My Hipster Church and Ferguson

 

Some months after Ferguson (which is about 10 miles away from my house, as the crow flies), I wrote my pastor to carp about about how Christian pastors of hipster churches are not willing to be clear-eyed about the issues plaguing our black friends and neighbors. He invited me to be part of a roundtable discussion about race. We were evenly balanced racially and the discussion that made it to YouTube was thoughtful and productive in that the two views — white and black — were represented in a manner consistent with our faith. But neither side seemed to budge.

My resolution was that white racism, however it might exist, is nowhere near the most-pressing issue facing the black community. The week we taped the video, there had been a murder in Kansas City where drive-by shooters murdered a little girl who was playing in a home that had been riddled with bullets. I asserted that I cannot be non-racist enough to prevent people I have never met from shooting-up a home and killing a child. My black friends were simply having none of it. I sensed that they were affronted by my pointing-out black criminality, and rejecting racism as a meaningful cause.

Two major things have bubbled-up since then. First, statistics demonstrate that every aspect of the dominant narrative post-Ferguson — right down to the driving while black narrative — has been a lie. The second has been the utter failure to crack that narrative with facts, especially with my hipster Christian friends.

I intuit that, out of concern for being seen a exclusionary or judgemental, hipster Christians are blind to how the pathologies we see, both in in our lives and those of our neighbors, are so often the result of poor choices; of sin, to be blunt.

It is an enormous disservice to tell a man who is in the grip of self-destruction that he should focus on outside forces. It’s like telling a guy who has a nasty infection that he really needs to back off the carbs. Maybe it’s good advice in the long run, but the problem is that he’ll not live to see the long run.

There are 54 comments.

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  1. RightAngles Member

    Well said. You must be so frustrated, as we all are.

    • #1
    • August 20, 2016, at 3:27 PM PDT
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  2. Snirtler Member

    He invited me to be part of a round table discussion about race. We were evenly balanced racially and the discussion that made it to YouTube was thoughtful and productive in that the two views were represented in a manner consistent with being Christian, but frankly neither side seemed to budge.

    That you could even be at the same table to conduct a civil discussion is a start and badly needed in this polarized environment. It’s unlikely for one discussion to cause anyone to budge.

    • #2
    • August 20, 2016, at 3:36 PM PDT
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  3. OldDanRhody Member

    Recently I learned of a (liberal) Lutheran church in South Dakota that has decided to dispense with the Epistle readings during their worship services, because they were upsetting. I think this goes under the heading of “blind guides.”

    • #3
    • August 20, 2016, at 3:41 PM PDT
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  4. Goldgeller Member

    You make some good points. I find it hard to argue with some of my friends about this as well. They tend to approach the topic looking for some emotional or historical validation and see the use of data as being an attempt to dodge their points.

    Oh well.

    It is important to recognize, when it comes to the police and some of these cities, that while there may not be institutionalized racism, there is often profiling, and some very dodgy police behavior, which rubs people the wrong way and is not fun at all– and these people, especially in Ferguson, are living in a government that feeds off them. Fines take a critical position in that city with respect to budget, and it is often done on the backs of the poor.

    The question to be addressed is: to what extent is the difference between systematic racism and a predatory government that largely falls on the backs of blacks different? Are people who are on the receiving end of that system likely to tell the difference? Basically the ability to navigate those tensions is a key point in discussing and understand Fergusson and many other cities.

    I prefer to look at something like a Fergusson as a cautionary tale of what happens when governments resort to predatory behaviors in search of revenue. Its as much a story of big government gone bad as it is the difficulty in determining effective policing programs.

    • #4
    • August 20, 2016, at 4:02 PM PDT
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  5. Douglas Inactive

    OldDan Rhody:Recently I learned of a (liberal) Lutheran church in South Dakota that has decided to dispense with the Epistle readings during their worship services, because they were upsetting. I think this goes under the heading of “blind guides.”

    In most mainline Protestant churches (and increasingly in Catholic churches as well), Jesus Christ has been replaced with Buddy Christ.

    buddy-christ[1]

    • #5
    • August 20, 2016, at 4:26 PM PDT
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  6. Basil Fawlty Member

    Goldgeller: I prefer to look at something like a Fergusson as a cautionary tale of what happens when governments resort to predatory behaviors in search of revenue. Its as much a story of big government gone bad as it is the difficulty in determining effective policing programs.

    Is there a difference between broken window policing and predatory policing?

    • #6
    • August 20, 2016, at 4:58 PM PDT
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  7. Nymeria Inactive

    I have noticed the “no judgment” & feeling based aspects in many younger evangelical Christians. It appears that the entire concept of sin has been turned into a relativistic concept. This is especially true for women. The utter lack of critical analysis makes me wonder if misogynists have it right when they claim that most women are emotional & not very intelligent.

