Over at his Gospel Coalition blog, Jared Wilson has followed my lead by sticking his thumb in the eye of the Metro-Evangelical consensus with a post titled “Rural Ministry: Too Cool for Hipsters?” In his post he quotes my friend and Hillsdale College compatriot Darryl Hart on the inconsistencies within the younger set’s worldview. Hart wishes
… that Christians, who have discovered the value of wholesome food and the farming practices that produce it, would translate their choices about diet and carbon footprints into congregations and pastors more circumspect about cities and more respectful of the fly-over sectors of the greatest nation on God’s green earth[.]
It isn’t just Evangelicals who suffer with such inconsistency. At the core of the hipster aesthetic is a simultaneous championing of slowed-down, artisan craftsmanship along with a preference to reside in densely-populated urban cores. These tastes are not naturally compatible as there are sure to be times where their rejection of mass production will conflict with their preference for massed population.
Wilson also quotes Hart’s theory as to what explains these competing preferences, a desire “to elevate one’s own status by hobnobbing with the influential.” This may be right. After all, what is the common factor that bridges folks who buy limited-run items and yet live in large cities? Disposable income, and a lot of it. I understand that this imputation of a less than grand motivation is sure to raise some ire, but I believe that it is a conversation worth having.
However, I’m not sure that Hart and the folks at Front Porch Republic get all the way there. Despite living in a small town myself and enjoying the occasional arugula-based salad (made with produce harvested from my own backyard garden, of course), I don’t want to put my lifestyle on a pedestal. I think that the best, most sacrificially Christian activities I undertake are when I get outside of my cultural box and take time to talk with my blue-collar neighbors. Doing so is much more difficult for me than speaking with a big firm attorney, sure, but I can’t really share a common love of Mumford and Sons with them either. They are neither urban nor urbane and thus provide me with an actual opportunity for self-giving love. These are the folks who present me with Matthew 25-type opportunities:
I was shopping at Walmart, and you did not sneer at me;
I was eating at McDonald’s, and you did not condemn my palate.
More than joining the call for Christian hipsters to be more consistent in their embrace of a quasi-Luddite way of life, I want to see greater love for folks who are less educated, less influential, and less wealthy. We may do better to reflect on the virtues of eating at Burger King and KFC instead of exulting in our grass-fed beef and free-range poultry.