Following the lead of Chuck Smith, whose outreach to hippies through Calvary Chapel reaped huge dividends, more evangelical leaders in the 1980s and '90s actively sought cool. They began to reach out to the youth culture and form churches to fit its needs—motivated by a renewed desire to be contemporary, current, and relevant. As a result, evangelicalism in the '90s had a firmly established youth culture, built on the infrastructure of a lucrative Christian retail industry and commercial subculture. Huge Christian rock festivals, Lord's Gym T-shirts, WWJD bracelets, Left Behind, and so forth.It was big business. It was corporate. It was schlocky kitsch. And it was begging to be rebelled against.
Enter the age of the Christian hipster. As the '90s gave way to the 2000s, young evangelicals reared in the ostentatious Je$us subculture began to rebel. They sought a more intellectual faith, one that didn't reject outright the culture, ideas, and art of the secular world. In typical hipster fashion, they rejected the corporate mentality of the purpose-driven megachurch and McMansion evangelicalism, and longed for a simpler, back-to-basics faith that was more about serving the poor than serving Starbucks in the church vestibule.
The hipster church stuff is this generation's version of the same thing, and it comes from two sources: people who want to make the gospel relevant to outsiders as a kind of evangelistic move and people who genuinely were hipsters anyway, but are also Christians or become Christians and would like to merge those two parts of their lives.
The little ditty about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a potent earworm
So what happens when 'cool' meets Christ?
beat doesn’t mean tired or bushed or beat up so much as it means beato, the Italian for beatific: to be in a state of beatitude, like St. Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart. (The question is), how can this be done in our mad modern world of multiplicities and millions?
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