me, I have recently found a beautiful intersection between the ugliness of the postmodern world and the beauty of Christian theology in a city church where you would probably throw everyone into this label. No, I am not telling you what city, lest you go and label it:) My whole 20 into 30 something life, I have been offered so many binaries: medieval vs enlightened, faith vs reason, traditional vs postmodern, cool vs not cool, ugly vs beautiful. I am sick of it. What I have found in this most amazing place is a destruction of these binaries and people who are bold and creativity in restructuring how Christianity can be lived in the 21st century.

    Clearly the website shows your interest in Christianity, so it is just the hipsters?? And wouldn’t Jesus, (you know, the one from the Gospel, not the coffee bar) be the first to sit down next to a so-called *hipster* and see the three dimensional divine humanity in him/her and not label that person based on their clothes??

    God’s love is for all, for hipsters and not hipsters, those who shop at Kohl’s, thrift stores, and Urban Outfitters, and for those who have no clothes but their skin.

    Maybe it’s time to reconsider the labels in the light of Christ.

    Peace, brother.

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