The “Awesome God” Hipster Church Tirade

I’m not usually in the practice of posting articles verbatim from other sites, but this one from Huff Post Religion is an exception because I knew exactly what they were talking about.

I don’t claim to be an old foagie of churchdom. I have my wayward or liberal views on the running of the church as much as anybody. I definitely do not feel as if my views are stuck back somewhere in time about 2 weeks after Martin Luther made nail holes in the church door.

I realize there have always been megachurches from the beginning of Christianity (when they were called Cathedrals,) and there always will be. I refer to the ones we have today as PowerPoint Churches. Another pastor friend of mine refers to them as “naughty Baptists.” My writing is not intended to disrespect anyone’s particular spiritual belief, or their lack of belief – it’s no skin off my nose, as long as nobody is getting hurt.

Here is one very familiar sounding tirade about hipster churches, and particularly a visible lack of Radical Welcome in some churches where folks might show up for their own spiritual quenching, and yet leave without consideration of those sitting around them. “Church” is not a solitary exercise, even in large groups.

A Tirade For The Trendy Church

by Jack Levinson

I get up early on Sunday morning and drive to the manufacturing district, which is totally desolate. I’m self-conscious because I’m visiting a hipster church. Naked, too, because I’ve got no tats. Not even a Bible verse across my ribs from my grad school days. And, at 59, I’m totally grey. My beard. Even my chest hair. (My ear hair isn’t, but it’s growing long because I’m old.) My eyebrows, too, they’re going grey. Legit not on fleek, so I’m embarrassed to begin with. I park my 2004 Honda Odyssey a ways away, obvs, and walk toward the front door of a warehouse building at the end of a deserted street. Totally trendy sign on the side of the building. They open the door for me and smile and say, “Hi! Welcome!” and hand me a piece of paper.

So far, so good. #awesome

Inside is hip, too. To the left, there’s a white wall with little rectangular tiles the size of small bricks at the back of a coffee bar. Java! Yaaaaas! Now I’m right at home because I’m from Seattle. So I ask for decaf, but they literally don’t even have it. That’s right. I’m grey–and can’t drink regular. But they’re not old. They can drink regular. #typical. I drink pouch-poured hot chocolate. So I feel a little less welcome, but it’s my fault (or my body’s fault) I can’t turn up like I used to.

I look around. There’s a little alcove to the right where you walk into the worship space. It has repurposed wood walls. In the middle is a wood cross made up of small, square, rusty nails. Literally so freaking cool.

Now the backstory. (I didn’t grow up with this word, so it must be trendy, right?) I taught a class this week on the Holy Spirit. I wanted us to be somewhere Pentecostal or charismatic–somewhere growing–on Sunday. There’s just 7 of us altogether in the squad. Two white guys in our 50s. Two guys in their 20s, a young white guy, and an Indian guy (his parents are from India). A 40-something red-head, and 2 African-American women, 1 in her 50s, 1 in her 60s.

Why do you need to know that? Because the people at the church we visited were mostly white. I’m talking 96% white. And mostly young.

So the 7 of us come early because the website, which is totally hip, says Sunday worship begins at 10. It doesn’t. It begins at 10:20. Because starting on the hour or half hour would be way too mainstream.

So what to do? We stand in a small half moon in the little alcove which most of the regulars have to pass through to get to the 10:20 service. In and out they go, out and in, passing our little multicultural half-moon without a word. In and out. Out and in. Not a word. Not one.

30 minutes of silence.

1800 seconds tick by without a hello.

I know a lot of people are angry at the suit-and-tie, Sunday-best church. And a lot of churches, with speakers sporting tattoo sleeves, are giving them a home where they don’t have to get bored or angry or petulant. The main speaker–the pastor, I guess–talked about dry church.

The church I’m attending is not dry, of course. They’re wet. They don’t have the crinkly skin or decrepit traditions of old people and obsolete churches.

You’re angry at dry church.

You’re bored by dry church.

You’re sick of dry church.

I get it.

But are you much different from dry church? Or any better, really? When 7 people–people who look a lot different from most of you–stand and half-moon you in the alcove, why don’t you stop to say hello?

You don’t shake our hands.

You don’t smile.

You don’t tell us your name.

And admit it. You know we’re not one of yours. A 66-year-old African American woman? No way. An Indian? I didn’t see one. Except for my student. And there are 7 of us standing at the entrance to the worship room, which has more repurposed wood and a skylight and stark concrete warehouse walls and a drummer in a glass box.

I’m angry.

I’m bored by hipster inhospitality.

I’m irked by Bohemian indifference.

I’m annoyed by trendy aloofness.

No, that’s not right.

I’m sad. Disappointed that a church which, on its website, claims that thousands have been touched by its members, couldn’t greet strangers in their midst. Their website even makes a lot of going in to worship and out to serve.

So in and out they go. Out and in they come. And not one word of welcome. No. Not one.

Keep the faith!


credit: Huffington Post

A Prayer for Christmas

O Lord Jesus Christ,
as you humbled yourself to be born among us and laid in a manger,
bring us with the shepherds and wise men
to kneel in awe and joyful thanksgiving
and to follow the steps of your blessed life;
that rejoicing now in your peace,
we may come at the last to eternal glory in your presence,
where the angels ever sing your praises.
– Amen.