The Tentative Apologist
4/12/11 at 01:08 PM 0 Comments

The problem of uncool Christianity

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Apologists are those who want to convert you to a particular view, whether it be Christianity, atheism, capitalism, democracy, or anything else. Very often the assumption is that the apologist should focus on reasoned arguments for one's view. And of course that is indeed a part of what they should be concerned with. But the field is broader. What do you do when people can't hear your arguments because they are unwilling to identify with or seriously consider your belief-community? And what if they are unwilling to consider your belief-community because they consider it ridiculous, absurd, unfashionable, or simply uncool?

I address these issues in my article "Worshipping a Flying Teapot?"  which originally appeared in The Other Journal and then in the edited volume (with the great title) 'God is Dead' and I Don't Feel So Good Myself. In that article I was concerned with plausibility structures generally. Here I want to focus on uncool Christianity as a very specific problem.

Look up "cool" in a dictionary and it is defined as slang for "fashionable, hip". Well, I guess. But something tells me the writers working at Merriam-Websters are not that cool. Try telling the coolest kid in your class that he's very "hip" and see where that gets you. Clearly these are not synonyms.

Anyway we all have a sense of what it is to be cool. And we place varying degrees of importance on being cool. With that in mind, I want to suggest that we try not to make Christianity look uncool.

I can already hear a rebuttal forming: anti-Semitism was cool in Nazi Germany! So should Christianity be anti-Semitic, at least in Nazi Germany?

Whoa! Hold on just a minute. Why does somebody always have to drag the Nazis into everything? Look, let me give you a concrete case and tell me if you can't sympathize a bit with my point.

The other day I was speaking to a biker in the Christian Motorcyclists' Association (CMA), when he lamented the fact that they were having a hard time getting younger riders to join the club. He seemed puzzled by the fact but I had a good explanation for the problem with recruiting. Motorcyclists are concerned about image and cool, even more so than the average person. (That's part of the reason many of them ride a bike to begin with.) And the CMA logo and patches are, to put it gently, incredibly lacking in coolness. To put it less gently, they look positively nerdy. When the Hells Angels roll into town people run for cover. Those guys have a sense of presence, if not much else. But when the CMA rolls into town the greatest fear is that they might invite townfolk to a potluck. I am not saying you need to instill fear in people to be cool. But you do need gravitas, and the CMA does not seem to have it.

Imagine the unnecessary stumbling block this kind of branding creates for the biker raised on a diet of Hells Angels, Bandidos and Outlaws. So to be a Christian biker means to put this patch on your leathers? Why not just put a picture of Barney the Dinosaur on your jacket? At least that way the three year olds will think you're cool.

Nothing in the Bible says that Christian bikers have to distinguish themselves with special patches and a way-too-anal sounding name (at least Christian Bikers Club makes it sound a little bit less like you wear a three piece suit on Monday morning). You might as well tell a head banger that to be a Christian he's got to start listening to Ricky Martin.

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