Lily Allen’s Newest Fan–The Church of England

Dr. Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, has created a five week course in preparation for Lent called Exploring God’s Mercy, which urges Christians to immerse themselves in pop culture in order to better relate to that week’s sermon theme.   This includes YouTube videos, podcasts, iPods, films, etc.

In explaining his support for his course, Dr. Croft explained, “The depth, strength and constancy of God’s love is of course a lifetime’s journey and Exploring God’s Mercy is designed to take groups or individuals further on that journey.”

One of Dr. Croft’s choices this year to study is pop star Lily Allen’s  song “The Fear.” Containing her signature sarcasm and biting criticism, Allen’s lyrics include:

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and loads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them

And I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cuz everyone knows that’s how you get famous
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track, yeah I’m on to a winner

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
And I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
And when do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cuz I’m being taken over by the Fear

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
And that’s what makes my life so fantastic

Forget about guns and forget ammunition
‘Cuz I’m killing them all on my own little mission
Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner
Now everything is cool as long as I’m getting thinner

I personally enjoy  “The Fear”  as the lyrics are very clever and thought-provoking.  And yes, I’ll admit–the tune is insatiably catchy.  I also like the idea of integrating less obvious aspects of popular culture into a Christian realm.  However, Lily Allen herself is a highly controversial figure–often ruthless in her comments and engaging in behavior some would consider not very Christian (or even dignified) at all!  Still, if this is the kind of direction Dr. Croft is heading in, it’ll be very interesting to see what’s in store for the weeks to come!

Hipster Christianity

In his article, “Hipster Christianity: Did You Know That You’re a Hipster?”, David Dunham discusses Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide.  Dunham, a pastor and (through his own description) a probable hipster, seems to question specifically McCracken’s generalized definition of ‘hipsters.’  Durham writes:

[McCracken’s] definition of “Hipster” doesn’t seem to help either: fashionable young people. The definition is so broad and so soft that it may be more indicative of just how hard defining “hipster” really is. McCracken gives a nod to this reality but pushed on ahead anyways. For him “hipsters” are basically defined by their obsession with style, and for part two of the work he builds his case by analyzing every “form” of Christian hipster on display in the culture. His analysis consists of what they wear, what music they like, and what “vices” they indulge in.
Admittedly, MyCatholicBlog has not read the book, but has definitely come across the concept of  ‘Hipster Christianity’  before, and is  often left with the same feeling of discouragement Dunham may feel.  We also agree that ‘hipster culture’ is too vastly defined, and because of this tendency to over-generalize,  the hipster label holds indications with which certain individuals would not appreciate being associated.

Being a ‘hipster’ or living a ‘hipster lifestyle’ began as a sort of counter-culture; those who were truly ‘hipster’ were those who thought and acted differently, alternatively.  They fought against the mainstream not out of anger or resentment, but rather, because they simply found a way of living that suited them better.  However, today, this alternative living has become ironically incredibly mainstream; as far as young people go, being a ‘hipster’  is now the norm.  Loads of people buy clothes from Urban Outfitters (a company whose livelihood consists entirely on replicating the hipster culture), indie bands now come highly acclaimed, and about half my friends have moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Thus, these days being a ‘hipster’  is no longer cool, rather; it has become synonymous with being a ‘follower.’

My point though is not to criticize or really even to comment on the extent of which being labeled a hipster still holds credibility.  Instead, it is to defend all those who have wrongfully been accused of living a ‘hipster lifestyle’  by urging this: because of the high prevalence of ‘hipster culture’ in everyday life, it is nearly impossible to not become entangled in it to some extent.  For example, at any given moment I too can be found in a small cafe/local brewery reading Hunter S. Thompson/F. Scott Fitzgerald in my plaid shirt/twelve layered tank tops.  I may too say something that someone can interpret as ‘ironic.’   Does this mean that I define myself as a hipster?  Absolutely not. It simply means that sometimes, sometimes, I do things that have been smashed into the sphere of ‘hipster living.’  And with that simple activity/comment/outfit, I have somehow become labeled.

To this same extent, those who sometimes to do hipster things and also follow Christ are not necessarily ‘Hipster Christians.’  They are not Christian for the ‘coolness’ factor,  or for the irony (oh, how hipsters love irony!), or for any other shallow or misguided reason.  They may simply just be Christian, and young, or very into popular culture, and consequently (and unavoidably) sometimes act out hipster tendencies.  And since when has seeking the truth of God been a ‘hipster’ activity anyway?!

Long-rant finished, I leave you with this one thought: Integrating God and Christianity into modern life is a natural transition of religion in an increasingly advanced world obsessed with youth.  It is not, and should not ever become, a cultural movement intended to be trendy.