It's been almost a year since Hipster Christianity, my first book, was released. Thank you to all those read it, responded to it, engaged it and supported me throughout the process of it. HC was a thrilling, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience. You only write your first book once, after all. I'm thrilled with the conversations it started, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to contribute to such an important ongoing discussion, both in the writing of the book and in the subsequent interviews, dialogues, lectures, and speaking engagements I've been blessed to participate in.
HC came out of my deep passion for the church and my abiding interest in the dynamic narrative of Christianity's relationship with culture. That general interest area—particularly advocating for a thoughtful, nuanced Christian engagement with popular culture—continues to drive my writing life, whether I'm talking about smartphones, Malick movies, or—as in the most recent issue of Christianity Today—marijuana.
How do Christians engage the culture in a way that enriches our spiritual walk, edifies God, and contributes to broader human flourishing? How should we go about consuming potentially dicey — but also potentially edifying — areas of pop culture? How do we get the most out of that which we consume, and how do we discern what is and isn't appropriate among the vast range of cultural goods, experiences, and products to which we are daily beckoned as consumers?
These are the sorts of questions I'm always asking, and they're questions that loom large in my next book project, which I'm proud to say I started writing last week (after signing a contract with Baker Books, who will be publishing it).
I don't want to say too much about the specifics of the book just yet... But I will say that it's admittedly ambitious and sprawling, and will require immense energies and focus as I write it over the next 14 months (even as I work full time, pursue relationships, and continue to travel and speak in support of HC). That said, it's going to be an absolute blast to write. The research for this book will take me to Switzerland, Spain, England, Chicago, New York, among many other places. It will require me to spend plenty of hours conversing with baristas and filmmakers and poets and musicians, and may require a few trips to breweries and wineries. It won't be a bad gig.
As I begin the writing process, one thing that is motivating me is my firmly held belief in the radical nature of nuance. Moderation. Balance.
As is the case (sadly) with so many things in Christianity, the Christian position on culture tends to fall into extremes: Either "hands off!" separatism on one hand, which views culture as mostly a corrupting thing, or an "arms open wide" embrace on the other hand, which accepts perhaps more than it should and sometimes (as in my generation of Relevant recovering evangelicals, for e.g.), in rebellion against legalism, overcompensates too much in the direction of license. We don't really do nuance or balance well. But is there a middle way forward? How do we positively seek out and engage culture in ways that are mature, discerning and edifying rather than reckless, excessive or reactionary? How can we slow down, pause, and consider culture more attentively?
These are big, important questions. How we engage culture and consume it as Christians has as much of a bearing on mission—our witness as ambassadors of Christ—as it does on our own development as embodied beings seeking after Christ.
This book (which I promise is more specific than the vagueries I'm giving you here!) is more than anything an attempt to add something of value to the ongoing narrative ofChristian cultural engagement (Niebuhr, Lewis, Schaeffer, Kuyper, L'Engle, Begbie, Dillard, Hunter, etc.), while speaking particularly to specific areas in culture that have proven thorny or contested within contemporary Christianity.
I'm excited to undertake this project, and I'm glad to have the support of so many of you along the way. I'll be posting book thoughts and excerpts on this blog along the way, so stay tuned!