Jesus Was A Hipster? 7 Funniest Ways Christian Churches Are Trying to Get Hip With the Kids
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Christianity is having a youth recruitment problem. The much-analyzed Millennial generation is turning away from religion, especially Christianity, in record numbers. The Pew Forum has found that one in four Milleninials is unaffiliated with a religion, putting the numbers of their irreligious at a significantly higher rate than Generation X and at twice the rate of the Baby Boomers.
Christian churches find the fleeing of young people from their pews a troubling trend and routinely publish articles and books trying to figure out what it would take to entice them back. Some Christian elders have decent ideas, such as emphasizing service, abandoning homophobia and considering social justice issues. Other churches, however, are too wed to fundamentalism and conservatism to even consider that.
The result is that many Christian churches are coming up with tone deaf, out-of-touch, and downright comical outreach strategies to try to get young people in the door, and keep them once they’re there. Here’s a list of some of the worst strategies seen in recent years.
1) Talking about sex a lot. A whole lot. Mark Driscoll is a well-known nutty preacher in Seattle whose entire schtick is trying to dress up old-fashioned fundamentalist misogyny like it’s the cool new thing the kids are doing these days. His main strategy is talking about sex all the time. It’s incredibly important to Driscoll that you understand he’s a sex machine, and to generally imply that following Christ turns men into insatiable horndogs. He published a sex manual for Christians last year, one that portrays Christian marriage as something of a pornographic fantasy of women living in a state of permanent submission and sexual availability. Driscoll’s obsession with sex is extreme, but it’s part of a larger attempt of right-wing Christians to try to shake off their image as prudes by claiming that they’re all for hot, hot sex within the confines of monogamous marriage between two virgins. Understandably, this sales pitch doesn’t work very well, but it does mean that the public gets to be frequently creeped out by evangelical preachers talking about getting it on with their wives.
2) Sexy virgins. The Christian right knows that Millennials find it unsettling to have the church more interested in rifling through women’s panty drawers than, say, saving the planet for future generations. However, giving up the patrolling of female sexuality would be more unthinkable to the Christian right than giving up the Lord’s Prayer. The strategy? Put up a sexy, young woman to be the face of the movement to control and punish young women for being sexual. Enter Lila Rose, a mean-spirited protégé of James O’Keefe who tries to take the hardline anti-abortion/anti-contraception message to the masses by creating invariably falsified videos accusing Planned Parenthood of all sorts of made-up nonsense. The attempts to convince young people that the anti-choice movement isn’t an assault on young women by making a young woman a leader haven’t panned out, as 60% of younger voters support abortion rights, a rate slightly higher than the public at large.
3) Advertising Jesus as “the original hipster.” The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has littered the city with bus stop ads that show a man in robes and dirty Chuck Taylors with the tagline, “The Original Hipster.” Apparently, no one let them in on the fact that 99% of uses of the word “hipster” are derogatory--something someone who is actually hip would know--making the ad roughly as hip in 2013 as a sign declaring Jesus to be a hep cat or a fly boy.
4) Claiming Christianity is a good source of fashion and makeup tips. Young people can’t be bothered to read the Bible, so some Christian evangelists have come up with the idea of trying to trick them into it by disguising Bible verses as youth-oriented magazines. The most iconic of these is Revolve, a magazine that tries to convince teenage girls that it’s something akin to Seventeen, and then wallops them with the Jesus talk with features like “Are You Dating A Godly Guy?” The magazine got a lot of attention from the media when it came out, but there’s no indication that actual teen girls paid attention. The magazine only limped along for a few years and its Facebook fan page only has one like on it.