Was Jesus a hipster?

If you can, think back to 2008. Remember when Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama’s community organizing background? Do you recall how popular this slogan became soon after that?

Jesus Organizer

Remember in 2011 when some media outlets intimated that the Occupy Wall Street movement was simply emulating Jesus?

Occupy Wall Stret

Okay, well here’s the latest “Jesus meme.”

Jesus Hipster

I know what you’re thinking: What new age, trendy evangelist put this out? Rob Bell? Shane Claiborne? The kid who rapped about how he hates religion but loves Jesus?

All three would be wrong. This ad is actually part of a marketing campaign of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn, as you may or may not know, is home to a large concentration of skinny jeans-wearing, iPod-toting, RayBan-clad Bohemians, many of whom are not Catholic. Seeing how there’s no silver bullet that will make young adults attracted to the Catholic faith (other than prayer) some will say that this is exactly the type of marketing that is needed in the Catholic Church. I see where they’re coming from, but for me it’s too gimmicky and irreverent for my liking.

I grew up Catholic and, like many of the college-age persons this ad is targeting, I fell away from the Church when I moved out of my parent’s house. By the grace of God, I came back to the Catholic Church. But I didn’t revert to Catholicism because of a chic marketing campaign or a feeling that Jesus was a “cool guy” I could talk about corporate greed with over coffee at three in the morning in DUMBO (an acronym for a neighborhood in Brooklyn notorious for being home to hipsters).

Of course, I am but one of the 1.2 billion Catholics on this planet. My reversion story is different than others. Some people might like this type of ad. Others won’t, and will likely see it as offensive. So what do you think? Do you think this ad is effective? Is it appropriate? Do you think Jesus was a hipster? Let’s hear what you have to say.


Categories:Culture Youth

  • Sheesh

    As long as certain self-righteous people work desperately to make Catholicism all about dividing people based on sexual issues, young people will continue to leave the faith in droves. Jesus wasn’t about that stuff, and young people know it.

    • Joe M

      “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

      What do you think that passage is about?

  • Mike

    I’m a seminarian studying in a seminary in the Diocese of Brooklyn. One Brooklyn priest I know found this poster ridiculous. Supposedly there was an even more ridiculous one that got denied before this one was approved. I hear its all in the subway stops and who knows where else. I think its a bit cheesy personally.

  • Derek Icenhour

    My feeling is that being a hipster is often (usually?) an affectation, whereas Jesus was completely genuine. I don’t see Jesus as a hipster at all.

  • Patrick

    The meme is gimmicky and holds a humorous punch. This at first glance might appear irreverent. My gut reaction is against it because it seems to me that the Gospel is not something you market. But I would challenge people to think about how different this is from any other art work or cultural symbols Christians use. The youth of today communicate using memes, podcasts, digital music etc. To me, using the popular culture is no different from using stain-glass windows, illuminated books, incense etc. These symbols are used to draw attention to Jesus through the different senses in a way that appeals to the culture. This said, it does have detrimental effects, just as beautiful reverent art does. The economic strains on the Church from building St. Peter’s Basilica helped spark the Reformation. This meme seems like an a for Christianity, and ads are associated with businesses that are engrossed in managerial work and profits. Many people today see the Church occupied in similar managerial work, taking in money and paying for building costs, school upkeep etc. rather than focusing completely on the poor and some leave the faith because of this disheartening scene. This feeling, however, is not at all new and has followed the Church since its birth as a large international political organization. I think the ad is effective and appropriate as much as any Christian artwork, or commercialized book or movie may be. In my eyes it is similar to the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Was Jesus a hipster? Yes in the sense that he was about wearing hand-me-downs, fighting the status quo, living on the edge, etc. But he did all these things with the motivation of love and humility. Hipsters generally have the motivations of style, art, and attention. What I am trying to get at is that all these things, hipster Jesus memes, Christian art and symbols, high arched gothic churches are the domesticated christian message expressed in culture. These not only mean nothing, but are dangerous and evil IF they are not preceded and supported and filled with the Gospel message. The message that Jesus is the way the truth and the light, that He has risen, and that He wants US TO SERVE the poor, the imprisoned the sick the hungry the naked. Christianity is not a culture. It is a message. Culture can only deliver the Gospel. The media is the message if you are not aware of the distinction. Let us always preach the Gospel. If necessary, use memes.

  • John

    While i agree with your opinion, that some people might find it as offensive, i believe that this article has a great point. http://edmundmitchell.com/2012/06/18/all-hipsters-eventually-become-catholic/

  • Ryan D

    I am conflicted about this sort of thing. I tend to agree with you that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to making the Catholic faith appealing to young people (at age 25, I am a young man myself), least of all something as “gimmicky” as this. Still, I can also see how this could be a jumping off point for a rather interesting conversation. In what ways are hipsters like Jesus? In what ways might they “get” facets of the Gospel which other sectors of society neglect? How would Jesus challenge or critique hipsters? That conversation, were it to ever get off the ground, could be very helpful for evangelization. After all, the primary enemy of evangelization is not antipathy, but apathy.



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