Archive for the ‘Christian hipsters’ Category

One weekend ago, I visited Los Angeles for another trip.  This was for our group of Creative Artists to have a little party, and show each other our work.  Without further ado, here’s why I love CAN.

Funny Songs

A friend played her ukelele.  She played a song about the plight of anyone who graduated college, with an economically useless degree during a recession.  You can’t even get a job at Starbucks, but you can make friends laugh.  Yes, we’re all laughing at ourselves.  We can’t get jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the union, but somehow we manage to have art nights at a mid century mansion.  Irony.

Impromptu Old Timey Dance

Another reason I love artist nights is impromptu old timey dance.  Not sure who first put it on, but there was an ipad set to an old jazz station.  At some point between Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, it became dance time.  We did a few turns, some spins, a sweat heart wrap where and there.

New Vocabulary

Did you know that you can learn new words, just by hanging out with writers?  Here’s how one conversation went.

Me: Wait, you dated that guy?

Her: Yes.  An eighteen month long relationship happened.

Me: I never knew.

Her (swigs a bit of liquor): Because I am not a Facebook Exhibitionist.

Fudging in its Finest and Fantasies

The other reasons why I love can is that I can perform the single most challenging song I’ve ever attempted, fudge chords, and still get a great amount of applause.  Also, I can write a short script and have it read.  These are the things that make CAN special.

Most importantly, friends at CAN remind me why I need to be back in Los Angeles.  Anyone got a job opening?


ImageOffended by this picture?  Put God and money in the same headline, and you’ll get unwanted attention.  Of course, a chrome-domed financial guru like David Ramsey can take little flack.  Gurus like him assume a fundamental axiom: one’s habits/choices determine one’s financial well being.  Recently, Ramsey posted a list (not of his own making) of the habits of the poor versus the habits of the wealthy.

In reaction, a trio of Bloggers from Her.meneutics (Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves) denounced his list.  They implied that the list showed a contempt for the poor, did not apply to the third world, and rightly said that it is not easy (and maybe not possible) for the 1st world poor to follow the “rich” people habits.

Rachel Held Evans hit the nail on the head when she wrote:

One need not be a student of logic to observe that Corley and Ramsey have confused correlation with causation here by suggesting that these habits make people rich or poor.

Overall, the fair criticism raised important questions.  Marlena Graves acknowledged in her twitter feed that Ramsey helped people.  RHE did the same in her article.  By far, the best point made was that correlation does not imply causation.  What does mean?  It means that the first time you read that list, you might think that regular gym time will help you get rich.  But what if it’s the other way around?  What if it’s your 85k a year job that provides a nice gym? It’s the one of the building’s first floor.  The one you go to before you commute home elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Also, Marlena Graves is right that many of these habits will simply be impractical for the bus-riding, two-job working, members of society to follow.  Who can encourage their kids to read or volunteer if both parents are working 60+ hours in a week?  What is the point of networking when you have no skills?

But were these strong words as constructive as they could have been?  It’s true that nothing in this list applies outside of the first world.  But was it supposed to?  Ramsey’s niche audience in evangelicalism is the American Middle class.  He can’t be faulted for speaking primarily to their context.  Does the list show contempt for the poor?  Yes, someone who does show contempt for the poor can think these things.  But does everyone who think these things show contempt for the poor?  Finally, it’s a low blow to call Ramsey’s message part of the prosperity Gospel.  I’ll believe that Ramsey is one of them when he says that Jesus’ disciples were rich, sprinkles gold gust from his pulpit, or similar tripe.

Is Dave Ramsey’s fundamental axiom totally wrong?  I worked as teacher’s aide to an “at risk” community.  One day, I learned that many vocational programs at the school were cut.  This cut had a noble intention (“get them all to college!”), but it had the practical effect of denying those students opportunities that were available to their middle class counterparts.  So yes, there are plenty of when outside forces keep the poor, poor, in America.  At the same time (and there’s no delicate way to put this), I listened to 15-17 year old girls talk casually, candidly, and even enthusiastically about how they planned to have a baby -while still in their teens.  Can anyone really deny that this is a poor choice that is indicative of a poor lifestyle?

