Hipster Jesus, or, Cool Hand Jew

Doritos Ranch...meant to be COOL. Jesus, though?

Doritos Ranch…meant to be COOL. Jesus, though?

A few months back, a Bible study friend wondered aloud something I think many Gen-X & Y believers have probably wondered to themselves, whether privately, or in a more public setting. To paraphrase, are we in some way, fashioning a hipster version of the faith— especially in eschewing or questioning long-held traditions or interpretations of the faith? I then wondered, myself, if my own personal religious detours from the mainstream were truly based on more than self-serving whim, or the desire I fear I sometimes have to simply be a contrarian, for the sake of some glorified notion of rugged individualism, rather than an evolving, God-revealed theology.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is a healthy, spiritually profitable course of action (for both individuals and bodies of believers) to question what are man-made religious constructs, versus those truly revealed in scripture. My generation, and that of my adult children, seem particularly critical of the conventional christian milieu many of us were raised with. This seems so pervasive, at times, that I wonder if we are not sometimes merely arguing for argument’s sake. After all, how can an adult be truly free, the thought seems to be, if one winds up drawing the same conclusions as our Silent Gen/Boomer Moms & Dads? Some of this, understand, I see as de rigeur. It is only natural to define oneself, including one’s beliefs, in contrast or opposition to those one was raised with as normative. I do think, though, that we need to be careful with this very human tendency, myself included. (Something about babies & bath-water, here, I think…)

Scripture instructs the relatively young, whose folks are likely to still be alive (maybe middle-aged, & younger), to utilize our elders in the faith, for their wisdom. That becomes hard to do, if the thought of being spiritually advised by a male or female elder elicits an automatic eye-roll. It doesn’t mean we need to ape every bullet point on the elders’ outline of beliefs & traditions, but if the only palatable theology is the spiritual flavor-of-the month, and the only acceptable version of the Saviour is some hipster/outlaw “Jesus-In-Blue-Jeans”, I’m not convinced that’s a novel improvement.

This is no argument for “Christ Classic”, as a brand. I think it’s endemic to every generation to test what aspects of the faith of our fathers (& mothers) holds true, & which are tradition without true meaning. What I struggle with, though, is the notion that focuses so much on Jesus’ humanity, as a counter-cultural icon, challenging the religious status quo—the rebel with a cause—that we negate or minimize His divinity. Do we do this, I wonder, out of a desire to make Jesus relatable? Do we Hipster Christians, with our relaxed, post-teetotaler stance, our thumping praise band, & aversion to overly “church-y” lingo/attire (which, btw, I’m “cool” with), take things so far that we water down the moral absolutes that the Biblical Jesus stood for, so that we can, instead, be all-embracing, avoiding any passe, “judgmental” trappings? Are our only choices to make Jesus into a slam-dunking Saviour, “hanging” out, or an overly rule-bound pseudo-Parent, euphemistically “harshing our [lifestyle & spiritual] buzz”? Why do we feel this urge to make Jesus our peer or older bro, & to take most of the beliefs we saw, growing up in the church, & turn them on their heads?

Why do we have the compunction to take anything our parents espoused, & not only question it, but have a welling disdain for it, almost as our default setting? Is it just a part of that normal process of individuation, whereby we decide, for ourselves, what beliefs to cling to, from our upbringing, & which to discard, or could it be something more?

Do we, for some reason, feel the need to be apologists for a Christ & Christianity that are maligned or misunderstood, by society, at large? Do we think that re-inventing Jesus as a hip, counter-cultural icon—a one-of-a-kind philosopher-loner—that he’ll be more marketable among our “cool kid” friends? I’m not sure I know.

It seems I have more questions, at times, than answers. I know one thing, though. The older I get, the more open I am to receiving spiritual wisdom from my nearly 72-year-old mom, who embraces much timeless religious tradition, yet has some rather independent, novel spiritual thought, as well. I can tell you that I did a certain amount of harm to myself, spiritually, as a teen & young adult, largely because I stubbornly wanted to define myself as anything but conventional.

hipster-jesus sign
I’m becoming convinced that we’d all benefit from worrying a lot less about how to market our beliefs, to make them seem attractive & easy, & far from old-fashioned (hello—Jesus lived a couple thousand years ago!), or cool, & really just dig into timeless truths, no matter what our age. Christ doesn’t need for us to re-invent Him, or turn Him into something He’s not. That means maybe Hipster “whatever, man” Jesus has probably gotta go.

