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Meet the 'Hip' Christian Right-Wingers Trying to Make Conservative Christianity Look Cool for the Kids

Young people are leaving the church in droves. Enter the hipster Christian leader intended to pull them back in.

It’s no secret in Christian circles that young people are leaving the church in droves, with  Christian research firms finding over and over that once there’s not a parent there to push them to church, the majority of high school kids drift away from religion once they move out of the house. Some come back, but some leave permanently.

One favorite solution is to try to make the church more hip by employing young, seemingly cool Christians who are in tune with modern pop culture as leaders. A lot of these  young, hip Christians are actually quite progressive in their politics. In a lot of cases, however, the change from the cranky, judgmental church of old is purely aesthetic. If you scratch the surface of these seemingly with-it young Christian leaders, you’ll see they’re peddling the same old sex-negative, hyper-conservative intolerance that motivates their elders.

Here’s a list of some of the leaders who are trying to make conservative Christianity seem cool, and who generally fail because conservative Christianity is the exact opposite of cool.

1) Bradlee Dean. In many ways, Bradlee Dean epitomizes the Christian right overreaction to the fact that young people are ignoring religious fundamentalism in growing numbers. Many Christian leaders have taken to suggesting that Christianity should be more manly and aggressive to woo the young, and Dean took this to heart, starting You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International and the Christian rock band Junkyard Prophet, both of which embrace an over-the-top Harley motorcycle-influenced aesthetic.  Dean had a habit of sneaking Christian propaganda into public schools by offering programs he portrayed as merely anti-drug to school administrators but once he was in front of the students, turned into Bible-thumping.

Dean, who has close ties to Rep. Michele Bachmann,  is rabidly homophobic, and in keeping with his tough-guy pose, has endorsed executing people for being gay. He is prone to spinning all sorts of wild and often contradictory conspiracy theories, e.g. President Obama and Rep. Keith Ellison are part of some gay plot to take over America and a plot to impose anti-gay sharia law on the country. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there is a lot of chest-thumping.

2) Ken Coleman. On the other side of the spectrum is Ken Coleman,  who presents himself as an aw-shucks, practically apolitical guy who just happens to have a laundry list of Christian conservatives come through his radio program. It’s exactly the sort of thing that is believed to appeal to younger people who are tired of the fire-and-brimstone approach to religion. His website has the TED Talk aesthetic and  the obsession with coffee that’s a big thing for young Christians these days (I guess in lieu of alcohol?).

But the fact that he’s still pushing religion in service of a conservative agenda isn’t too far from the surface, and not just because there’s Obamacare-negative ads on his site. After the aChick-Fil-A CEO went on Coleman’s show and said we’re inviting the wrath of God if we let gays get married, Coleman wrote a concern trolling article for Huffington Post that  implied the real problem was not homophobia but meanie liberals who object when Christians say hateful things about gay people. He may look hip, but when the chips are down, he’s defending the hardline conservatives. But he likes coffee!

3) Tim Tebow. No one encapsulates the attempt of fundamentalist Christians to establish relevance in modern times, and no one encapsulates more why they fail than Tim Tebow. The Christian right largely expected that Tebow would have an amazing football career, and by the power of his popularity as a football star, would make his obnoxious devotion to hyper-conservative Christianity look cool to young fans.

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