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Hipster Christians: Jamie Smith Replies

October 11th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Here's the play-by-play, for those who have been asleep.

Brett McCracken wrote a book, which Jamie Smith reviewed.  I replied to Jamie Smith, who offered the below reply to me.  I post it here in the interest of fairness to Professor Smith.  And because it's a good reply.


I’m late to the dance here, and haven’t generally been responding to blog traffic about my review, but you and I share some common concerns, so I hope you don’t mind just one interjection from me. Of course, we don’t have to agree on these issues, but perhaps I could clarify a couple of things:

1) First, I would note that any careful reader of my review will find that I do agree with McCracken on some points, even a very basic point–viz., that evangelical concern for “relevance” is an idol that primes us for assimilation. Further, I also agree that his book is, to some extent, a just critique of what I call “posers.” So it’s not like my review some sort of scorched earth rejection. This is also why it’s just false of you to suggest that I somehow think contemporary ideas/trends get a “free pass.” No one who has read my work could suggest that, and I know you’ve read at least some. So that puzzled me. More to the point, there’s not a jot or tittle in the review that suggests what you claim in the end of your post.

2) If I’m guilty of ad hominem, then McCracken’s book is ad hominem from beginning to end. You seem to suggest I’m guilty of ad hominem for my little bit of “psychoanalyzing.” (A lot of people seem to think that any critique which is strident must be ad hominem, but that’s clearly false.) But as one commenter already noted, in fact I was basing this on clues within the book, and also trying to account for McCracken’s cynical voice. Furthermore, if my conjecture is ad homimem, then Hipster Christianityis one long train of the same, since McCracken seems to think he knows the interior motivations of his peers. In short, he does his own psychoanalyzing.

3) Your post seems to ignore the core critique in my review, namely McCracken’s lingering individualism and his naive (or lack of) theology of culture.

FWIW. Yours in hopes for close and careful readings, Jamie.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.