There are good moments in the book, but ultimately his analysis of certain fantasies breaks down. His discussions of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, an...moreThere are good moments in the book, but ultimately his analysis of certain fantasies breaks down. His discussions of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, and Stephen R. Lawhead contain no content, mere condemnations without reasons. (less)
Mighty fine. Godawa argues that God communicates through story and image, and that truth can indeed be communicated in such medium; to reduce the Bibl...moreMighty fine. Godawa argues that God communicates through story and image, and that truth can indeed be communicated in such medium; to reduce the Bible to propositions is to lose something essential, because God chose narrative to tell us about Himself. Conservative evangelicals, he says, tend to want to reduce the stories of the Bible down to their "meaning," and then dump the stories in favor of the "message" expressed propositionally. The last few chapters deal with the Biblical subversion of pagan stories of the time. For instance, he argues that Paul's Mars Hill sermon was intended to mimic the structure of Stoic philosophy, and then undercut and subvert that story with the twist-ending of resurrection and God making Himself known through Jesus. From this basis, he argues that Christians should get down to business subverting common, unbelieving stories in our own culture.(less)
Took me a while to finish this one, because I ended up savoring it in small chunks. Brett McCracken sketches the history and implications of what he c...moreTook me a while to finish this one, because I ended up savoring it in small chunks. Brett McCracken sketches the history and implications of what he calls "hipster christianity." A self-identified hipster, Brett has grown concerned about the movement, and so sets out to first accurately describe it, and then provide constructive criticism and evaluation. The result is a remarkable, important, wonderful book about this growing movement of young Christians, a movement that is shattering denominational and traditional boundaries.
The first half of the book is primarily historical and descriptive. What is "hipster Christianity" and where did it come from? While this part contains some stuff of interest, the book doesn't really get cooking until chapter 8, but once you get there, you won't want to set it down. This is where McCracken stops describing and starts interacting, and his evaluations reveal many wise insights.
One of the most important chapters in the whole book is chapter 10, in which McCracken discusses the "wannabe hipster church," which basically describes any church that tries to draw young people through the use of loud music, a pastor in jeans, and the obvious use of stage lighting and technology. In contrast to this, we are told something staggering:
"for things sacred such as church and worship and community, they [hipsters] are seeking something simpler than fog machines and strobe lights." ()
"Technology doesn't make anything cooler, and increasingly the younger generations are looking for a tech-free space wherein they can quiet themselves and focus on the transcendent truths of the gospel, apart from the media and digital overload of the rest of their lives." ()
"[Hipsters]love The Office, but I doubt they go to church with hopes of seeing a clip from that show. Pastors who think they'll win over the cool kids [or any kids - A. T.] by forming the church in the cool kids' pop culture image are liable to find themselves even less relevant than when they started." (p. 182)
The shocking truth is that "cool" no longer means technologically up to speed. It means "true to your self," "real," "authentic." The real surprise in reading this book is the transformation of "hip" from being a desire to exclude those who are non-hip, into a thirst for "genuine." In a world of fakes, illusions, posers and inauthenticity, being real, no matter what that looks like, being honest about yourself and who you are, has become the acceptance of anyone, so long as they have presented themselves honestly. This is a tremendous opportunity for the church, but we have almost entirely blown it, either by sneering at the hipsters (conservatives) or pumping our churches full of loud music, stage lighting and pop-culture (mega-church, church growth models). This latter example shows us that again the Church has responded incorrectly to the cutting-edge movements. We have clothed the church in the robe of hip, and have found that we are very apparent in our inauthenticity. It is a mask, nothing more. What is more, those who are most hip aren't desperate for the church to be hip, they're desperate for the church to be the church.
I could sum up the message of the book right here:
An aggressively cool Christianity is not what younger generations want from our faith. They aren't looking for something trendy and fashionable and transient; they want something deep and lasting and transcendent. They don't want a copycat church that looks just like their own culture (only a few steps behind); they want something alternative, unique, profound, lasting, and transformative. Our world is in flux, and lives are crumbling on shaky foundations every day. Uncertainty, skepticism, and fear are ubiquitous. People desperately desire something certain, true, and solid--something the church certainly be if it only gets its head on straight and mounts an epic reversal of the ripple effect." (228).
Of course, if any church looks at that quote and says, "they should just come to our worship," stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. We all have much work--foundational, structural, basic work--to do. To truly meet this vision, no example currently on offer will do. We must reform our preaching, our theology, our music, our mindset. We must become the place and the people that extends the incarnation into the world, that brings justification and new creation into the deepest, most wounded places. We must be the people of transformation, not merely of souls, but of lives, of neighborhoods, of states and nations. We must tear down our requirements for coming in, and instead bring people into the church in order that they may be transformed. We must not flee from the world, but be transformed and sent back into it.
In the end, that's all these hipsters want. But then again, that's all any Christian should want. The hipsters strike out on their own, get caught up in unhealthy movements (*cough*emergent-church*cough*) and leave the church because we are not being what we must be. So let's just be what we're called to be.(less)
A terrible book. O'Brien rarely even touches on the Potter books, and never does so in any kind of detail. He quotes from the books perhaps twice, and...moreA terrible book. O'Brien rarely even touches on the Potter books, and never does so in any kind of detail. He quotes from the books perhaps twice, and never cites them to demonostrate his points. He does no close reading of the text. The only close reading of the text comes from a writer he quotes, who argues that the food table during the Death-Day Party (in book two) has cakes and rotting fish and a black tablecloth; from this the author argues that Rowling is creating a black mass parody of holy communion, because she interprets "cake" to mean round wafers, and "fish" to be the symbol of Christ, rotted and presented for consumption and destruction. It would be funny if the authors weren't so deadly serious about it. Also, the good guys stay in the House of Black, which (gasp) has serpents molded onto the chandeliers, and as we all know, the serpent is the symbol of the devil. Nowhere is it mentioned that no one *likes* the Black family, and that they were all a bunch of dark wizards and crazy purebloods. I mean, the lack of considering context is just an overriding sin for all critics of the Potter books, but this was just . . . . really badly done. Absolutely no sense of proportion.
Oh yes, and then there was the part where O'Brien claimed that in reading the Potter books he was assaulted by evil spirits that knew he would write against the book. Yikes.(less)