In Relevant magazine this month, there is a fascinating 14 page article ("Bringing 2020 Into Focus") in which experts weigh in on what to expect in the coming decade, in areas like the environment, social justice, politics, culture, faith and science. As the "expert" in the cultural arena, I was commissioned to forecast the trends and changes I think will be most significant in the next 10 years. To read the whole spread, click here. But below I've excerpted a few sentences from the 4 trends I highlight.
September 19, 2009 was a dark day for me… but one that I feared would come soon enough. I joined Twitter.
I wrote a new technology piece in Relevant magazine’s September/October issue, entitled “Short Attention Span Faith.” You can read the whole thing by clicking here, but here’s a short little excerpt.
If you are a Christian of a certain age (let’s say 21-50), and you grew up in the Christian church (especially in the 80s or early 90s), you probably love making fun of the evangelical subculture. I know I do. I love nothing more than laughing about and ironically consuming vintage Christian kitsch items. Whether it’s McGee and Me, DC Talk, Left Behind or any number of other bits of Jesus junk, I always enjoy reminiscing about it. In the same way that the rest of our generation ironically talks about Zach Morris or Labyrinth or those years when it was cool to roll up your jean shorts, Christians are finding great amusement in recalling the nonsensical oddities of the evangelical world.
One of the things Christian hipsters love to point out is just how sickeningly derivative evangelical culture is—that we always have to copy what the secular world is doing, usually a few months or years later (case in point: the new Christian version of Guitar Hero). These are also the Christian hipsters who take joy in looking ironically upon the maudlin kitsch that birthed them. It is the ultimate bit of irony, then, that Christians have coopted the irony industry to make out of it an evangelical alternative. For your consideration: larknews and stuffchristianslike:
Lark News: This is the Christian version of The Onion. It’s a fake news rag with infrequent but hilarious updates, with headlines like “Denominations reach non-compete agreement” and “Missionaries maintain obesity against long odds.” It’s a great source of laughs at the expense of our evangelical ridiculousness. The website also features a shop where you can buy snarky, make-fun-of-ourselves t-shirts.
Stuff Christians Like: This is the Christian version of Stuff White People Like—the runaway blog success that revels in smarmy self-loathing and the purging of white bourgeois guilt. The Christian version, which began on Jan 1, 2008 and features the same “countdown” format as its mainstream predecessor, includes such entries as “#31: Occasionally swearing,” “#393: Family Fish Bumper Stickers,” “#382: Perfectly Timing Your Communion Walk,” and “#93: Riding on the Cool Van in the Youth Group.”
Of course, there are many other examples of this sort of thing that I could mention. The Wittenberg Door, Relevant, and countless evangelical college humor magazines have been doing this stuff for years. But it seems that Christian irony is increasingly prevalent these days, maybe because all of us naïve children are grown up now and stunned by the crazy things we grew up in. Sometimes all we can do is laugh.