Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jesus: "The Original Hipster"

The priest in this interview with the Huffington Post really knocks it out of the park.

The diocese of Brooklyn has developed a new ad campaign that has people talking. In as series of ads, they try to reach young adults who aren't coming to church. They are releasing ads specifically aimed at parents, joggers, and people of different ethnicities. And hipsters? The ad campaign is called "All faces. Everyday understanding" and it is doing it's job at getting people's attention.

So, what do you think about this ad campaign? Is it appropriate to talk about Jesus like this? Was Jesus really a hipster?

I think that this campaign is absolutely brilliant in that it is getting everyone talking, especially the very group the Church is looking for. The Huffington Post is talking about it. Gawker is talking about it. Salon is talking about it. The Observer is covering it. Opposing Viewpoints is covering it. Yeah, not all of the reviews are positive, but it's got their attention.

It is also appropriating a meme that has been used and abused for years.

I'm all for anyone taking back something that is used to mock them and twisting it into their own. Way to stick it to...well...whoever you're sticking it to.

The priest in the above video makes the valid point that every culture that Christianity has come in contact with has made Christ into their own image. What ever is considered beautiful and good in your culture, you apply rightly or wrongly to Christ. That's the reason why this Middle-Eastern man is often depicted here in the west as a good looking Caucasian with blue eyes.

 At least the Bible miniseries gave him brown eyes

But, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right. So, is it right? Jesus came into our world as a Middle Eastern Jew around the year 4 BCE. Is it okay to depict him as anything else? Well, unlike St. Paul, we don't have a detailed description of what Jesus looked like. That's not any excuse. Forensic scientists have been trying to work around that. And this "hipster" label isn't really talking about His looks anyway. It's about His beliefs and we have plenty of literature and 2000 years of Tradition to tell us about those.

Urban Dictionary defines "hipster" as:

Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter...Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses.

Jesus was certainly counter-cultural. Let's take two prime examples:

  • The woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)- An angry crowd comes to Jesus with to ask him if it is okay to stone a woman caught committing the sin of adultery. After making them stew for a moment as he wrote something on the ground, he dared that "whoever among you that is without sin can cast the first stone." This is in direct contradiction of the rules and practices of the time. Now, he doesn't let the woman go scot-free, he tells her to sin no more. But he does save her life. And notice something else about the story. It's only the woman who was going to be stoned for adultery. The last time I checked: it takes two people to have sex. Where was the man? I like to think that this played a role in Jesus' judgment of the case.

  • The question of divorce (Matthew 19:3-9 and Mark 10:2-12)- Jesus is asked if divorce is permissible. Jesus says, essentially, that it shouldn't be. His questioners argue that they believe it is permissible because Moses said so. Jesus responds saying that it was only because of their "hardness of heart" that God has allowed it to occur. Again, very counter-cultural and very pro-woman. The wife usually got the raw end of the deal in divorces because they were seen as their husband's property and they typically didn't have anything of their own. So women abandoned in divorce would often have to resort to begging or prostitution simply to stay alive. So, in addition to affirming that "what God has put together, let no man put asunder," he's also, once again, protecting women.

Now we wade into the murky waters of progressivism. As I have argued before, I truly Catholic outlook would not jive with either the Republicans or the Democrats. I don't think Jesus would fully support either one.

Like our new Pope, Jesus seems to have been a doctrinal hard-ass who loved the underdog and the outcast. If you don't believe me, see his teaching on divorce above. His questioners bring up Moses, Jesus points them all to Genesis. Jesus is trying to point them all to the very beginning, how God made everything before any man, even the venerable Moses, had any say. You can't get more conservative than that.

That seems kind of counter-cultural in and of itself. Going down the street, you see people wearing their identities on their tee-shirts. The United States is becoming ever more divided into our respective camps. People proudly announce their labels from the rooftops. To refuse to be put into a box is against the norm.

While Jesus might not have necessarily agreed with all that the current progressive movement stands for, he was completely counter-cultural.

  • He was completely against hyper-consumerism (Matthew 21:12-13).

  • He followed God regardless of anything people said (Mark 12:14-17).

  • He would feel at home with the bohemians (Luke 9:58).

  • Jesus made ironic statements and used sarcasm (examples include Matthew 19:23-26 [camel through eye of needle], Matthew 7:3 [plank in your own eye], John 1:46-47 [Jesus being snarky to Nathanael], and Luke 14:16-24 [the really lame excuses the wedding fest guests give for not showing up]).  

Yeah, I think Jesus could be considered a "hipster" as long as you are lenient on your definition of "progressive." 


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