Young Christians have not jumped ship in record numbers solely because evangelicalism offers nothing that appeals to them socially and aesthetically, but because its intellectual crisis is so dire that it responds to moral dilemmas with little more than fear, nostalgia, and, most disturbingly, hints of bigotry. Deeply uncomfortable with the life of the mind and the modern world, it has asked young believers to take positions that cause them deep distress when these stances conflict with realities they understand from observing the real people all around them. Meanwhile, the church has yet to explain satisfactorily how maintaining its ideological positions benefit them as Christians or their countrymen who are not. The Christian outsiders worth talking about are pained to see the church so blind to the human costs of its activism. They attend uncomfortably or not at all. In significant numbers, they desert to Canterbury, Rome and sometimes finally to that other part of England that gave us Christopher Hitchens.
As much as their detractors would like to portray this distress as the very cultural-approval-seeking to which McCracken attributes too many hipster Christian behaviors, there is little glamour in being exiled from both the secular establishment for not denouncing Christian conservatism thoroughly enough and from the evangelical establishment for not swallowing its dogma with sufficient relish. If these people were as shallow as McCracken describes his Christian hipsters, they would have abandoned the faith long ago. Instead, they have looked both backward and forward to find a faith that can handle the moral conflicts of our time. To them, the failure of making Christianity cool was obvious long before McCracken got a publishing contract. But the hope of keeping Christianity on the right side of history is an ever-elusive dream, as is, for now, the hope of finding a book that makes sense of this tumult.
David Sessions, editor of Patrol Magazine, closes his review of “Hipster” by Brett McCracken with the excerpt above. He explains, in two short paragraphs, why McCracken misses the boat when it comes to critiquing his peers. Jamie Smith shared similar sentiments in his review.
I haven’t read the book, and if these reviews are accurate I’m not sure I need to, but it sounds like McCracken is more motivated by his own vendetta against anything that seems “cool” (hey, I used to hate the cool kids, too; mostly because I wanted to be one and wasn’t) and his desire to write a book that is “critical.” I wonder if he’s caught on that “critical” and “critique” aren’t always the same thing?