Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity (Baker, 2010) is interviewed via Skype by Alex Crain, editor for Christianity.com (of the Salem Web Network).
In this interview, Brett McCracken discusses the tension that exists between pursuing what is "cool" and following the radically selfless call of being a Christian. The author also covers the importance of unity in the body of Christ, as well as the role that church leaders have in cultivating an atmosphere that is timeless and authentic. Furthermore, leaders are warned about the ineffectiveness of posturing their ministries as "relevant" to hipsters/younger generations.
[Editor's note: The following excerpt (pp. 188-189) is taken from chapter ten of Brett McCracken's book, Hipster Christianity (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2010). Chapter ten includes a survey of various strategies used by "Wannabe Hip Churches." Here is strategy number five: "Saying Jesus Was a Rebel."]
Saying Jesus Was a Rebel:
It is not a stretch to say that Jesus was a rebel. He was. He bucked the system, turned over tables, and said all sorts of subversive things in the days when he was walking the earth. It is perfectly appropriate, then, for churches to call Jesus a rebel or a subversive. And it certainly fits neatly into any sort of a "Christianity is hip" PR ambition a church might be undertaking. Hipsters love rebels, and even if they loathe church or Christians, most of them still think Jesus is pretty dang cool.
But one person's rebel is another person's square. The phrase "Jesus was a rebel" means different things to different people. Some tend to play up the judgment side of things, imagining a warrior Jesus in the vein of Mark Driscoll's infamous "Jesus is a prizefighter with a tattoo down his leg" portrait. Others, like the Shane Claibornes of the world, emphasize the "turn the other cheek" Jesus of peace, love, and harmony. Both types are subversive; both are rebellious. Jesus is a dynamic enough figure to be an icon of rebellion, activism, and subversion for pretty much any type of person or cause—whether for a hippie, a CEO, or an immigrant farmworker.
But there are dangers in getting too much mileage out of this rebel talk. Sure, Jesus was a rebel. Yes, Christianity is subversive. But that should not be the end goal of our faith. We shouldn't enlist young hipsters to join the cause because they think Jesus is a Che Guevara-type revolutionary. They should join the cause because they need God's grace, not because they want to take down some system or join some romantic revolutionary movement. A faith built upon rebellion is, at the end of the day, not going to be very sustainable. We can't be a church primarily organized around fighting against things.
Donald Miller expressed this idea—that we have to be devoted followers of Christ first, and rebels second—in an article for the New York Times:
"If you're a Christian, you need to obey God. And if you obey God, you're going to be seen as a rebel, both within American church culture and popular culture. But that's not the point. The point is to obey God."
(Donald Miller quoted in John Leland, "Rebels with a Cross," The New York Times, March 2, 2006, http://nytimes.com/2006/03/02/fashion/thursdaystyles/02rebels.html.)
Indeed, of all the marketing tactics wannabe hip churches might be engaged in, "Jesus was a rebel" is one of the more legitimate. But it also has the potential to backfire in the worst ways. Portraying Jesus as the world's most badass rebel is not likely the best way to advance the cause of Christ. Will it really benefit the church to have an army of anarchists and anti-institutional young revolutionaries running around tipping over the tables of the world? Perhaps. But I'm certain that we will not benefit Christianity by making it primarily an exercise in rebellion. Especially considering that Christ came to right the rebellion of man. All else but the gospel is rebellion. The cause of Christ is the one obedient cause.
[Taken from chapter ten of Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2010.]
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