Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not your father's L'Abri (Hipster Christianity)

Christianity Today has an interesting article on the current state of affairs at the Evangelical mountain retreat center L'Abri, in Switzerland. I've mentioned that locale before because of a book written by the founder's son. After reading this article, it's apparent I need to move that book up on my list. L'Abri it seems has become a hotspot for Christians of the Hipster persuasion .

A lanky 23-year-old whose hair hung in a shaggy curtain over his eyes, Chris first heard of L'Abri during his junior year at the University of South Carolina, when a L'Abri worker came to speak. Like Amelia, Chris had felt paralyzed by expectations at home. His leadership role in Campus Crusade left him no time to sort out his spiritual doubts. When he got here last spring, Laughery recommended that he read Schaeffer's He Is There and He Is Not Silent (1972). Chris wasn't impressed. "Schaeffer seemed to make a ton of assumptions, and he didn't back up many," Chris said. "It was too didactic."

Neither Amelia nor Chris knew exactly what they wanted out of their experience at L'Abri, but they had a word for it: "authenticity." That idea is far more important to today's L'Abri students than winning debates with secular intellectuals or strategizing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Though most hold firmly to conservative social values, they resent the assumption that their faith is chained to a prescribed political position. As Amelia said, "I don't want to be a white American girl who votes for Bush."

That last line about a white girl voting for Bush reminds me of an article in Commonweal which I quoted recently in a post on Linda Ketner - that's a strong statement about the politicizing of American Evangelical Protestantism and the rupture from the traditional understanding of the AEPs place within the politiscape for the current generation. But there's more to learn about these young people at L'Abri.

Between peeling potatoes, hacking at weeds, and laughing through volleyball games on the grassy court overlooking the valley, students explore their faith (or lack of it—the occasional atheist finds his way here) by means very different from the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. Those few students who have read any of his books consider him largely obsolete. The modernist philosophy that he targeted in most of his writings, the bogeyman of existentialism, is passΓ©. "Now the question is, Is there truth at all?" said worker Thomas Rauchenstein, a soft-spoken Canadian with sandy brown hair and a close-cropped beard. "Postmodernism's critique of truth is more of a factor in students' thinking."
Other than describing physical activities that white people like, this particular quote from the article hits the nail on the head for the Hipster Christian experience, indeed for much of the experience of young Christians growing up in and trying to surge forward from a period of relativism as created in part by scandal (Jim and Tammy Bakker, sex abuse scandals), political disappointment (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II), and commodification of the American Religious Experience as espoused by both the emergence of the Mega Church and more recently the results of the Pew Forum's recent Survey of America's Religious Life - all of which engender distrust in leadership and the philosophies espoused because there's a lack of clarity in origin of the doctrines and directions of the leadership and congregations.

"In other words, when students say they seek authenticity, what they really want is certainty, an inner knowing. Convinced that they won't find it intellectually, many pursue that feeling of conviction through experience: in the communal life and worship at L'Abri..."
Ah similar to the notions that we spoke of earlier here from the US News and World Report article - a resurgence in neo-traditionalism for all it's fancies and (also) faults. From that article "I would argue that people are looking for a dialectic, people are looking for a commitment that is grounded but not one that is stagnant. The other part of the dialectic is an openness but not without limits." - Avi Weiss

Dialectic - the ultimate component of the Christian Hipster's arsenal to progress on the road back towards truth.

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