Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Open Letter from a Catholic Hipster

Quick confession: I read The Tablet, the Catholic newspaper of Brooklyn and Queens, just about every week.  You might be surprised how interesting it can be.  Each week there's an article written by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.  Now, The Bishop and I definitely disagree in some notable areas, but generally I still find his articles to be thought-provoking and interesting.  This week he talked about the responses he's been getting to a new add campaign launched to try to bring more people back to weekly mass, and I found myself agreeing with him quite a bit.  Here's the ad.
Here's the article. Interesting, no?  Ok, maybe cheesy, but anything that provokes a reaction is a step in the right direction, and apparently the Old Guard of the BK Catholic Church was out in full force, informing the Bishop of how disrespectful and dare I say innapropes this portrayal of, we assume, Jesus is.  Hipsters, apparently, are dirty, shallow, narcissistic white kids who smoke weed.  Ok, fine you got me.  I do fit more of those categories than I don't.  But those complainers are obviously shallow, too, since they're complaining about us being dirty, and white, two things that shouldn't actually matter.  I mean, ok, so Jesus wasn't white.  I didn't ask me to be born of western European lineage!  And Jesus was totally dirty!  Comeon, those dusty streets?  No indoor plumbing?  People were all the time washing his feet for heaven's sake!  They had to be pretty gnarly.  I'm being a little tongue in cheek, but it's all true regardless. 

I'm getting pretty sick of people hating on hipsters.  First of all, it seems like the definition is as nebulous as air: pretty much the kind of people you don't like are the people you call hipsters.  The only firm perimeters seem to have to do with being fairly young, and living in Brooklyn.  For the sake of simplification, I'm going to say that a hipster:

-is twenty-something

-is not obsessive about personal grooming

-prefers locally grown/made/designed/crafted/found products and services than imported ones

-wants to know exactly where the things he or she is spending money on come from and how they came into existence

-expresses concern for the environment and social justice issues

-prefers walking, biking, and public transit to car culture

Now, inevitably, some young people are tapping into the style and buying habits of hipsters without embracing the underlying reasons for them, and if you really want to be a big judger and call them shallow then you can.  But putting those instances aside for now, how are any of the above mentioned items bad?

Being young?  Um, you used to be twenty-something, battle axe.  Calm the feck down.

Not feeling the need to own a blowdryer?  Hell, I don't own a hairbrush.  Scientists have been telling us forever that daily showers are actually unhealthy and open us up to infection.

Prefers local shit?  NEWSFLASH!  So did your grandma!  We're trying to return to a more sustainable lifestyle by shifting our dollars toward people who are taking care of the planet, and not causing human rights issues across the planet so we can have cheaper fashion and watermelons in January.  This goes hand in hand with wanting to know where and how things are made.  I don't want my new floor to be the result of chopping down the rain forest and slave labor.  Wow, I'm such a dirty, shallow asshole.  Jesus would never ask questions at the Home Depot. 

This also goes hand in hand with expressing concern for environmental and social justice issues. And guess what guys. It's a lot easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. You really think those kids down in Zuccotti Park were having the time of their lives sleeping in the rain to make sure their voices were heard?  I'd like to see you sacrifice your comfort for a larger cause. Wow, what a bunch of bums.  Bet they were stoned the whole time, too.  And God forbid.  I mean, what's worse than smoking a non-addictive, non-carcinogenic, impossible-to-overdose-on plant?  I know you old school types neeeeever use chemicals to alter your state of mind in social situations.  Jesus turned water into wine, and after conferring with other hipsters, we're pretty sure that whole loaves and fishes business was the munchies.

Guess what the world would be if everyone sold their cars for bikes, feet, and buses?  That's right!  A better place!

Game.  Set.  Match.

On the other hand, plenty of hipsters (by various definitions) have responded to this poster by claiming that they are "open, inclusive, counter-cultural, and opposed to virtually everything the Church represents."

Well, that's pretty funny guys, since the founder of the Church was ALL OF THOSE SAME THINGS save the last one.  I'll be the first to admit that we get hung up on details and miss out on Jesus' message of love and acceptance for all beings, but do we really think throwing shade and clearing out in droves is the way to change that?  If you're so 'open, inclusive, and counter-cultural', you should be totally accepting of the Church, which is pretty counter-cultural these days, especially in these parts.

My point is, we're better together.  Always.  Jesus wouldn't want us throwing judgement in both directions, arguing over who's holier and who Jesus would have been besties with.  We know who he would have been having dinner with.  Hint: local, artisanal treats are sure to be on the table.  And then the next night he may stop by your place for the latest from Costco. None of us is perfect.  We are all called to work each day at living a more authentically human life, whether that means meditating on a cushion in our bedroom, saying a rosary, apologizing to someone we've hurt, or choosing local apples over imported ones.  For me it means all those things, and a whole lot more, and I suspect I'm not the only one who would benefit from a more holistic approach.

Just open up, and give the people you're tempted to condemn another chance.  Walk into a Catholic church sometime.  Or a Farmers' Market, or an artisanal bike shop. I promise you won't get struck by lightning.  And just maybe, you'll find something there worth keeping.

Live Omily,

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