    • #7
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:00 PM PDT
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  8. Basil Fawlty Member

    Rosie:I have noticed the “no judgment” & feeling based aspects in many younger evangelical Christians. It appears that the entire concept of sin has been turned into a relativistic concept. This is especially true for women. The utter lack of critical analysis makes me wonder if misogynists have it right when they claim that most women are emotional & not very intelligent.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of sexism as much as a matter of Myers-Briggs-ism.

    • #8
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:08 PM PDT
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  9. Snirtler Member

    Basil Fawlty:

    Is there a difference between broken window policing and predatory policing?

    Food for thought.

    • #9
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:11 PM PDT
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  10. Goldgeller Member

    Basil Fawlty:

    Goldgeller: I prefer to look at something like a Fergusson as a cautionary tale of what happens when governments resort to predatory behaviors in search of revenue. Its as much a story of big government gone bad as it is the difficulty in determining effective policing programs.

    Is there a difference between broken window policing and predatory policing?

    A qualified “yes:” (1) any policing policy can be predatory, and (2) I was referring to a structure that seeks to make revenue off the backs of the poor, which is different from but includes than policing.

    Broken window policing represents an umbrella of policing practices ranging from policing general disorder (breaking up crowds and focusing on arrests of low level stuff) to doing things like actually fixing broken windows– making physical changes to the environment that takes away places of disuse where criminals may want to congregate.

    The difficulty in studying broken windows policing is that different researchers and police forces tend to emphasize different aspects of the broken windows policy umbrellas. Braga and Bond did a randomized experiment in Lowell MA and found that the most important things to do are police hotspots, hold police accountable for implementing policy, and actually effect changes in the physical environment– meaning ensure people don’t have access to abandoned lots and buildings. This matches with a lot of anecdotes in my own personal discussions and observations as well. The issue then becomes how much like Lowell is Fergusson.

    • #10
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:11 PM PDT
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  11. rebark Inactive

    ^Would you accept the definitions that predatory policing is law enforcement with the principal aim of benefiting the law enforcement agency (looking for speeding tickets to pad the budget a little, that sort of thing), whereas proactive “broken windows” policing is law enforcement with the principal aim of stabilizing and bringing order to a community?

    • #11
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:19 PM PDT
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  12. Scott Wilmot Member

    Tim McNabb: I intuit that, out of concern for being seen a exclusionary or judgemental, hipster Christians are blind to how the pathologies we see, both in in our lives and those of our neighbors, are so often the result of poor choices; of sin, to be blunt.

    Sin seems to be a concept that is unknown to many people these days. Moral relativism rules the day. I applaud you for writing your pastor and will pray that you can continue to speak the truth to your friends and congregation.

    • #12
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:19 PM PDT
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  13. Goldgeller Member

    rebark:^Would you accept the definitions that predatory policing is law enforcement with the principal aim of benefiting the law enforcement agency (looking for speeding tickets to pad the budget a little, that sort of thing), whereas proactive “broken windows” policing is law enforcement with the principal aim of stabilizing and bringing order to a community?

    I don’t know. Its one thing to pick up a little money around Christmas time. Its another thing when that’s a critical aspect of funding the city. Again, it isn’t just policing in Ferguson. Its the bails, fining-jail nexus, its a lot of thing. The police doing their part in a wider systemic effort to fund the city. That’s the perverse thing about the DOJ settlement– Ferguson has no way to pay for it, so it is likely to make things worse. Because the police are not really the “problem.” The problem is the budget structure.

    Also, I think I should also be explicit that what @timmcnabb did was a good thing and brave. And his church was brave as well. One of my church pastors is chaplain to the city PD and I know plenty of people in our church were not happy about our church not directly addressing the policing controversies. It is very easy for churches to sit this stuff out or lean too heavily on one side or the other. So I’m happy to read that some churches are engaging responsibly.

    • #13
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:28 PM PDT
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  14. Western Chauvinist Member

    Tim McNabb: It is an enormous disservice to tell a man who is in the grip of self-destruction that he should focus on outside forces. It’s like telling a guy who has a nasty infection that he really needs to back off the carbs. Maybe it’s good advice in the long run, but the problem is that he’ll not live to see the long run.

    Amen.

    • #14
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:29 PM PDT
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  15. Instugator Thatcher

    Tim McNabb: First, statistics demonstrate that every aspect of the dominant narrative post-Ferguson — right down to the driving while black narrative — has been a lie.

    I wouldn’t mind having some links to back this up at my next water cooler conversation.

