Against Evangelical Hipsters

In the Summer 2009 issue of The City there is a superb piece of writing that diagnoses a creature that I come across quite a bit online and sometimes in the flesh up in D.C. – the evangelical hipster.  John Mark Reynolds wrote the piece, where he diagnoses the persona of these individuals:

Secularists should stop worrying about a theocracy: Anderson finds young Evangelicals to be like young Mark Studdock in the C.S. Lewis novel That Hideous Strength—more spaniel than pit bull in their desire to charm rather than snub those that despise them. In fact, Anderson’s article essentially accuses young Evangelicals of being just like the characters Mark and Jane Studdock. Like Mark, young Evangelicals desire admission to the “inner ring” of the culture more than any other temptation. Like Jane, they are lightly educated, but take their thoughts very seriously. Unlike Mark and Jane, young American Evangelicals are given Blue Like Jazz rather than Taliesin through Logres.

Although I have often seen this, I’ve never quite put my finger on it like Mr. Reynolds does. The admission to the inner ring of the culture is THE temptation for me and many folks who have moved beyond Left Behind and Christian bookstores and think they have it all together. To me, the solution is to take a stand and appear to be a (gasp) fundamentalist on some issues. I realized some years ago that one thing which makes men like Tolkien great is that he had beliefs and he stood for them. We can easily quibble with his obscurantist stands on motor cars, roads and airplanes, but he had reasons for believing and he believed! He was not a perpetually vacillating ninny who never arrived at a position and did not stand up for the Creeds and culture which gave him birth.

I see the solution to this drift in the hermeneutic approach of James Jordan and Peter Leithart, the post-Reconstructionist conversation, the Creeds and Liturgy of the Anglican Church, and a saturation of Bible study. But many who see through Christian “positive hits” radio and local church anti-intellectualism yo-yo to the far opposite side, embracing Obama, horrible sexual ethics, a flawed Bible and no church authority. Reynolds continues:

Evangelical youth are being corrupted and Evangelical scholars and leaders are at least partly to blame. Why? The church and the Evangelical academy have, by and large and for various reasons, rejected Christendom and left Evangelical youth to create their own inadequate pseudo-culture on the fly.

Amen to this! We’ve had para-church pablum and bad doctrine on parade for 50-100 years now. The Reformed and Lutherans have held there own in terms of intellectualism, but most of the rest of the church is out to sea and doesn’t know how to think critically. Reynolds describes those who get tired of this shallowness only to embrace leftist shallowness of a different kind. Any jibe at Bush gets a laugh. Limbaugh is a buffoon. Republicans are idiots. I concur with most of this thought, but from an even way further right position, not a liberal, ill-thought out hatred of culture and mores. Still, Reynolds words strike home with me.

The attack on patriotism is a part of this assault on Christendom. “Christendom” in the mythology of the academy is about power and politics. Patriotism is a simple trick to get the rubes to turn over power to politicians. Evidently the solution to this problem is to either to abandon politics altogether or to “speak prophetically to power,” though generally only to Republican power. Of course, Christian intellectualists ignore the ties of prophets like Nathan or Isaiah to the royal house of David since this would spoil their pristine idea of the non-partisan Biblical prophet.

And Reynolds says patriotism can equate to the holy grail concept that I have espoused: community.

Of course, disdain for patriotism contradicts another value of intellectualists: the love of authentic community. Isn’t “a strong love for your folks” just another way of describing patriotism? The solution in many Christian colleges has been to allow everyone in the world to love and take pride in their people group except for Americans.

Another searing critique applies to those who utilize Orthodox and Catholic critiques of Protestants, but only as a tactical way of blasting their own communities, not at the cost of believing all that claptrap about sex taught by Rome or the East:

The group Anderson describes are more horrified by the strong, traditional Protestants than by Catholic or Orthodox beliefs, but this is no real sign of an ecumenical spirit. Too often the Evangelical young adult merely uses Catholic and Orthodox thinkers to tear down those parts of Evangelicalism they do not like while ignoring those parts that that challenge their assumptions. They are cafeteria ecumenicists. Roman Catholic teaching on birth control and sexuality are not quoted or applauded, though nothing is a greater challenge to the norms of Evangelical sub-culture. Evangelical intellectualists tend to ignore those writings by John Paul the Great or the brilliant Benedict XVI that attack post-modern or pop culture views of sexuality or scholarship. John Paul certainly spoke truth to power and helped liberate millions from murderous tyranny, but the tyranny was a leftist one and Evangelical parents admired him, so he is not the kind of Catholic they admire.

The whole article should really be read and digested. I see too much of this love of approval in myself and I am determined to root it out.

Pessimism

Muggeridge says of Christianity:

Pessimism has, indeed, been Christianity’s great strength, and the reason for its survival. The concept of this world as a wilderness, and of human life as short and brutish, fits the circumstances of most people most of the time. The contrary proposition-that earthly life can be satisfying within its own dimensions and on its own terms-leads to such mental strain and confusion as to be scarcely tenable, other than briefly and artificially.

Two Methods of Church Planting

I have observed two methods of church planting, both of which have something to commend themselves to us. The first method is practice by Sovereign Grace. They have folks pray about being part of a church plant in another city, sometimes in another state. Those folks then join the pastor being sent out and get new jobs, relocate to the new city and put down roots. This way the new church starts with a core of tight-knit people that are on the same page.

The second method is that of the AMiA parishes in the D.C. area. The mother church has planted two churches in two years. Rather than becoming a mega-church, the mother church hives off when it hits about 250-300 people and starts a new church in the area where a big cluster of current attenders live. The mother church had 3-4 full time clergy and sent one guy to plant each of the daughter churches. The pastors can also rotate in and out and preach at the other parish. This model is also effective, logical and preserves a parish mentality.

The things I don’t like about the Sovereign Grace method are that Sov Grace seems to have no problem with mega-churches. Their churches get huge and lose intimacy and real relationships between all members. They seem to be too slow to ordain men, so they don’t have a huge base of guys to launch multiple local works. They also don’t seem to want to do multiple local works – at least not to date. They seem more inclined to launch in new cities or states rather than to hive off and establish tons of local works that reach the same region/city.

Perhaps combining these two methods would be good. Rather than sending 30 families to a new state, the parish could send 30 families one suburb away. That would make ties to the sending church more effective, but might decrease the sense of mission that the new work has in that the people are still in their comfort zone to some degree.

Immigrant Song

I’m trying to find out how to help relocated immigrants as a church. I am looking at resettled, legal immigrants that need help with everything – English, rides, jobs, clothes, you name it. The Federal and State governments administer help to these people, as do  some church agencies, with Catholic and Lutheran bodies seeming to be the main providers.

I’m thinking about this in terms of a practical way to obey the commands of the Scripture and also as a potential way to convert the lost and sink roots in an immigrant community. Since it is so hard to reach the suburbs due to atomized people, the marginalized and immigrants in our area may be a place to start.

So far I’m having no luck in getting my e-mails to various agencies answered, so I am at ground zero right now. I have no clue what I am doing but I hope that it will work out.