There has been some various reactions to the Diocese of Brooklyn’s ad campaign calling Jesus “The Original Hipster. I totally agree with Hector Molina from Catholic Answers post on the subject.
With all due respect, I find the ad to be tacky. What’s more, I believe it misses the mark and risks sending a mixed message.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the intention here. The diocese wants to reach out to a younger demographic with a creative and engaging marketing campaign, one which portrays the Church as welcoming and relevant. I get that.
However, I believe that something like this must be done very carefully.
When you look at this ad, how do you interpret it? What message does it convey?
Announcing Jesus Christ as “The Original Hipster” is to me a lame attempt at making Jesus more cool and relevant by watering down his image. In other words, it reduces him into a silly caricature, something which has been en vogue for quite some time now.
What is a hipster after all?
Mirriam-Webster defines hipster as:
a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion).
UrbanDictionary.com defines hipsters as:
a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.
Monsignor Harrington’s defines a hipster as, “someone who stands against the (mainstream) culture. Jesus stood against the culture.”
Yes, one could make the argument that Jesus was counter-cultural. He stood in sharp contrast to the elements of culture that were in opposition to the gospel he came to announce.
But do most people understand the term hipster this way? I know I don’t. And I assume that the diocese did not intend to portray our Blessed Lord as a cool, artsy, indie music lover.
I think we can do better. What do you think?
Like most attempts to be relevant I think it is doomed to failure. When Saturday Night Live parodies your ad campaign it is not because they think it is genius. Using the word hipster in this manner evokes The Princess Bride’s “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“For God so loved the world he sent his hipster son” – Well not really. It was not indie rock on which he built his Church.
Still it is rather difficult to distill the Church down to a diocesan-based poster ad campaign. Catholics Come Home has been very successful because it doesn’t dumb down the Church or try to be relevant. But God can bring goood even out of tack diocesan ad campaigns.