The most constructive approach is not to attack perceived contempt of the poor.  Neither is it to opine that such a list applies only first worlders.  It certainly is not helpful to hyperbolicly group Ramsey in with people like this:


Did you budget for those shoes, or is that on your credit card? Stupid Tax! Stupid Tax!

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to take the best of criticism from RHE and her.menuetics.  We should realize that correlation does not imply causation.  The habits can either help get your rich, or are things you can do when you’re already rich.  Second, take the criticism that some of these are going to be harder to do when your poor *and* that many of these can be done regardless of your net worth.

If we can find habits that people can do regardless of their net worth, than those are quite possibly the ones that should be endorsed.  I won’t go through them all, but here’s a few openers for everyone’s thoughts:

Habit 1: 1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

If we define “junk food” as sugary snacks, pre-packaged chips, and anything loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, than this is something that does not depend on your net worth.  No matter where you live, you can pass on soda and snickers.  Gambling is very much something that is anyone’s control.   Casinos are designed to separate fools from their money, regardless of the skill or talent of the fool (yes, I realize that poker and other games are exceptions, but these are exceptions); thus it is obvious that avoiding gambling will more likely bring financial success.

Habit 5: 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

Does anyone think you must be financially successful before you can make a to-do list?

Habit 13: 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

In the her.menutics article, TV was almost lauded as one of the few leisure’s of the poor, which is maybe why they can’t not watch a week long Honey Boo Boo marathon or other poverty porn.  I strongly disagree with this.

The list will go on.  Go ahead and read it and ask: which habits can you do, no matter how much money you have in the bank?

The kickstarter Documentary <a href=>Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex</a> is now fully funded with a day to spare.

Estimated release is mid 2013.  I’m looking forward to it.  Hurrah.

Anyway, I suppose it is worth adding a little bit of personal reflection on this.

I did not date in high school nor to much or my early twenties.  There were a lot of reasons for this, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.  It wasn’t even for lack of attention or interest.  It was largely because I didn’t know how.  I did not even know that it was a skill to be learned.

Unfortunately what filled the empty space in my mind was not practical, secular -yes secular– wisdom but fundamentalist folk teaching that was taught to by an amalgamation of church camps and bible bookstore best sellers.  All of it kept the party line of abstinence, seeking God first, praying for your future spouse, and not wasting time dating but courting -whatever the fuck that is.  I feel overall that the teaching was relationships were to be delayed until God brought a spouse to you and that romance was to be disconnected of sexuality.

The church “just guy times”-at least when it came to sexuality and relationships- were pretty much condemnation fests.  There was a lot of emphasis placed on not lusting with your eyes, even though physical attraction was okay.  So basically we were allowed to be physically, but not sexually attracted, to anyone.  Additionally, we were taught, that way-ward women would (as my friend cleverly put it once) “steal our souls with their vaginas.”  Risk and vulnerability were also things to avoid.  A friend of mine once told me that he didn’t want to give his future wife “a scarred up heart.”  Never mind that God still loves a scarred up heart.  Also that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Most of the guys who were teaching us to repent of our sexuality were married and with kids.  I.e. they were “successful.” so most of us clueless 15-18 year old guys believed them.  Sadly, those moral paragons turned out to have feet of clay.  How else can you describe it though when what is alleged to be “biblical teaching” is little more than a social convention? It is  only “right” because of how often it is repeated and taught.  In fact, I’m fairly well read Christian, but I had to read something written by a pyscho-balls atheist woman before coming across a very thoughtful affirmation of male sexuality.

The biggest irony of all this is that most of that dogma actually caused me to sin.  Not that I blame it, per se, but the dogma certainly did not help me with handling relationships very well.  How?  Well getting into a relationship is a little bit like water flowing down a hill.  The evangelical dogma is like a overly complicated system of dams, buckets, and pipes to ensure that the water flows down the hill exactly as its supposed too.  Also, if you’re taught that a “scarred up heart” will fuck-up your relationship with your divinely appointed future spouse, what does that say about every casual date?  In Azusa Pacific’s student newspaper, year’s ago, there was an article written by a girl encouraging (borderline begging?) guys to be more open to casual dating.  On behalf of all guys who didn’t know better, I apologize.

