Sunday, July 08, 2007

Only the Hip Shall Be Redemmed

More than a decade ago folk/punk band The Electrics wrote a great song, The Hip Shall Be Redeemed, with these immortal lines:

Only the hip shall be redeemed
The poor and the pathetic will all get creamed
When God comes back to judge us
He'll be wearing Levi jeans
'Cause only the hip shall be redeemed

This song has stayed with me since - the idea that the right sort of clothing (or the right music, haircut or anything else) has any value in the community of those following Jesus is so utterly repugnant that it beggars belief that people actually think that way. The song follows up with this great satire:

And if you do not look the part
The sorry man how sad thou art
If you don't fit our body can't be one

It has really bothered me as I have traveled on both sides of the atlantic that in the progressive churches and movements there is an increasing focus on looking hip. The number of trendy preachers, mission directors and others who wouldn't be seen dead in anything other than Nike trainers, the right label on their shirt or the right music on their iPod (and it has to be an iPod) has been noticable. I'm not sure if this is an attempt to be 'cool' or just an unconscious enculturalization but it means that the more important questions about the ethics of production and materialism get subjugated to having the right stuff.

Is this what the church should be?


  1. It's true, look at the worship leading style that Hillsongs is modelling. Not an ugly person in sight! Don't get me wrong I love Hillsong's music and maybe they are trying to use it to reach out but its creating a false reality and mirroring world values. Mike Pilivachi was once confronted by someone who complained that all his backing singers at soul survivor were always good looking. Fighting it he had to admit that 'ugly people can also sing'

  2. so I guess I shouldn't buy a white belt now, huh?

    In all seriousness, though, it's true. And maybe for now it's the hip thing - looking hip with the right clothes, haircut, brands etc. But what was it before? It has always been something. Before it might have been the amount of wealth one had accumulated - if your kids went to the right Christian schools, if you had the summer house with the boat, etc.

    Truly, the body of Christ needs to be more inclusive than exclusive. This excluding 'you must be like us' movement has been around a long time, it's just the medium that delivers it that changes.

  3. I went to a Church in Teeside recently. There was a guy at the front who was really overweight, had overgrown hair, thinning on top, and was wearing very plain clothes, that didn't quite fit because he was so large.

    I thought it was great that they allowed him at the front to serve with the worship team.

    Then I realised he was the worship leader! And it was without doubt one of the most spontaneous, real and passionate worship times I have experiencesd for a long time, with lots of participation and even good humour.

    He might not look the part, but I would wager that he loves Jesus more than I do, because he certainly worships like he does!

    That Electrics song is a favourite of mine, ever since hearing them at Greenbelt. It makes a valid, and definitely understated point.


What are we here for?