That doesn’t let tradition apologists off the hook, either, though. Just as those of us under 50 probably don’t have the right to update the Saviour’s “look” or out-look, neither do the other generations get to create a Christ who meets their political or rhetorical whims, either. We younger ones may have some legitimate gripes, there, especially where Jesus-As-Whipping-Boy has been applied. The tendency to create Christ on our own terms, as middle-aged & younger gens, sometimes arises out of painful, bitter memories of Christianity used as an excuse for very human excesses & abuses.

What would happen if all of us stopped trying to create the Lord in OUR image, & let things play out, the other way around? That might be the coolest possibility of all.


Note: I found a trove of images related to “Hipster Jesus”, including several where the Saviour is swilling PBR & brandishing smokes. I decided to go with more “middle of the road” pictures, as these left me uncomfortable, but I may return to them at some point, in a separate post.

Slammin' Saviour? Not so much.

Slammin’ Saviour? Not so much.


About cathsparks

cathsparks is a 1970 model writer, disability advocate, spouse of 22 years, and adoptive parent of grown children. She's been creating stories since early childhood, when she wrote her earliest work, "The Dog Who Ate Spaghetti". (Spoiler alert: It's about a dog who---wait for it---eats spaghetti.) Cathy enjoys backroads travel, ethnic cuisine, reading dystopian and mystery fiction, watching classic and documentary film, and doing family history research. Professionally, she's been everything from a small-town waitress, to a youth minister, a hat and handbag saleslady, a licensed early childhood ed director, and even a case manager for kids with Severe Emotional Disturbance. Currently, she writes, consults, does research, and is a city-appointed poll official. Politically an odd duck, she has friends that run the gamut from Socialist to Constitution Party, and nearly everywhere in between. Likewise, Cath has many chums who share her Christian faith, to be sure, but also enjoys meaningful friendships with folks who embrace other paths, including agnostics and atheists. There is no singular Sparks litmus test for fellowship, other than an honest effort at mutual respect. She and her husband, Jason (who was her first kiss, 29 years ago), live with their oldest, a son---an accomplished artist and Special Olympian---and several ferocious house-cats. (Half of them "grand-kitties", and one 92+, in human years.) They also have a "grand-lizard" and a "grand-pup", both in other states.) This son has activities several days a week, lots of friends, and is active in community group, and men's bible study nights (though he skips the suds), retreats, church work days, and more. His sweet sometime girlfriend attends church with him, and they enjoy dining out and double/group outings to the movies. He's developing job skills through volunteer programs, and striving for appropriate independence in all these areas and more. He's excited to be in the dorms 3 nights for a preview at a college for people with intellectual disabilities. It lies farther North, even, than the homes of either of his siblings. All 3 of cathsparks' and hubsy's kids were raised to travel, and, like their parents, are happy wanderers. Their daughter---a college Senior in the Midwest---lives in a rented house and is a happy newlywed, while at college, she's double-majoring. (That's a lot of hyphenates!) She's active in ministry, plays drums for chapel, and lived for a semester in Siberian Russia. Her husband is an ordained minister. Between the 2 of them, post-honeymoon, they've been to 9 different countries. and a great many prominent American cities. Recently, they've opened their home to a young friend in need of temporary placement---the first (honorary) human grandson! Cath and Jason enjoy spending time with their grown-up kids, at their small 1940 Tudor revival, in East Nashville's Inglewood neighborhood, during their holidays and school breaks. Their youngest and his bride live in an adjoining Southern state, where he's taken classes, drives a forklift, and is building a steady career in middle management, at a company where he has the respect and appreciation of those who work with him. The twosome have a brilliant and beautiful 2 year old girl, who Grammy and Gramps adore, and recently added another sweet even-tempered baby girl to love in August 2017. The parental pair recently moved to a larger rented home, to give their girls more room to play in. That's good, as baby # 3, a boy, will arrive this September, a couple of weeks after their younger girl's 1st birthday. Both the two younger, married sibs are following a familiar family pattern, in terms of housing. Cath and Jase rented a small home, themselves, before buying the family home in 2000, after 4 years of marriage. Back in Nashville, Cath, Jason, and their oldest son attend Restoration, a diverse, loving body of believers who accept them, flaws and all. They are sin-prone, messy creatures, living in a temperamental 78 year old Tudor cottage with too many books, lots of iced tea, and their maximum number of felines.

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