I repented of that behavior in the most literal sense -changing of the mind- long ago.  Things have been a lot better over the last several years.  Specifics will of course, not be listed here.  I am not concerned about the evangelical dogmas these days, although they still show up in blogs like this one.  Now,  some might say, “oh, but if you don’t date the Christian way you’ll never have a nice upstanding Christian girl to marry and put babies into.”  The subtext there is that “Christian” actually means “Evangelical.”  To those nay-sayers I reply that it’s a good thing that I feel comfortable with high-church Protestants, Catholics, and outright pagans.

Thanks for reading.

All of us who have responded to Andrew’s Story at Mars Hill in Seattle are quite worked up.  Glenn Peoples at Beretta Online has reminded us that we are only hearing one side of the story.  I am personally grateful to him for doing so.

Andrew has made his case known and Mathew Paul Turner has played the role of the prosecutor.  This means he has the burden of proof and must present evidence.  In my opinion, he has made his case well.  He did not make vague allusions to foul treatment at Mars Hill while calling Driscoll a poopy-head.  He demonstrated a specific incident and has included written statements and correspondence from Mars Hill.  By your own words, be judged and all that.

Is Mars Hill pointing, or pointed at?

The Defendant Takes the Stand

Mars Hill now has a chance to respond.  This is good, because a candid world deserves to hear it.  As a detractor of Mars Hill, I am very happy to listen.  If you are also  not a fan of Pastor Mark Driscoll, then I please put your feelings aside as you read their response.  Maybe Andrew withheld some key information from the incident.  Maybe we can hear from his former leaders as well.  There is no doubt a lot of information that they could share, that would help us understand the situation better.  Let’s hear it:

In recent days, there has been some discussion surrounding Mars Hill Church and our process of church discipline. We do not wish to comment on the specific scenario in question, as this is a private matter between church leadership and members, all of whom have voluntarily agreed to this prior to becoming members. We do want to be as clear and forthright as possible in presenting our theology of repentance, forgiveness, and church discipline and make clear that our convictions on this come from our study of Scripture and our deep love for our members and a desire for them to enjoy the freedom that comes from walking by the Spirit in response to Christ’s work on the Cross on our behalf. At the heart of the process is our deep belief that church discipline is about the grace of God, not penance. (Mars Hill Website)

Oh… huh… well at least they offered a link to Driscoll’s book, Vintage Faith, which explains their theology.

Why would Mars Hill not offer a specific defense here?  I realize that Mars Hill isn’t under some kind of legal obligation, but I would assume that the church is concerned about its reputation before the rest Christendom.  Andrew has went public with this, but I understand that confession is often considered sacrosanct and private.  Maybe Mars Hill did not want to break confidentiality.  Let’s check that book to see if that’s why:

Members of Mars Hill Church are not guaranteed confidentiality regarding issues of church discipline, and understand that in submitting themselves to the authority of the church, issues of a sensitive or personal nature may become known to others. This includes, but is not limited to, notification of the authorities if a crime has been committed or if a real threat of someone being endangered exists, as well as other violations of scripture that may not result in physical danger.

Oh, I guess not.  Though nothing in the Andrew story seemed to imply physical danger or legality.  Maybe they wish to stay mum on the details because Andrew decided to leave.  This makes sense.  If you voluntarily join, and you voluntarily leave, then the relationship is over.  I could see why Mars Hill might prefer to let things be.

There is a sense in which you never really let the unrepentant sinner go. Though you don’t associate with him, you keep calling him back. He is put out for the purity of the church but is always admonished to come back.

Okay.  So Mars Hill is not tight lipped because Andrew left or because of guaranteed confidentiality.  In fact, this seems to imply that they still want to be involved with people who leave.  Though I guess Andrew did leave under bad terms, and is considered an unrepentant excommunicate.  Maybe Mars Hill is doing the best they can do to avoid tarnishing his reputation anymore than he already has:

If someone under discipline begins attending another church, we notify the leaders of that church that they are unrepentant and have been removed from fellowship in our church.

