Is Christianity “cool”? The answer is no, not by worldly standards at least. In fact, historically the Christian faith has been the antithesis of “cool”. However, in the past decade, there has been a current right below the surface with the desire and the intention to be the “cool Christian”.
The attitude of “cool” as determined by society prides itself on being trendy, fashionable and appealing to modern sensibilities. For example, the use of language and the use of clothing are aimed at attaining some likeability within our culture. To strive to be cool is to strive to have an image that is attractive to the tastes and styles of the day. Being “hip” or “chic” is what is valued most, especially amongst the younger generation. One doesn’t have to look very far to see this played out. Take for example, shopping for school clothes. How many decisions are made regarding outfits that are not on the basis of practicality but on the basis of looking cool?
Juxtapose the value of being “hip” or “cool” with that of historic Christianity. We see in Acts chapter 11:26, that the unbelievers in the ancient city of Antioch labeled the early followers of Christ as “Christians” to which some scholars see this as an attempt to deride or denigrate the early believers. Regardless if the use of the label “Christian” was an insult or not, the early Christians lived so counter-culturally and were so “un-hip” to Roman society that the unbelieving world took notice. This is precisely the point; Christianity and the Christian have a value system that is fundamentally different than the world. Jesus Christ spoke of what it means to follow Him when He said “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23). That message was as unpopular or as “uncool” back then as it is today. To bear a cross in Jesus’ day was a scandalous thing. Individuals, who carried the cross, were considered a spectacle, cursed and were to be mocked and ridiculed. Yet Jesus says that is the essence of what it means to be a Christian and it was that message that was lived out in the Christian that caused not only the city of Antioch to take notice but the entire world.
I remember listening to a sermon where the pastor, who labeled himself as a “social-dinosaur”, was speaking to a congregation of twenty somethings. He was conservatively dressed, wearing a suit and tie and he asked the question, “Do you know why I am wearing a suit this morning? I am wearing a suit because you are not.” Now, his point was not concerning a particular church dress code but rather to illustrate that there is a stark contrast between the Christian and the culture that he or she lives in. Christians are indeed different and possess a unique system of values that are everything but fashionable by today’s standards.
Nonetheless, the fear of being uncool does not only have its roots in a fear of rejection but also in a concern of not being socially relevant. I mean no one likes to feel as if they are on the outside looking in. Yet when that fear bleeds into a culture of the church or the life of a Christian, it can cause some problems. Firstly it can cause the Biblical message of the love of Christ to be diminished, watered down to the point where it has no longer an impact. Secondly, it can cause pride and a narrow focus because rather than seeking the transcendent nature of Christianity, the focus is on looking like the coolest, or being the coolest.
So we go back to our question from the beginning, “Is Christianity cool?” According to the world, the answer is no. However, as a Christian, I will say that message of hope, forgiveness and love that is indicative of the Faith; goes above and beyond of what it means to be “cool”. What is hip or chic today, there is no guarantee that those things will be in vogue tomorrow. The “faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints”(Jude 3), that has withstood persecutions, criticisms and even unpopularity doesn’t compare with surpassing worth of knowing and being known by God. Dear reader, don’t strive to be cool strive for something or someone far greater.