Tag Archives: Calvin College

Key Dates in the Formation of Hipster Christianity

How did today’s Christian hipster come to be? Here are some key dates in the formation of hipster Christianity:

June 5, 1955: Francis Schaeffer opens L’Abri.

1967: The Living Room coffeehouse opens in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district; origins of Jesus People movement.

1969: Larry Norman’s Upon This Rock (Capitol Records) is released; major release of a “Christian rock” record.

June 21, 1971: The Jesus Movement is profiled in Time magazine article, “The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!”

1971: First issue of the Wittenburg Door (or The Door) is published by San Diego youth worker Mike Yaconelli.

1971: First issue of Sojourners is published.

June 17, 1972: “Christian Woodstock.” During the Expo ’72 evangelistic conference sponsored by Campus Crusade and held in Dallas, a day long Christian music festival draws a crowd somewhere between 100,000-200,000 and features the music of Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, The Archers, Children of the Day, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.

1977: Ron Sider publishes Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which will become a classic among later generations of Christian hipsters.

June 18-20, 1984: JPUSA holds the first Cornerstone Music Festival in Grayslake, Illinois.

1984: Thomas Howard publishes Evangelical is Not Enough, charting his pilgrimage from evangelicalism to liturgical Christianity.

July 21, 1984: Christian metal band Stryper releases its first EP, The Yellow and Black Attack, launching a successful career which included one Platinum and two Gold records.

1984: Degarmo & Key’s video “Six Six Six” is the first Christian music video selected for rotation on MTV, and almost as quickly banned for excessive violence and disturbing images.

March 9, 1987: U2 releases The Joshua Tree, cementing their status as the world’s most epic pseudo-Christian rock band.

1988: DC Talk, a trio of students from Liberty University, signs a recording contract with Forefront Records.

November 1993: Brandon Ebel founds Tooth & Nail Records.

October 1995: Mark Noll publishes The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

April 1997: Pedro the Lion releases first EP, Whole.

January 2003: Christian satirical website Lark News is launched.

March 1, 2003: Relevant publishes its first issue.

2005: Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois is named the best album of 2005 by Pitchfork and countless other secular music critics.

February 2006: Shane Claiborne publishes Irresistible Revolution.

February 18, 2006: Icelandic post-rock darlings Sigur Ros perform a sold out concert at Calvin College.

(Excerpt from Chapter 4, “The History of Hip Christianity,” of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide)

Note: This post is part of “Know Your Christian Hipster History” week… Throughout the week, if you re-post a FB item from Hipster Christianity (tag Hipster Christianity in your post) or tweet a link to a Hipster Christianity post (tag @brettmccracken on Twitter), you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free autographed copy of the book. 5 books will be given away on Friday!

Weekend in Michigan: Initial Thoughts

I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a number of reasons this weekend — including the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music. It was an overwhelming weekend in many respects—and I probably should not be blogging about it so soon. Things need time to digest, ya know? But because I have to write something on here today and because all I can really think about right now is what I experienced this weekend, I might as well attempt some observations about it now.

Some observations:

Calvin College is ridiculously hip

I’d say that Calvin College is to Christian hipsterdom what Brooklyn is to hipsterdom at large. It’s the leading edge. I mean, this is the place that received national media attention when George W. Bush spoke at commencement in 2005 and sparked widespread protests among students and faculty. But it goes beyond politics. Calvin is also the only Christian college to boast a yearly concert lineup that (in 2008-09, for example) includes artists like Broken Social Scene, Fleet Foxes, Mates of State, My Brightest Diamond, Anathallo, Rosie Thomas, Anberlin, The Hold Steady, Lupe Fiasco, and Over the Rhine. They even had Sigur Ros perform on campus for goodness sake!

Western Michigan is ridiculously white
Maybe because I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost 4 years and pretty much every place is homogenous by comparison, I am sometimes struck to be in places (in the Midwest, for example), where there is not a lot of ethnic diversity. Western Michigan—land of the Dutch Reformed, land of Sufjan Stevens—is one such place. I couldn’t believe how white this place was. Granted, most of my time was spent at Calvin “The evangelical Berkeley” College and Mars Hill “Rob Bell is my pastor!” Bible Church, but I also visited a Lebanese café and a hookah lounge, and they too were predominately white. Not saying it’s a bad thing. Just an observation.

Michigan wasn’t as bleak and hopeless as I imagined it would be
I sort of expected Michigan in this economic crisis to look a little like The Grapes of Wrath or The Road… with abandoned buildings, breadlines, and other such vestiges of a bygone industrial era. But no, things were far more alive than I expected (though it was cold and there were far too many strip mall Chinese buffets). Still, the Great Lakes State seemed to be surviving in admirable fashion. But then again, I didn’t go near Detroit or Flint.

It’s weird to go to a Lupe Fiasco concert at a Christian College

I’m still unsure how I feel about this. As part of the Festival of Faith and Music at Calvin College this weekend, rapper Lupe Fiasco performed. On one hand I think it’s fantastic that Calvin has such an open mind to bring someone like Lupe, a Muslim, to perform at one of the nation’s leading Christian universities. It was totally refreshing to be dancing and throwing up hands as the crazy beats were pumped throughout Calvin’s brand new Van Noord arena. It was great to celebrate some truly good music (I’m a big Lupe fan) and break down some stereotypes along the way. But on the other hand it all felt a little bit contrived and forced—more of a statement and corrective (we need diversity, etc.) than anything. Apparently because Lupe is more of a “socially conscious” rapper, he’s welcome at Calvin and is an expression of the integration of faith and music. And it was more than a little strange to be smelling pot, beer and cigarettes all around me inside this Calvin facility. Yeah, it’s a hip hop show, but it’s also Calvin—where the mission statement says, “We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.” And I couldn’t help but find it troubling that the opening act—a local DJ—was spinning songs like Notorious B.I.G’s “Big Poppa” (Choppin o’s, smokin lye an’ Optimo’s / Money hoes and clothes all a nigga knows) while the hordes of teens and twentysomethings cavorted in the audience. Would anyone in attendance who didn’t know better ever guess that this was a Christian college? I’m not sure.