Nevermind.  Mars Hill does the exact opposite.  If you have a bad reputation at Mars Hill, they will do their very best to make sure you have a bad reputation anywhere.  Mark Driscoll is like Khal Drogo: he doesn’t do anything half way.

If you still feel that Mars Hill is tight lipped because it is “private matter,” don’t forget that they circulated a letter to the congregation regarding Andrew after he left Mars Hill.  Also, Andrew has gone public with this, so who are they trying to protect?  The best thing I can think of is that they do not want any current member named and “dragged into all this.”  That much is fair.  However, the response was unapologetic about their actions, and they don’t deny them either.  Is Mars Hill simply owning and acknowledging what they did?  That they feel everything was right?

The Repentance Smackdown

Mars Hill has done well to present its view of Church Discipline.  I realize it is not the entire book, but it still feels a bit lacking.   Here then, is what is mysteriously absent:

First, Driscoll’s chapter offers no details how about how a confessor (the person who hears someone else’s sins) should respond.  They make no mention of announcing Christ’s forgiveness, assuring the sinners that they are loved by God, whether to stay quiet about what you hear, how you might pray for repentant sinner, and pretty much any other act of compassion that I can think of. Remember, the recent statement from Mars Hill said: our convictions on this come from our study of Scripture and our deep love for our members.  Perhaps Mars Hill believes that we should only confess to another person if we sin against that person specifically.  Are we to keep silent then, about all other sins?

Secondly, they detail out all the signs of false repentance and conjoin true repentance with a desire to change our lives.  Yet that desire for change and actual change is seldom instantaneous.  Ask any former substance addict how long they desired change before they had actual change.  There seems to be little room for “same time justified and sinner” in Mars Hill’s church discipline.

Third, there is no mention of the sin of withholding forgiveness, or even a way to make forgiving another person easier.

Here then, are questions to consider:

1. If “true repentance” necessarily causes behavior/life changes, could this not become a salvation-by-works in practice even if it is still salvation-by-grace in theory?

2. Who judges whether or not a sinner has repented truely?  Church Leadership?  Can we trust their judgment as infallible?

3. If someone voluntarily joins a church, then voluntarily leaves, does the church have a right to negatively influence that person’s life?

4. Why is church discipline arranged in degrees of severity of punishment, rather than in degrees of restoration?

5. If you attended this church, had sinned grievously, would you feel comfortable sharing your sins with leaders at Mars Hill (James 5:15-16)?  Why or why not?

In interest of fairness

In deference to Glenn’s post, I’d like anyone who comments in this blog to be candid with their comments, but please avoid inflammatory speech.  I myself am trying to be as charitable as possible, but it is hard -from their response- to think that the conclusions Matthew Paul Turner reached are false.  Still though, if Mars Hill ever wants to offer something more specific, it would be great to hear it.

By now, you have all already seen the “Love Jesus / Hate Religion” meme.   That video is exactly the kind of message I believed when I had been a Christian for about four years.  As I type this, I have been Christian for well over ten.  Please keep that in mind.  If you haven’t watch the video yet, please pull yourself out of the cave, and watch it now.

The video’s author,Jefferson Bethke, is sincere.  He wants all of us to see and understand something that he sees.   But what if we already see it?  What if Bethke, in his zeal, has missed a few things?

Now, the entire performance is a spoken word poem, which means terms can be little fluid.  Still, there is a very important question that has to come up here:

What is Religion?

I’ll share what Bethke says, and then offer my own definition.  No, we do not mean the same thing.  I have no problem being “religious.”

Religion according to Bethke’s poem.

Without picking out every section, I’ll comment on a few lines/stanzas.  Let’s start with the part I like.

Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean
It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken
Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin
Because it doesn’t depend on me it depends on him
See because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan
He looked down and said I want, that, man
Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools
Don’t you see so much better than just following some rules

Bethke really wants people to understand how important Grace is.  He wants people to understand what Grace means to him and what grace means to everyone.  Yet, as someone who self identifies as “religious” I agree.  I get it.  I’ve been involved with Lutheranism for the last few years.  We’re so full of grace that I played drinking games with church friends.