    • #15
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:48 PM PDT
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  16. Funeral Guy Member

    Goldgeller:I prefer to look at something like a Fergusson as a cautionary tale of what happens when governments resort to predatory behaviors in search of revenue. Its as much a story of big government gone bad as it is the difficulty in determining effective policing programs.

    According to Heather MacDonald one of the main things the police are doing warrant stops for is for driving without insurance. To me that’s no small thing as someone who’s been hit by a driver with no insurance. So you’ll get no sympathy from me on that one. If you can’t afford insurance, don’t drive. That’s the law.

    • #16
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:50 PM PDT
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  17. Painter Jean Member

    I’m curious — what do you mean by a “hipster” church?

    • #17
    • August 20, 2016, at 5:51 PM PDT
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  18. Severely Ltd. Inactive

    Rosie: The utter lack of critical analysis makes me wonder if m̶i̶s̶o̶g̶y̶n̶i̶s̶t̶ clear-eyed realists have it right when they claim that most women are emotional &̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶v̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶l̶l̶i̶g̶e̶n̶t̶.̶

    FIFY

    • #18
    • August 20, 2016, at 6:00 PM PDT
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  19. Goldgeller Member

    Funeral Guy:

    Goldgeller:I prefer to look at something like a Fergusson as a cautionary tale of what happens when governments resort to predatory behaviors in search of revenue. Its as much a story of big government gone bad as it is the difficulty in determining effective policing programs.

    According to Heather MacDonald one of the main things the police are doing warrant stops for is for driving without insurance. To me that’s no small thing as someone who’s been hit by a driver with no insurance. So you’ll get no sympathy from me on that one. If you can’t afford insurance, don’t drive. That’s the law.

    Very good point! And she is a good writer. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely familiar with that practice. I can see the justification. I’m a SoFla guy (Dade/Broward/PB). I know about the uninsured drivers and the bad drivers. We are also a nofault state so that may be a major difference. But typically we focus on the crazy speeders. We used to have the speed traps and the “drug traps” but they’ve largely gone because they created a lot of backlash and cops’ lawyers couldn’t prevail in court.

    The arguments are different arguments. “X police action is legally justifiable” and “the city has a ‘policy’ of earning revenues off its poor.” Cities can earn money in a variety of ways. Processes are often punishment. Justifications are typically secondary.

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    • August 20, 2016, at 6:03 PM PDT
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  20. Zafar Member

    Tim McNabb:My resolution was that white racism, however it might exist, is nowhere near the most-pressing issue facing the black community.

    Arguably you’re right, but it’s the one thing that non-Black people have the greatest ability to change in the matrix of factors that contribute to the current situation.

    I don’t think non-Black people can meaningfully change Black community dynamics at this point, so perhaps talking about these dynamics to the exclusion of something that you do have some control over was seen as a cop out? Just wondering. Did you ask them about their reaction?

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    • August 20, 2016, at 6:25 PM PDT
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  21. Profile Photo Member

    Facts can only be taken in after there is some connection made. Some things are so much a part of a group’s identity that if you do not believe them you are considered an enemy.

    I think what the opposing people were thinking is all the current problems have come from slavery and racism. Whether something that happens years ago is the basis for today’s problems is a philosophical question. Sadly, people do make decisions daily on past grievances.

    • #21
    • August 20, 2016, at 6:26 PM PDT
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  22. BrentB67 Inactive

    Painter Jean:I’m curious — what do you mean by a “hipster” church?

    The way I’ve seen the term used includes the following:

    • Christian, non denominational, Bible and/or Christ relation oriented
    • Informal dress, band/worship leaders and pastors in jeans, untucked shirts, casual
    • Christian rock, pop worship music similar to Casting Crowns, Third Day, Matthew West, Patrick Ryan Clark, etc. with guitars, that plug in!
    • Mini Starbucks in the lobby

    I personally belong to this kind of Church and mildly object to the “hipster” description. Hipster to me means more style than substance and I don’t think flowing robes, latin, and incense are required for substantive Church. Some of the best sermons I’ve heard that have made me squirm in my seat because they are talking about me, lust, sin, etc. were given by men in jeans with their shirts untucked.

    However, there are churches that have extended causal dress and music to casual faith and earn the ridicule they endure.

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    • August 20, 2016, at 6:30 PM PDT
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  23. DocJay Inactive

    Well that’s a sobering post albeit an excellent one.

    • #23
    • August 20, 2016, at 6:32 PM PDT
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  24. Goldgeller Member

    10 cents:Facts can only be taken in after there is some connection made. Some things are so much a part of a group’s identity that if you do not believe them you are considered an enemy.

