Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hip and Hearty

Let me start with some important disclaimers: 1) I realize I am about to generalize. No one fits into these categories absolutely. 2) My generalizations are probably most appropriate to white middle class culture. I don't claim to know as well what the cultural dynamics are in other communities. 3) I'm not going to argue that one of these two cultural ideals is better than the other. Now please keep reading.

It seems to me that there are two competing cultural ideals in the church scene in North America: the hip and the hearty.

On the one hand, there is hip culture. Hip people like films, go to coffee shops, and wear scarves. They listen to Sufjian Stevens and NPR and shop at Trader Joe's. They rent movies that make you think and cry. They like to walk around in nature. They value diversity. They are concerned about the environment and social justice. They are into the arts. The problem with the world, in the eyes of the hip, is lack of love and understanding. Hip people are urban, or aspire to be. Hip people are ironic and sometimes cynical. They get their news from Jon Stewart. They probably voted for Obama.

Then there are the hearty folks. Hearty people eat fast food, aren't into organic food, and don't know what fair trade coffee is. They listen to pop, country, and talk radio, and shop at Wal-Mart. They rent movies where you laugh and stuff gets blown up. They like nature because you can farm it or hunt things in it. They are concerned about abortion, the family, and honoring our soldiers. They are into sports. The problem with the world, in the eyes of the hearty, is that some people are bad and our morals are getting worse. Hearty people are straightforward and sometimes insensitive. They get their news from Fox. They probably voted for George W. Bush.

Hip is this:

Hearty is this:

Hip and hearty are styles, but they are also identities. I think one of the reasons many people loathed Bush was because he was a "hearty" Texan, about as un-hip (by my definition) as you can get. It will be interesting to see if the hip, urban Obama gets the same reaction from the hearty crowd as Bush got from hipsters. What the elites saw in Bush were not only policies they didn't like, but a whole persona and demeanor that represented the exact opposite of the way people should be.

So what's the point? I'm not arguing that hip and hearty are mutually exclusive. I'm not arguing that everyone fits neatly into one category or the other. I'm not saying hip and hearty are only about styles. I'm not saying they aren't sometimes just about styles. I'm not arguing for a moral relativism that ignores the strong and weak points of each. I'm not claiming to have somehow risen above hip and hearty myself and reached some transcendent cultural ideal.

The point is that the church needs to reach out to both cultural categories without selling out to either one. Admittedly, Ted Kluck and I poke fun at the hipster culture more than the hearty in Why We're Not Emergent, but this in an effort to show that being "missional" should be about more than just engaging other Bono and Matrix fans. The danger on the other side, however, is that we make fun of "hip" to the point that we become suspicious of people in that category (or they become suspicious of us). That would be trading one sin for another. If emergents say, "Hey, church, your hearty culture doesn't resonate with our hip culture," then I want to say, "Good point, but your hip culture isn't holier than hearty culture." But then someone needs to remind me, "True, but don't write off the hip as silly self-importance. They're people too."

People in both categories need to learn to be themselves and not some stylized version of Mr. Metrosexual or Alpha Male. People in both categories need to open their hearts to those in the other. Most importantly, people in both categories need to make sure the gospel they are preaching is the gospel of sin and salvation and not the false gospel of cultural identification.


Brad Moore said...

Hey, I know you said that you don't claim that anyone fits neatly into these categories; so just to affirm that, let me describe myself:

- played college football; and enjoy the arts
- listen to NPR; and FoxNews (if I had TV)
- shop at Wal-Mart but question it at times; enjoy our local organic food store (and I'd shop there more if I made more money)
- tempted to vote Obama, but voted McCain
- listen to classical music when I'm being a pseudo-intellectual (or trying to appreciate God's creation of notes); rap beats are awesome; josh groban can sing; and I love old-school non-hoky-style hymns
- have pacifistic sympathies and leanings, but get choked-up and want to cry at soldier-honoring events
- want to care for creation; love red meat
- Can respect other Christian traditions, but lean Calvinistic and love my dose of John Piper.

That's me. Not that I'm some kind of high standard - my wife knows that. But I want to be right in the eyes of my Lord. And if leaning towards pacificism is what Jesus meant for his Bride, then I want it no matter how slammed I get from the "hearty." If killing the unborn is just abhorrent, which it is, then offend I will the "hip."

I love the Church. I'm passionate about her living focused on Christ and his purposes. I hope to serve her some day in the pastorate. And what ticks me off is when the culture busts in and highjacks her; and all of a sudden you have Christians letting culture inform their biblical interpretation instead of vice versa. So as pastors/teachers (or future pastor/teachers) I encourage us to take responsibility to protect the Bride with the sword of God's truth. (The "hearties" should like that imagery. And for my fellow Mennonites, back off, it's just imagery - and it's biblical imagery!)

Peace out Kevin. I'm new to you. But thanks for what you do in service to the King. Grace my brother.

texscot said...

Amen! Personally, though, I like to sip a double latte while I listen to Limbaugh ...

Citizen Grim said...

Definitely a good start, but I think you're correct in your recognition that, rather than an either-or option, reality is in fact somewhat more multipolar.

Maybe we need to throw away Hip culture and Hearty culture and any other culture, and adopt Heavenly culture. ;)

Somewhat related, a great Christian analysis of the various forms of government is here:
Ultimately, putting too much stock in any one form of government (or culture, or way of life, etc) is little more than idolatry... i.e. glorifying the creation rather than the Creator.

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