A Theology for Hipsters (Part 15): Hipster Hot Topics (Part 1)

The birth of the Christian Hipster happens at college, usually, but it doesn’t stop there. What happens at college begins an entire course of life which involves a change in values, methods, and all around living. A few key developments in the life of a hipster include: social concern that leads to action; indulgence in the arts; freedom in lifestyles and habits; and a concern for missions. We’ll look at each of these in turn in more depth throughout the rest of this work; for the moment, however, let’s zero in on the few common hot topics among hipsters.

Hipster Hot Topics

Social Justice

Meet Angel Child, she’s a homeless woman who is also socially and mentally handicapped. She lives in my town and my wife likes to occasionally have lunch with her during the week. There’s not really a whole lot that we can do for Angel Child. She needs medical attention, but she doesn’t have insurance. She also needs a job, but she doesn’t have an address or a social security card. In fact she has zero ID of any kind, except for her sweet smile. More than anything what she wants, though, is a friend. She likes a familiar face and a patient ear (she loves to talk). Concern for people like Angel Child is growing among the young. The church universal used to be very good at caring for the poor and the homeless, the destitute and the down and out. But, with the exception of a few individual churches, this has changed. By in large the church no longer has this burden and no longer sees this as an issue. Recently Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung wrote a book in which they specifically address this subject, stating that social justice is not part of the mission of the church. In his previous book What is the Gospel? Greg wrote the following:

Let me go ahead and lay all my thoughts on the table. I have some serious biblical and theological reservations about the cultural transformation paradigm. I’m not convinced that Scripture places efforts at cultural transformation in quite the position of priority that many transformationalists call for. That’s for several reasons. For one thing, I don’t think the cultural mandate in Genesis is given to the people of God as such; I think it’s given to human beings as a whole. I also don’t think the general trajectory of human culture, either in Scripture or in history, is in a Godward direction; instead, I think the trajectory of human culture on the whole, though not in every particular, is judgment-ward (see Revelation 17-19). So I think the optimism of many transformationalists about the possibility of “changing the world” is misleading and therefore will prove discouraging.[1]

Now I know Greg, he was a dear friend and my former pastor when I was in seminary. I respect him greatly and I know that he would do all he could to help someone in need, and he indeed encourages others to do the same. But he draws a line between the mission of the church and the cause of “social justice” (a term he is particularly not fond of), and the efforts to “change the world.”  But there is a growing number of young Evangelical voices, particularly among the Hipster crowds, that believes social justice is a crucial part of the mission of the church.

Next week will look at where this renewed interest in social responsibility is coming from.

[1] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 108.

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