Would it surprise Bethke to know I understand how tiresome the rules are?  That I too feel that they are foolish?  However, I learned those rules from people who preached like Bethke does.  People who told me that “it’s a relationship, not a religion.”  That probably doesn’t surprise many readers of this blog.  Those darken the doors of non-evangelical churches do so because we were tired of those rules.

Let’s look at another important line:

Why does it [religion] build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor

I attended a Lutheran Church in my hometown and I also attended a nice missionary church in Seoul South Korea.  We built churches.  That cost money.  It is little bit like pouring an expensive bottle perfume onto Jesus, even though it could’ve been sold and given to the poor.  (Check out John 12:3-5)

One church building was used to regularly house “families in housing transition.”  One of the families was a single mom and her five year hold daughter.  I spent most of the evening working on a coloring book with the child while the mom got much deserved evening of relaxation.

In Seoul, we were renovating our building.  We were also collecting money to pay rent for a woman in need due to medical emergencies.  Furthermore, we also held an event to collect donations for North Korean refugees.

Do church buildings fail to help us worship God?  Don’t Church building provide a means to serve the poor?

Here’s another verse.

Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man

One of my favorite sayings come from an early Christian Mystic: do the crops grow because the rain falls from heaven, or because the farmer tills the field?  I think all Christians, even religious people like myself, believe that God gets our attention first.  Our response, though, might still be considered “searching for God.”

Here though is the real kicker.  Read these next few lines:

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion
What if I told you voting republican really wasn’t his mission

I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor

Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see

You can tell a lot about what people mean about a word by how they use it.  In these lines, Bethke tells us that religion is something Jesus doesn’t like, republicans probably do, and that it does bad things.  But what is “religion” itself?  Try this: re-read these stanzas, and mentally replace “religion” with the the phrase “bad thing” or “evil.”  Would the meaning of the stanzas change at all?

The word “religion” is an evangelical idiom, and is used like a curse word.  It is catch-all phrase to describe beliefs and practices that they don’t like -and indeed could be bad.  This can be anything from self-righteousness, to recited prayers, or in Bethke’s case, a self-accusation of hypocrisy.

Does everyone use “religion” that way?

Another definition of Religion

Here are a few of my own habits and beliefs.  You might share a few of these, and Bethke probably would too.

1. I believe in a specific, monothestic, God and accept a specific book as his revelation over all other books that allege divine inspiration.

2. I go to church about every Sunday.  I consider, at minimum, two other days of the year extra important.  These days are called “Easter” and “Christmas.”

3. I pray to the aforementioned God.  I often do this with other people who share my beliefs.

4. I believe that this God expects that I act in the world and has a purpose for not just people who worship him, but all of humanity.  In fact, my Church in Seoul was built specifically to introduce people to this God.

5. Certain rituals are very important to me.  “Baptism” is one, another is this thing called “the Lord’s Supper.”

6. While I have never done a Youtube video, I have a blog that often refers to this God, his followers, the authoritative book, and other the history connected with these three things.

Now what word would you use to describe me?  Would you say that I practice a religion?  Even if you do not agree, you have to admit that most people outside of the evangelical world think that the phrase “religion” applies pretty well here.

That then, is why I have no problem owning the term “religious” or “religion.”  I am a religious person.  So is Bethke.  So are you if you share a few of those beliefs/habits.  Why should religion imply ‘bad’?  Couldn’t the above list be morally neutral?

Now, some people might ask why bother harping on this?  Religion might be a curse word, but what is the big deal?  To some extent there isn’t a problem.  There is no need to begrudge Bethke on his differing usage of the term.  He is perfectly sincere in his beliefs and has even responded in a very fair and considerate manner to the criticisms of his poem.  Despite that there are two problems, one smaller and a another larger.

