Monday, August 30, 2010

You know who I am really really disliking right now....This Guy...(see Picture below)

"This Guy" who goes by the name of Brett McCracken
That viking imitating bearded man you see there....Last name: MCracken. Well he's kind of a big deal right now (or he has a really really good publicist). He has a book coming out (maybe it's already out), called Hipster Christianity. And it's about the recent trend of Churches and Christians attempting to blend Christianity with  what is "hip" in order to have church marketed as relevant,  in order to make church more appealing to the lost.

I'm not going to read it.

Because if you click this link here,  we get an article by McCracken that seems to serve as an overarching summary of what he is getting at in his book.

And he spends a good 75% of the article ripping any recent attempts for churches to market themselves as relevant in the past few years (which he said the trend was birth out of the now dead "emerging church" movement).

Fine. Good. I see what you're doing here McCracken. We shouldn't be marketing Christ.

AMEN!

But McCracken, what do you suppose as a solution instead of attempts to be relevant?

(In his own words that are in the article):

"If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.



If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing."

That's it? That's it McCracken? Your answer is Jesus?
You can't be serious?
(I think he's serious). 
Which Jesus is it you're referring to then? 
Scorsese's insane, marrying Jesus in Last Temptation of Christ Jesus?
Gibson's Catholic Jesus in Passion of the Christ?
Pausolini's ethical Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew?
How about the crowd favorite, of Swedish, blue-eyed Jesus in the Greatest Story Ever Told?
Maybe it's clown Jesus in Godspell?

Wait...McCracken...you can't be...no....my goodness...you're crazier than I thought man....
This is the Jesus you're talking about?


You mean to tell me McCracken, you are referring to crucified Jesus as appealing?
You're nuts. Sure that means our sins are forgiven, but you can't think about Jesus like that without realizing that our call here on earth is the same, all that "he that loses his life will find it" stuff, that whole "pick up your cross and follow me" bit. Yeah, that's real appealing McCracken.
If I wasn't such an ethical man and one who abides by a faith commitment, I would say that McCracken is ripe to be put in a parade of clowns and himself as the grand marshall, dressed up just like he is with a banner that goes before him saying "Brett McCracken, Church Jester: Buffoon." And he will be in handcuffs too (or maybe a Chinese finger trap?).
To you, dear reader
So you may be wondering why I am so harsh on our bearded man. Mind you I am this frustrated, and I haven't even read the book (just a small essay by him)...
Here's the deal:  First off, this guy is saying we don't want relevant, we want real. And everyone's going around promoting this "real" Christianity or "authentic" Christianity (no harm meant whatsoever towards any churches that carry said labels as their church names). But no one's dared to define what real Christianity or authentic Christianity is that makes Christianity so much more tangible and concrete than any other churches that do not promote being "real." Until someone produces a concrete definition of what "real" or "authentic" is that makes this "non-fake" brand so appealing, and that allows us (potential consumers/potential competition) to anaylze/scrutinize/praise what they stand for.
 The way I see it, they stand for absolutely nothing. And I am willing to bet that when we can kind of grasp what "real Christianity" is, it will itself just be one more marketing ploy. 
This is how I read the McCracken article: 
Darkened rooms: Fake!
Pastor who looks hip with relevant haircut: Fake!
Church that brings out Sex as a theme: Fake!
And then finally: It's all marketing! Instead, let's "Be Real." (what's real?) "Jesus: Good."
 I myself don't mind McCracken as a critic. Most of the stuff he mentions, I am annoyed by. But just because I don't like those methods doesn't mean I would dare call their Christianity fake. But McCracken is part of the growing voice in Christianity that is reacting against attempts to change the definition of church (sometimes slightly, sometimes with an overhaul). This voice is that of some weird unearned exceptionalism that for some reason thinks their OWN version of church (which is probably just embedded into an older brand of Christianity that appealed to their culture from decades ago) is "real." As Peter Berger, a renowned sociologist and devout Christian pointed out, that ever since protestantism broke onto the scene, each church and religion is apart of a marketing ploy to outcompete their competitors (other church/religion). Even if one defines their church as being anti-marketing, and therefore traditional, that too is a marketing tool to appeal to the Christians who are so turned off to the proactive marketing schemes they see in "relevant" churches. 
I guess in summary, this whole "real" Christianity thing is so frustrating because it acts like it's above all of the noise of desperate churches trying anything and everything to reach the lost (some it good, some of it bad) when real christianity itself is embedded into a culture trying to be relevant to to that culture (even if the culture it is trying to relate to is anti-modern culture) and therefore waist-deep with all of the rest of Christianity in trying to figure out how to maintain the careful balance of trying to appease the times, but without abusing the purity of Christianity (what is essential? What can go?). In other words, Real Christianity stands against many things, but seems to stand for nothing for itself other than "Jesus" which can be an entirely abstract and vague idea itself. It is no better than us. It is one of us. Even if their "being real" is claiming that it is against the rest of us.
And the biggest irony for McCracken....His book is being actively marketed and promoted and sold to  Christians, in a format that is... entirely relevant. Look no further than his website. (it looks like all the music blogs I visit). Actually when I come to think of it...it's kind of cute in a sad way. Like a puppy dog trying to bite the fingers off it's owner with it's harmless baby teeth (although they can slightly sting sometimes). The owners fingers, which feed the puppy  daily and try to take it on a walk.

