For McCracken, there are two types of hip churches, two types of hipster Christians: the natural and the marketed, the authentic and the wannabe. […] And after presenting a brief history of the evolution of cool and proffering definitions of key terms—the hipster, for example, is defined in a remarkably vague way as “fashionable, young, independent-minded contrarian”—McCracken explores both sides, glorifying the likes of [Brooklyn's Resurrection Presbyterian Church and its pastor, Vito Aiuto] and criticizing the wannabes, somewhat playfully, for trying too hard, for “bending over backward to meet the culture where it’s at,” for being too high-tech, too shocking, too “rebellious.” But in part three of Hipster Christianity, McCracken, a self-described “hipster Christian,” adopts a different tone altogether, a tone decidedly more Christian than hipster, lashing out at culture, at “the outside,” at cool itself, for thrusting Christianity into “an identity crisis unrivaled in the history of the faith.” Christianity and cool are at odds, he argues, irreconcilable forces that, when engaged with each other, breed narcissism, incite recklessness, and encourage deviation from faith.
Conservative Christian concern over the appropriate degree of engagement with the secular world is certainly nothing new. But in his effort to urge Christians to “think deeply about their identity and place in contemporary culture” in the final part of his book, McCracken underestimates the significant role hip churches play in the modern, urban evangelical landscape. Within the course of 100 pages, McCracken shifts from normalizing the trend (“They might be hipster churches, but they are also just churches like any other—trying to preach God’s Word and spread his gospel throughout their community”), to denouncing it through a series of sweeping generalizations (“The necessarily individualistic, egocentric nature of hip makes it a poor companion for a faith that calls us into community and collective purpose”; “It’s hard to deny yourself or take up any cross daily when you’re chained to the shackles of hip”; “Hipsters care only about freedom, partying, and transgression”). While McCracken does leave a small window of potential for a “positive, proactive” Christian version of hip, he ultimately views all that is “cool” as a threat to Christianity and misunderstands the movement’s desire for relevance as vain, self-absorbed, and insincere.
Read Greenfield’s review, embedded in her own descriptions of Resurrection Presbyterian Church and Revolution Church, here.