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.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, 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). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.