And, it’s obvious when you look at me. I don’t wear trendy clothes; I refuse to worship at the altar of the Almighty Jobs; I drive a gas-guzzling 4WD pick-up and Sufjan Stevens’ music is completely lost on me. However, according to my CHQ (that’s Christian Hipster Quotient for those of you who aren’t as hip), which was an 80 out of a possible 120, I am. As the accompanying explanation said “High CHQ. You are a pretty progressive, stylish, hipster-leaning Christian, even while you could easily feel at home in a decidedly un-hip non-denominational church. You are conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and sometimes you grow weary of trendy “alt-Christianity.” But make no mistake: You are a Christian hipster to at least some degree.” The only part of that paragraph that didn’t surprise me was the “conservative on some issues and liberal on others” part. As I mentioned above, I don’t fit the hipster bill. Outwardly, at least. There are hipster things I do like, though: I like a lot of the theologians popular with hipsters, people like Barth, Tillich and the early church fathers; I like the idea of different types of worship and I can’t stand Fox News. But, to look at me, you’d never know I had any hipster leanings at all.
The term “Christian hipster” is a label and the thing about labels is that they’re rarely accurate. I don’t know if it’s a human thing, a western thing or what, but our current society is consumed with putting labels on things, people and places. And, especially when it comes to people, they’re a dismal failure. I don’t think I’ve never met anyone so one-dimensional that they’d fit whatever label they’re saddled with, even in high school. Once, between my junior and senior years, I was tapped to go to a Jr. Civitan camp for leaders. One of the girls who also went (she was a Civinette) was…, let’s say outside my “social circle”. She was one of the popular crowd and I most definitely wasn’t. I had her pegged as a shallow cheerleader wannabe who loved disco music (the kiss of death in my opinion) and didn’t have enough common sense to come in out of a hard shower of rain. At some point during that week at a far-flung camp in the South Carolina mountains, I found out that I was wrong. She was smart, she was funny and, removed from the dog-eat-dog hell that is high school, a genuinely nice person. I’d like to say that when we returned home, we built on this and became fast friends, but I’d be lying. Cause like I said, high school is dog-eat-dog and, in that world, our social circles did not cross. I’d also like to tell you that lesson stayed with me, but that, too, would be a lie. I have to relearn that lesson on a regular basis.
I don’t want to say that labels are a bad thing, they’re not. Sometimes, you need them. If you want to refer to a certain group of people, pointing in the general direction and saying “That crowd over there” is kind of vague and dismissive. Unfortunately, this world is still broken and there are, for the foreseeable future, times when we will have to categorize people and that will require labels. One day, I hope for a world where people aren’t LGBT, black, Hispanic, conservative, liberal or any other group you can think to lump folks into. Until that happens, it’s on us, the labelers, to treat the labeled with respect, love and dignity. If for no other reason than that’s the way we want to be treated when we’re labeled.