We live in a peculiar world where we can knowingly assert that our consumption establishes our identity, and everyone smiles, nods, and moves along as though nothing terribly interesting has transpired.
As Brett McCracken has illustrated, hipster evangelicals are expanding their consumption beyond the cloister to the coffee shops, and out of the mainline cinemas into hallowed movie houses where indie films play.
This expansion of cultural consumption is a welcome development. St. Paul exhorts us to set our minds on whatever is true, good, and beautiful, and he does not cordon off such attributes to institutions or para-church ministries. As Richard Mouw argued in his lectures on common grace, because we await the final consummation of all things, we can find goodness out in the world even while we are simultaneously dismayed at the brokenness of the church.
Given this perpetually messy relationship between church and world, it's not surprising that consumerism would become our primary identity-shaping logic. In fact, there is a serious question about how it is possible to escape consumerism other than by withdrawing from the world in the way fundamentalists do, a route that hipster evangelicals eschew. Consumerist logic runs deeply, and may not be extricated as easily as it seems.
Even if we could avoid consumerism, most of mainstream evangelicalism has not. Its long tentacles have reached into nearly every area of the evangelical culture, stunting our ability to imagine identity-shaping beliefs or practices that are non-consumptive. There is some merit to Jamie Smith's critique in Desiring the Kingdom that evangelical churches have too often bowed the knee to entertainment-driven forms of worship designed to meet felt needs. ...1
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