Branded Christianity: This Isn’t the hipster-adventure I thought I was getting, God
When I was 20, God brought me into a new revelation of His Kingdom. It was about justice and restoration for all, it was about living for something greater than myself — and it was about an adventure with Jesus.
We sang about it with guitars around bonfires, we dreamed about living lives of purpose, and we said “yes” to whatever God had in store for our futures.
And all of that was good — but then something dangerous occurred.
With the advent of social media outlets such as Instagram and something commonly referred to as “hipster christianity,” this desire in me was armed with an arsenal of visuals; as a result, the adventure I expected was given a face, it was given clothes, and it was given a vernacular.
I was set: I knew what it would look like — it would look like Holy Spirit encounters, wild, open spaces, mountaintop sunsets wrapped in my bearded boyfriend’s flannel shirt. It would look like artisan everything and CS Lewis and Tolkien quoted often (and, as it turns out, mostly out of context).
It was the creative, epic, abundant life I’ve always wanted, full of changing the world and sipping good coffee — nay, coffee so elite you describe it like Jazz music — while talking about Jesus and modeling tattoos in Hebrew.
And, in case someone happened to think of it completely randomly, we’d share it all through Instagram filters that made it look fresh and calculated, yet in the moment as well.
It would look like life — life for those like me, who wanted to an adventure with Jesus.
Not the Life I Imagined
The only thing I didn’t think of was that Jesus never required flannel.
I now realize that the only thing I set myself up for was disillusionment.
The life of Adventure Christianity hasn’t looked like anything I imagined.
Don’t get me wrong, it is an adventure — everyday I wake up and go about the exciting journey of seeing how many ways God will ask me to die to myself throughout the day:
whether it’s the death of my expectations of going to graduate school abroad and becoming a well-known writer of plays and poems and justicey-things,
whether it’s the death of my comfort when I change bedsheets at work that are soaked with urine but have dried just enough to warrant putting my face in them to smell and make sure,
whether it’s the death of my timeline for dating, getting married, having kids, accomplishing the right body mass index AND my life’s purpose (leaving time to get a PhD) by the time I’m 45,
whether it’s the death of my pride when having it all together unravels, or
whether it’s the constant reminder that no, this isn’t what I expected but yes, I will still believe God when I receive yet another rejection email from that job/program I really wanted and audaciously let myself get excited about…
This adventure that I’m on feels a lot like death.
And now, I look back on this filtered structure I banked on as I pull up example after example of Instagram photos that seem to draw me into, then exclude me from, this life I used to imagine for myself.
A few things alarm me: all the pictures look the same, all the captions sound alike, and most of them model white, stylish people. It is a museum of images that, seen altogether, brands Christianity by commercializing authenticity and excluding those of us who aren’t there or don’t have the camera quality.
I work at a domestic violence shelter part time, and as I sit with people that we serve, I’m reminded that this glittering illusion of Christianity we present has no bearing on their reality. It just doesn’t.
If I talk about the “adventure life” I’ve described, I will receive blurry looks in return or even questions that ask in so many words, “You on something?”
They’d probably laugh if I quoted from “The Horse and His Boy” for them.
I do not wish to become a soapbox-Savonarola for hipsters or those of us who yearn for a life of adventure, of “pushing past the breakers,” of “climbing to the top of the mountain,” or of Lord of the Rings soundtracks running through your mind at the grocery store.
I am not calling for the burning of percolators, flat-bill Trucker hats, micro-brewed coffee beans, and flannel in the streets.
Nor am I attempting to bash hipsters, because my coffee habits would probably take me well into the title myself if I’m being honest.
Do I still believe in adventure? You bet.
But the earth shattering, spirit- shifting beauty and wonder of adventure that once called for me in theory now exists for me in the moments I have with God and those times I have to rely on Jesus because, to be frank, *life* hits the fan and I don’t know what else to do to process it all.
Here’s my point: Adventure Christianity is just not the thing the world needs.
What the World Needs
The world needs people, who, choosing to take up their cross daily, understand that life gets hard. That the pretty lives we chase in the name of authenticity crumble like old, poorly built tombs.
The world needs people who have learned to choose God when they have no other evidence of God’s faithfulness than God himself.
There are people in our neighborhoods that long for someone to sit with them, look into their tired eyes and encourage them, not with Christian-eze, but language they can actually hear from the heart of a God who knows pain and who isn’t caught off guard by suffering.
Life With God
Sometimes we ignore the fact that life with God isn’t always easy, and nothing in the Bible promises that it will be.
Actually, Jesus talks a lot about the obscurity of it all. He says things like, “the Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” and “How about you forgo your dad’s funeral and follow me instead? (paraphrased)” or “Take up your cross and follow me.”
John the Baptist said “He must increase, and I must decrease” — which sounds a bit painful when you think about it.
There’s a reason Paul said stuff like “we rejoice in our present sufferings” — because suffering was real to him.
To use an example from the Adventure Christian Apocrypha, Frodo lost a freaking finger and then said goodbye to all of his friends…and that ship was NOT coming back.
Jesus does call us to adventure, but adventure sometimes looks like being in a shifty tent at night in the middle of the jungle with something growling outside. Fun and exciting in theory, pretty difficult in reality.
In place of the reality of it, we do not offer hope that it will all be worth it in the end, but instead tend propagate a glittering, “you know you want this too” picture of what life is like as a Christian.
And that’s just false advertising.
The fact that my adventure has felt more like death lately excites me, because all the stuff in the way, all the chasing and the work I put in to have a pretty, “#liveauthentic,” “#blessed” life really just kept me from experiencing the love of God in all the moments my life wasn’t what I had expected.
Knowing that love and letting myself be known by it is the beautiful, messy, arduous, and worthwhile life of following Christ.
No filter necessary.
Originally published at The Borough.