resurrected post: the Reformers were hipster Christians
I was just thinking of this post I wrote back in 2010 and thought I’d resurrect it to share as I still stand by most of my reaction to McCracken’s Hipster Christianity book.
In were the reformers hipster Christians? I asked you to consider whether the Reformers were hipster Christians, I gave the following criteria:
So without further delay, here are some ideas from the book, or articles McCracken has written supporting it.
When, in the name of rebellion and “freedom in Christ,” Christian hipsters begin to look and act just like their secular hipster counterparts, drinking and smoking all the same things, shouldn’t we raise a red flag?
Did the reformers do things in the name of rebellion or “freedom in Christ?” Did they drink and smoke the same things as their secular counterparts?
In the book, McCracken issues three questions of emergents(and thereby hipsters in his estimation) which I wonder if they might have some level of question towards the reformation as well - what what extent might these questions apply to the Reformation:
- Who Are You to Claim You Can Reinvent Church?
- Isn’t this Rebellion for the Sake of Rebellion?
- Don’t the Changes You Articulate Take Cues From the Culture Instead of Scripture?
Today I will attempt to offer a bit of my own response to this question.
Luther is the main figure whom we associate with the Reformation. He rightly decried the sale of indulgences as a wrong in the church and as a result of following controversy also came to believe that the Pope was not an authority in Biblical Christianity. In much of this Luther was a strong reactionary. He wrote a number of polemical works, including using strong, profane language mocking the pope. Luther spent a lot of time in the pubs, was known to enjoy beer and is also known to have introduced a number of hymns to church life by adapting bar tunes with Christian lyrics to be sung in church. He also dressed in the style of his day and was well known for provocative moves to incense the catholic church, (such as encouraging clergy who joined his position to give up their vows of chastity and marry).
So by McCracken’s standard, Isn’t Martin Luther a Christian Hipster? He smokes and drinks the same things as his peers. He was accused of rebellion for rebellion’s sake, his adaptation of hymns is certainly taking cues from culture. I have no choice but to say by McCracken’s standards, yes-Martin Luther was a Christian Hipster.
I admittedly know less about John Calvin, but prior to his role in the Reformation, Calvin had been a lawyer. It is agreed upon that his background in law colored his takes on justice and it can easily be seen how the legal views of the time helped shape his understanding of how God’s justice and predestination, etc. worked. Indeed, Kester Brewin has a blog post pointing out how predestination makes sense through the predominant mechanical understanding of the time. Calvin’s annual salary included 250 gallons of wine, so he liked to imbibe like his “secular” counterparts. And in general, it is agreed upon that both of these men were products of their time. For instance, when critique of Calvin’s support of putting Servetus to death for what were considered heretical views, part of the defense of Calvin is that he was a product of his time. But isn’t being a product of your time at least to some extent taking cues from culture? I am unconvinced it is even possible for us to put forth a version of Christianity that doesn’t take cues from culture. If it isn’t our culture it is somebody else’s. The fact that Calvin too was influenced by his time in his reading of scripture and in his support of putting Servetus to death leads me to believe that Calvin too was a hipster Christian.
What is the point of this exercise?
My reason for exploring this is twofold. In Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide , McCracken upholds the Reformers as having been setting their sights on some sort of timeless Christianity, so I was seeking to deconstruct this a bit. The Reformers would not have been nearly as successful in their time if they weren’t addressing the issues of their time. Certainly the establishment was critiquing them of capitulating to culture. I’m unconvinced that the Reformers goal was solely for some sort of timeless faith, or that if they were just to look towards some timeless faith if they would have been successful. Rather the reformers were in the process of making sense of faith in their time while also decrying the errors that they saw in the established church. I’m not necessarily saying that emergents or missionals or hipsters are on the same level as the reformers. Only time would be able to tell on that, but what I am saying is that the work of making sense of faith in your time is an undertaking worth developing.
Secondly my reason for doing this is to show how McCracken’s standards of what makes up a Christian Hipster are impossibly loose. He has cast the net way too wide to just indict Christian hipsters.