There is a problem with communication.  The Evangelical world wants to reach people outside of it.  I suspect then, that they might consider how their audience understands this word.  Many people know what Evangelicals mean, but I think others might be confused.  Can you imagine someone joining an Evangelical church because “it’s a relationship, not a religion” but then feeling tricked when they are expected to get baptized?

The more serious problem is one of association.  Evangelicals are not the only people who use ‘religion’ like a curse word.  The New Age, synergistists use it often too.  You’ve seen these people on Opera.  They call themselves “spirituality experts” and are quick to explain that all human spirituality is fundamentally the same.  According to them, god isn’t really Incarnate in Jesus, or Triune, or active as the Holy Spirit.  Those are rather subjective expressions of a spiritual whatever.  The spirituality experts often ask “Are you spiritual or are you religious?”

Why shouldn’t Christians say that we are both spiritual and religious?  As Christians we have a long tradition of mysticism, prayer, and devotion like any other faith.  We also have pretty clear cut, creedal, and religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible with New Age synergism.  The spirituality experts might call this short sighted, but I say that it is rude and superficial to lump all religions together.

I don’t feel that a “I got Jesus, not religion” attitude is as very strong when talking with people who keep trying to redefine Jesus for you.  Why not take ownership of the word religion, so that we can disassociate ourselves from the new agers?  They may accuse of us of never getting in touch with god, but we own them no justifications or explanations.

One final thought.

My friends who studied youth ministry have also studied developmental pyschology.  According to them, adolescence is often marked by radically disjunctive, black or white, thinking.  There is not always an appreciation for the grey in between.

Watch the video one last time, will you?

>Hello again, my fellow Christian Hipsters. Thanks everyone who responded to my previous post on this subject. You make me glad when you post comments. Today, I hope to continue this conversation on the important phenomena of Christian Hipsterism -whether you are at Mosaic, Mars Hill, or any other church.

I’m sure everyone already knows that this is not the first wave of “Christian Cool” or however you want to term it. Years ago, in the sixties and the seventies, there were people who also wanted to be hip, follow Jesus, and avoid the established Christian culture. They too, wanted a more authentic version of Christianity that did not simply mirror the culturally conservative, suburban, nuclear family, consumerist, American life-style.

They were called “Jesus People.”

Now, they Jesus People have cut their hair. They traded their sandals for dress shoes. They have beat their VW vans into SUVs. They now puchase the veggie-tales videos for their kids. They help run Calvary Chapel. The patronize the Christian book stores. They vote republican. In other words, they became the Christian establishment.

So if the previous generation of edgy, Christian cool, eventually another nominally Christian establishment, what will stop the current trend from becoming the same thing? It does not have to be. The mistakes of the past do not need to be repeated.

There is another important question for a good discussion. I can’t put it any words better than Brett McCraken himself. He wonders, have Christian hipsters simply traded one way of conforming to the world for another way of conforming to the world? This is a quote from the end of the Christainity Today Article:

Isn’t Christianity supposed to be distinguishable and set apart from the world? Christian hipsters are rebelling against a mainstream Christianity that they see as too indistinguishable from secular mainstream culture (i.e. consumerist, numbers-driven Fox News-watching, immigrant-hating, SUV-driving), but their corrective may not turn out much better. Some hipster Christianity is as indistinguishable from its secular hipster counterpart as yesterday’s megachurch Christianity was indistinguishable from secular soccer-mom suburbia.

Finally, he puts down an important challenge

The challenge for hipster Christians is to figure out what it means, in their cultural context, to put on a new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We are new creations, and the old has passed away (2 Cor 5:17). How does that mesh with the Pabst-guzzling, Parliament smoking nonchalant image that seems important to many hipsters?

So here are two questions everyone can answer in the comments:
1) How might the current trend in millennial Christian hipsterism, avoid the mistakes of the baby boomer Christian hipster-ism of the 60s and 70s? Specifically, how do we not simply turn into the next generation of SUV-driving suberbanites?
2) How can we be certain that we are really fulfilling Eph 4:24 and 2 Cor 5:17? How can be certain we are not simply conforming to the sub-cultural values of wider “hipsterisms”?

Thanks for reading… and for commenting!!