Couple of interesting blogposts using the idea of Christianity being "cool":
Rachel Held Evans struck a nerve with her recent op-ed on CNN. She often speaks to her fellow Christian leaders as to why people leave the evangelical churches:
I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.
I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.
Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”
And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.
Held Evans is lamenting that "coolness", in the eyes of so many churches, is image and perception. It is speaking the language of the current trends, even if the message continues to be shallow and exclusive.
It is wonderfully contrasted in an article by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush in The Huffington Post called "How Christianity Became Cool Again".
Raushenbush's coolness is not the dressing that Held Evans talked off, but something deeper:
There was a time when Christians like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Berrigan brothers, Thomas Merton, Paul Tillich, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Howard Thurman, Reinhold Niebuhr and John XXIII offered the basic framework for what Christianity meant to the world.
Collectively, these men and women offered some of the most philosophically deep and socially relevant thought of any kind. They inspired a generation of young people to work in racial reconciliation, environmentalism, economic justice, and anti-war activism. They fed the spirit, while also walking in Jesus' way of justice and peace.
In those days you could say you were a Christian and the above names might come to the mind of the listener -- and they were cool; meaning relevant, compelling, edgy, and forward thinking.
Rasushenbush says we have journeyed away from this type of Christianity in recent history, but perhaps we are now returning, seen in part by the recent words of Pope Francis and Archbishop Tutu, and other current leaders found in today's churches (including The Episcopal Church, "headed by an amazing woman who is both a scientist and pastor and who is spearheading the conversation between science and religion").
He also shares a story of invite by his inviting colleagues to a "disco mass" on Gay Pride Sunday in New York:
We had a great time at the church. My friends fell in love with the pastor whose style was relaxed and hip, and whose sermon was smart and compelling. They loved the community feel of the congregation, and they thought the ideas they heard there a good way to start gay pride.
Mind you, neither of them had been to church of their own volition -- ever. And they may never go back to church. I really don't care -- they are wonderful, spiritual, and ethical people -- I don't need them to become Christian.
However, by being there they understood a little more about why I am Christian, and how Christianity guides the way I view the world and do the things I do. And even with that short glimpse they respected my faith more than they had before.
If more Christians can speak out the way Pope Francis and Archbishop Tutu have this week and so many have been in recent memory -- it will change the way people view Jesus and the faith that he inspires in so many of us.
And that will be so cool.
This wonderful definition of "cool" (which includes Rasushenbush's cool understanding that inviting his friends to come and see is far more important that a desire to "convert" them) is a sign of hope that Christianity is moving towards what Held Evans longs for: a change in substance that embraces holiness, caring for others, peace and justice.