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On Jesus as the original hipster

The Diocese of Brooklyn has stirred the pot a bit with an ad campaign about "The Original Hipster" - Jesus. It doesn't specifically identify Jesus, but one quickly gets the idea from the image of a flowing tunic above a pair of red Converse sneakers.I first heard about the ad when a reporter asked for a comment on it, and I have to admit that I stumbled a bit. Jesus as a hipster? He wasn't usually ironic, was he? He wasn't given to consumerist idolatry of artisanal food and drink. (I know, he changed water to wine, but it was done with little fuss.)I thought back, though, to the portrayal of Jesus as fun-loving hippie depicted sometimes when I was growing up - the Jesus of "Godspell" in its original version. "The Original Hipster" is a variation on that, offering a new generation the chance to experience Jesus as counter-cultural. Will Brooklyn's hipsters respond with a new musical?I'm not sure how the ad campaign looks to, say, Latino Catholics in Williamsburg who are being driven from their neighborhood by the high rents that the hipsters' arrival brought. But all in all, I like it. Humor is good, and it's good that people are talking about Jesus. The ad has been the subject of many jokes, including on Saturday Night Live. That's because it's a talker. So, as the diocese noted, SNL is helping to spread its message. 

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Jesus as a hippie, I can live with. Jesus as a hipster really bums me out. One of the big draws for me about living in the Bronx is that there are no hipsters here.Does this mean, if I'm good, I have to go to Williamsburg when I die?

For those of us long beyond "hipster" age ... or who didn't have any idea what a hipster is: to think we have them in the Mission District of San Francisco! I wonder if Gray Line tours will be starting soon, now that the Haight is wayyyyyyyyyyyy beyond it's prime and the Castro is so darned middle class that it is boring?

No wonder they crucified him.

as a "latino catholic" and a former Queens-Brooklyn resident, I thought I was bi-lingual and bi-cultural, but I have to admit that the "afiche"(spanish for poster)from the Brooklyn-Diocese does not appeal to the perhaps 1/2 the latino population of the 190 churches in the take is : I really do not identify with hippies, much less with 'hipsters' (I dont' think I ever saw one!)

Every generation re-makes Jesus in its own image, and I don't think the Church should promote that.I certainly don't recognize Jesus in any of the definitions of "hipster" over at (which is where I try to keep up with Our Young People)., who were communal, sharing, and urged dropping out, might have been more in line with some of Jesus' teachings. But some of that sharing got out of hand. Lloaves and fishes, fine, but when you have to run down to the Free Clinic every few weeks for a bottle of Kwell because you've been sharing sleeping quarters too freely, it's time to wake up and die right. Plus some of those hippie communes were pretty scary. Ken Kesey ran his Merry Pranksters like fascist, shunning people Off the Bus if they wouldn't drink the Kool-Aid, expecting women to do menial labor and offer sex on demand. If I recall correctly, one of them died at some point. That's not what Jesus would do.

"Hipster" is a stereotype. Yes, young people tend to dress alike and have their own language, etc., and there are sub-groups among them too. But generalizations about the group members are just as hazardous as generalizations about members of other groups. Boomers, for instance.

The diocese's explanation of the campaign:"Launched on April 1, 2013, this campaign is geared towards reaching a younger, more diverse demographic by showing the cooler and more welcoming side of the Catholic Church."This reeks of style over substance. Younger Brooklynites are supposed to be inspired to join the Church by red Converse sneakers? Why not focus an ad campaign on actual young Catholics in Brooklyn doing inspiring things? Additionally, I just can't get past this idea of the welcoming side of the Catholic, when you have such a virulent anti-gay bishop at the helm. DiMarzio, as far as I know, has never apologized for comparing gay marriage to bestiality. His statements were some of the ugliest, most offensive to come from the NYS bishops when marriage equality was passed in NYS.

I don't object to the bishops targeting specific groups. Why not? And the young people I know are generally quite idealistic, even if they do wear sneakers and take good care of their hair. But the poster doesn't show the opportunities the Church could offer them -- helping the less fortunate. The poster just doesn't get the crucial message across. (And what poster could entirely?)

When you try to make Jesus "hip" and "cool" and "relevant" to all the latest trends and fads, you only end up making Him boring.

Though Jesus, as an observant Jew, would look more natural in a fedora, than do all the 20-something hipsters.

"But the poster doesnt show the opportunities the Church could offer them helping the less fortunate."The problem with making Jesus appealing to youngsters is that they're busy looking for jobs, independence, and True Romance. It's kind of their job to get themselves oriented in the material world, a necessary part of learning to be self-supporting. And Jesus isn't about jobs, independence, and True Romance. Jesus is about filling the holes in your heart, and a lot of these kids haven't discovered those yet.

Without the fine print at the bottom, I wouldn't have any idea what that poster is about? When older folks do cool, it's usually lukewarm.

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