A Theology for Hipsters (Part 16): Hipster Hot Topics (Part 2)

One of the “hot topics” found among today’s Christian Hipsters is a concern for social justice. Some of this social concern stems from the Jesus Movement of the 60s. As Hippies became outraged at the social injustices of their day they began to protest, fight for, and serve the “least” of our culture. Their rejection of materialism and the mechanistic worldview so prevalent in the culture also led them to the formation of communities that could easily care for and cater to the homeless and needy. As so many Hippies joined the revivals of the age and converted to Christianity they took these same concerns with them into the arena of the Christian community. Thus was born JPUSA (Jesus People USA): a young Christian community with a strong social conscience. The recent resurgence in interest, however, has more to do with Fundamentalism than with the Jesus People.

Brett McCracken summarizes well the reason for the rebirth of Christian social care. He writes:

Back in the 1920s, during the modernist-fundamentalist split, the ‘soul gospel’ became divorced from the ‘social gospel,’ with the fundamentalists orienting themselves toward the former (soul winning, evangelism, preaching) while the more liberal, mainline denominations focused on the latter (social justice, activism, service). As a legacy of this split, contemporary evangelicalism has struggled to rejoin these two integral aspects of the gospel. “Serving the world” in the social justice sense has bad, liberal connotations among many conservative evangelical denominations, and vice versa for mainline denominations that are wary of counting conversions or ever using the term soul winning.

Naturally the discovery that this is a false dichotomy and one that has only been a debate in the church for less than a century comes as refreshing and revelatory to many young Christians who seek to live out the activist faith of the early church and the Assisis of the world.[1]

As part of their backlash against Fundamentalism and as part of their continued growth and exposure to new things many youth found a place for their energies, passions, and concerns in social justice. This interest has only been fueled by the writings of authors like Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, who have soundly criticized the church for their failures in this area. More recently this interest has been encouraged by the writings of pastor and theologian Tim Keller who’s 2010 book Generous Justice[2] builds a strong Biblical and theological case for Christian social justice.

But social justice isn’t the only Hipster Hot Topic. We’ll look at some more next week.

[1] McCracken.

[2] We will examine more thoroughly Keller’s offerings on this subject at a later date.


  1. This “renewed interest in social justice” is wonderfully refreshig. The past decade has been filled with believers who love to accuse the Church of being apathetic to “the least of these” while doing nothing themselves but accuse (as if being an accuser is a gift of the Spirit). In order for this renewed interest to come about, it took the time to learn the lesson that Solomon learned (as recorded in Ecclesiastes)..the pursuit of stuff is emptiness…like chasing the wind.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Rick. I hope and pray that this is not a fad, a trend for the season, but that it sticks and really impacts churches and their communities.

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