5 comments:

carandavis said...

I'm disappointed that you didn't read the book before publicly scorning not only it, but McCracken personally.

You may have felt the same way after reading it, but at least you would have read more than you wrote in response to it.

I feel your point about the human tendency to think your version of Christianity (or your view of Christ) is the most correct could have been made without shaming an individual's efforts.

Joel Riley said...

Caran,

I thank you for the response. My gripe was not with the book but with the article. Had he never written the book, my frustration would have not been lessoned. Although if you creep around the website, you will quickly see that at the fore of his arguments is that he is trying to demonstrate "Hipster Christians" are not so cool, and rather stereotypical (see anatomy of a Christian Hipster section on his website). And thus his accomplishments in the book (which he is lauded for)
include labeling Christians and putting them in a box and oversimplifies the identity of the Christian Hipster (which I would be one if I was creative enough). Which is fine, we all do that. BUt i guess the difference is in his labeling and stereotyping and mocking "relevant Christianity" he seems to be making such proclamations from a pedestal in the name of Christ.

Perhaps I was too harsh on him (maybe the viking comment and calling him a baffoon was too much), but I guess I was wrongly using him as my whipping boy for all my pent up frustration that I have seen in our movement about this subject but cannot speak about (people ripping on attempts to be relevant and arguing for "real" Christianity) since they are too close to home.

I do acknowledge my hypocrisy in my "shaming" of McCracken, but that was intentional. Because I was not trying to cloak my insults in a cloud of righteousness.

I guess in sum, if you are going to spout off about what you do or don't like about Christianity or what churches are doing like McCracken did, for Goddsake, don't do it in the name of trying to be a "real Christian."

Fondly,

Joel

John T said...

Seeing the book is not out yet I think you can be forgiven for not reading it.

Seems to be just one of may books and blogs promoting an ill-defined monolithic view of Christianity using hyperbole to attack change / diversity.

Ornery's Wife said...

without reading his stuff, I cannot give an accounting on that score, but I can tell you that having been in "the church" for over 40 years, it has been my experience that what is "real" or what he is saying "Jesus" is, would be the representation of the gospel of peace--that we are saved by grace--not by works. The outward appearance and the legalism that "the church" espouses, especially when it disguises the rampant sin that lies within, is not "real" in any sense of the word.

God is love, he is not waiting to come down on us with his wrath--that has been satisfied by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, Jesus did everything and has forgiven us for all our sins, past present and future. The church, however, does not teach that truth.

Instead they teach that you may be saved only through Jesus, but from there on out, it is a struggle and act of your will and your behavior that makes you holy. That is NOT true. Either Jesus is the way, or He is not.

What this generation wants is the real Jesus--the man who loved everyone, who emptied himself of all his Deity and became a man so he could bring us into a right relationship with God. They don't want rules, they want relationship.

Perhaps his delivery was lacking, but it seems like from what you shared he said, that he shares the sentiment with a large number of young people around the world.

Joel Riley said...

"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword"

-Jesus (Matthew 10:34)