October 14, 2016

You Can’t Out-Hipster The Offence of the Gospel

What would you get if you crossed Ira Glass with Tim Keller?  A terrific new faith and culture podcast by Harbor Media called The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It’s got that Serial stickiness, with a sharp narrative spine that leaves you wanting more. You can find it here.

One iTunes reviewer sums it up with this:

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this podcast for a while. We have moved on from the years of “Relevant,” and the idea that young Christians can operate as equals in a truly pluralistic society. We are going to have to redefine ourselves in the margins. I’m excited to navigate these waters with Harbor Media.

In other words, what many of us have been saying for several years now, it’s saying.  We’ve reached that point in which we can no longer hipster away the offence of the gospel. That was the tough message podcaster Mike Cosper learned. That gospel’s just gotten too crunchy, too offensive, too despised all of a sudden.  And yes that’s daunting, but yes, it’s exciting too.

So no amount of “Hey I’m like you, dress like you, drink the same coffee as you, only I have a faith in Jesus” is going to cut it now.  Your beard may be long and luxuriant (fellas), your clothes may be vintage and your shoes may be Chuck Taylor leather One Stars, but all anyone can see or hear is what a bigot you are.  Welcome to the future.

Or indeed to the present. For that’s pretty much the story of the pilot podcast.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I used to listen to the sermon podcast of the church from which this podcast sprang, Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  And it seemed a pretty with it, in the mix with culture, kinda church with a good biblical theology framework and excellent preaching. And that’s how they thought of themselves too.  The kind of place the non-Christian hipsters who live in the gentrified suburb of Germantown, Louisville, might begrudgingly accept.  At least that was what they hoped.


Here’s how the new podcast describes itself:

In the pilot episode of The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Mike Cosper tells a story that illustrates why he’s starting Harbor Media. It’s a story about the pressure Christians are feeling from secularists and progressives, and explores what the future might hold at the intersection of faith and culture.

Cosper was on staff at Sojourn, and his story is about how the Christian arts scene that gathered around the church moved into the cultural sphere of Germantown, made a name for itself, before a series of events occurred that first marginalised them, before finally seeing them off.  It’s a sobering, but instructive story.  It’s the story, basically, of how you cannot  out-hipster the offence of the gospel.

Central to his story, indeed to the podcast’s raison  d’être, is the growing realisation that young Christians are more marginalised than their parents, and that, just as the podcast review above states, the idea that they can compete as equals in a truly pluralist society is long gone baby!

It’s proof to me that Oz Guinness only got around to writing “The Case for Civility” long after the case for it had been lost. The offer of civility is no longer on the table for us. With views like ours we don’t deserve it.  And don’t think you can “just make it all about Jesus.”  They see through that too.  They’re cutting to the chase. You won’t out-hipster them. Your coffee habits, your indie listening habits, your vintage shopping habits?   All just smokescreens for a despicable, destructive ethic grounded in hatred and fuelled by arcane beliefs about God that no one in their right mind holds anymore.

The sobering fact is that Guinness’s book’s subtitle is “And Why Our Future Depends On It”. The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s first podcast comes to the sobering conclusion that that future has arrived already, and that civility, common discourse, has vanished like mist. If our future depends on civility then you won’t take any comfort from Cosper’s story. At least at his age, Oz won’t be around long enough to see how this thing bottoms out, but the 25 year olds of today are gonna have to do it tough.

In fact my teenaged daughter is going to have to do it tough. My teenaged daughter, all hipster dresses, black boots, space buns, Lumineers and ukulele. She’d fit right in with the Louisville arts scene.  Except once they’d find out she loves Jesus like those Sojourn guys do, then cue the hate mail.  It’s like having a great head of hair but being a Cyclops. No one’s looking at your curls when you walk in the room.

So what do I do?  I spend a good amount of time prepping my daughter spiritually and emotionally for a life in which no matter how much she is like her friends, she’s going to be considered the 21st century equivalent of a KKK member should she maintain a commitment to a biblical sexual ethic.  She’s going to be seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

She’s going to be viewed as a Luddite in a Progressive world.  At least she is if she holds her nerve and her faith. Oh and I tell her that that hostility is historically normal for Christians, and that I, in my generation and in my part of the globe got a rare hall pass on this one.  I also tell her that the joy of following a suffering Saviour is worthwhile in the here and now, and will one day surpass her wildest expectations.

The pushback’s not quite fully orbed yet in my daughter’s setting, but its coming. We talk about it on the drive to school. Hey, I don’t mind being hated, but I’ve only got another twenty or so years to go. She’s got more than half a century, all things being equal. She’s going to have to deal with a far more hostile culture than I ever had to deal with at her age, and with exactly the same resources I had. Fortunately these include the Holy Spirit and the people of God gathered around the Word of God.

So listen to that podcast.  It will help.  It will also encourage my non-North American readers to see how the guys from Louisville recognise that they need to learn from those a little further down the line.  They head to London to ask what they should expect. They’re eager to hear the war stories, but also to hear the joy in being considered a genuine oddity and outsider to the culture.  That’s a humble admission that maybe they’ve got something to learn from those who, like we in Australia, experience a harder secularism that America has experienced to this point.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.  Download it now.  Listen to it tomorrow, with good coffee. You may not be able to out-hipster the offence of the gospel, but you can still pillage from the Egyptians, or the Louisvillians for that matter.

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