    I think what the opposing people were thinking is all the current problems have come from slavery and racism. Whether something that happens years ago is the basis for today’s problems is a philosophical question. Sadly, people do make decisions daily on past grievances.

    Good points. It is a minefield of history, narrative framing, and the power of intersubjective beliefs. It can be difficult to navigate this minefield without really developing relationships with people. I mean, I try convincing my family and that is hard. Imagine convincing strangers! OP’s original context was in a church setting. I think most people recognize that successful evangalism is as much, if not more, a function of relationship as it is “apologetics.” But we tend to discount that in politics. We get defensive when people don’t like our favorite blogger/pundit. I wonder if it isn’t time to pay attention to relationships before we try and convert.

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    • August 20, 2016, at 6:54 PM PDT
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  25. Goldgeller Member

    Zafar:…

    I don’t think non-Black people can meaningfully change Black community dynamics at this point, so perhaps talking about these dynamics to the exclusion of something that you do have some control over was seen as a cop out? Just wondering. Did you ask them about their reaction?

    This is a very interesting and sobering thought. I think, of course, it has to deal with what level you are looking at. Sowell’s take down of the Great Society was what influenced me to move away from liberalism. Policy, set largely by well meaning whites, certainly had a dramatic impact on black dynamics. You challenge me to question the extent that generalization/framework can be carried forward.

    To the extent that whites are… “overrepresented” in the government of largely black communities, I think we can say whites can affect black community dynamics (with qualifications).

    But you are certainly on to something. Again, I personally feel the problem largely rests with middle and upperclass blacks who tend to provide public cover for the underclass (as distinct from the working poor who are just trying to do well for their families). There isn’t much sympathy (in private) for thug or underclass culture in private, but in public there is a tendency to side with that culture, for reasons relating to narratives and history. “Thought leaders” excuse terrible behavior because they are comparatively more afraid of justifying “racist” (they say) narratives of lazy/dysfunctional blacks. Its sad really.

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    • August 20, 2016, at 7:04 PM PDT
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  26. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Post author

    Goldgeller: The question to be addressed is: to what extent is the difference between systematic racism and a predatory government that largely falls on the backs of blacks different?

    This is a very interesting formulation.

    • #26
    • August 20, 2016, at 7:37 PM PDT
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  27. Douglas Inactive

    Rosie:I have noticed the “no judgment” & feeling based aspects in many younger evangelical Christians. It appears that the entire concept of sin has been turned into a relativistic concept. This is especially true for women. The utter lack of critical analysis makes me wonder if misogynists have it right when they claim that most women are emotional & not very intelligent.

    “Judge not lest ye be judged”… a quote always taken out of context and used as an absolute… has become shorthand for “I’m OK, You’re OK”. The Ten Commandments have become the Ten Helpful Hints for Better Living.

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    • August 20, 2016, at 7:39 PM PDT
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  28. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Post author

    Scott Wilmot: I applaud you for writing your pastor and will pray that you can continue to speak the truth to your friends and congregation.

    Alas, I no longer attend. Poor choices are not just for the congregation.

    • #28
    • August 20, 2016, at 7:41 PM PDT
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  29. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Post author

    Instugator:

    Tim McNabb: First, statistics demonstrate that every aspect of the dominant narrative post-Ferguson — right down to the driving while black narrative — has been a lie.

    I wouldn’t mind having some links to back this up at my next water cooler conversation.

    Not surprising – Heather MacDonald places the torch of research and reason to the haystack of “Driving While Black”.

    The Racial Profiling Myth Debunked

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    • August 20, 2016, at 7:47 PM PDT
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  30. Douglas Inactive

    Zafar: I don’t think non-Black people can meaningfully change Black community dynamics at this point

    Yep. Goes right along with my “outreach doesn’t work” principle. Well, neither does advice or guidance. If Whitey is so horrible, fine, try living without him. We’ll pull police out of their “community”, and they can completely police, govern, and manage themselves. If Honky is so bad, fine, quit using him as a crutch. I’m dead serious about the policing part. Cops are an “occupying army”, you say, Mr and Ms BLM? Fine. Be your own law and order then. Get back to us on how that works out.

    BrentB67:The way I’ve seen the term used includes the following:

    • Christian, non denominational, Bible and/or Christ relation oriented
    • Informal dress, band/worship leaders and pastors in jeans, untucked shirts, casual
    • Christian rock, pop worship music similar to Casting Crowns, Third Day, Matthew West, Patrick Ryan Clark, etc. with guitars, that plug in!
    • Mini Starbucks in the lobby

    You left out “Lots of copies of Relevant laying around in the lobby”.

    • #30
    • August 20, 2016, at 7:50 PM PDT
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