Hipsterism, as its Catholic advocates have noted, is notoriously difficult to define, largely because its gimmicky silliness hides whatever genuine qualities the movement might have ever had.
America writer, David J. Michael, in his article, “How the hipster can save the monk (and vice versa),” argues that hipsters are defined by a passionate pursuit of authenticity. However, as he attempts to define the authenticity of the hipster movement, Allen creates the very goofy caricature of hipsterism that its detractors often paint. Just as hipsters are mocked for their ironic glasses, their ridiculously expensive retro fifties haircuts and their suspiciously tight jeans, so too does David Michael define hipsterism as a consumer phenomenon, listing all of the things that hipsters like to buy: “Hipsters are drawn to craft beer, obscure cheeses, organic farms, taxidermy and homemade preserves. They favor hand-dipped candles, old-fashioned stationery, Indian headdresses and the lamentable industrial-chic decor and exposed bricks that mark so many new restaurants and bars.” It is ironic (or perhaps not) that these same hipsters could never endure the hard work of farming and would not be able to rip themselves away from their iPhones long enough to patiently (and painfully) learn the craftsmanship that goes into making candles by hand. Finally, consuming “farm to table” dinners (admittedly a delicious and noble phenomenon) amidst whatever the heck “industrial chic decor” is deeply inauthentic. It is very unlikely that the scrawny, bearded, social justice warrior hipster readers of America certainly could do the industrial work that was performed in the factory building that was a, well, factory before it was just “industrial chic decor.”
However, there is something darker and more dangerous behind hipster Catholicism than expensive dinners (often paid for by coffee shop tips supplemented by student loans). Hipsterism like its older left wing counter-culture lifestyle, the hippy movement, has a seedy side.
Ridiculed by militant conservative Millennials and members of Generation Z on the internet as “soyboys” and “bugmen,” hipsters are not exactly noted for embodying traditional Western (or Eastern or Third World for that matter) masculinity. A fact that they relish. The hipster phenomenon, despite its advocation of stately and elegant beards, is a very gay or at least very gay-friendly phenomenon. Hipster Catholics flock to the sagacious teaching of Fr. James Martin SJ and read the latest musings of Cardinal Cupich and Pope Francis fan, Michael O’Loughlin’s latest piece in America.
Thus, the greatest danger of Catholic hipsterism is that it not simply manifests itself with a goofy and often degenerate lifestyle but that it masks a poisonous theology behind a hip and “JPII-cool” faux Catholic conservatism, and the ground zero of hipster Catholicism is America Magazine, the old pink lady of liberal Catholicism.
America Magazine under Fr. Matthew Malone SJ is, in a certain sense, much more dangerous than America was (as with the National Catholic Reporter, the flagship of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s era-old liberal Catholicism), precisely because it is so much “hipper.” Fr. Thomas Reese SJ, the former editor of America, left the helm of America Magazine soon after Benedict XVI was elected--Fr. Reese had been under pressure from Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF under John Paul II due to America’s open attack on Catholic teaching on marriage and the family. With brazen defiance of Church teaching in an area where it was “cool” to be conservative (if not, unfortunately, traditional) under John Paul II, America Magazine as an old liberal rag would never attract many younger and newer recruits. The mustached, rainbow stole-adorned older generation of priests and bishops (some of whom have ended up disgraced and/or in jail) was never appealing to the Baby Boomers who left the Church in droves.
However, the fact that hipster Catholicism decorates itself with rosaries, relishes the generous use of incense at both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Rite Mass and advocates following the rogation days of the “old calendar” makes it easy for sincere and well-meaning Catholics to be lured into the hipster Catholic camp. In this camp, there is a marked and even at times obnoxiously loud sympathy for sodomy, liberation theology, and a host of other dangerous heresies that have now been rebranded in less militant and more therapeutic guise.
Thus while drinking craft beer, eating organic, and even growing beards are praiseworthy appendages of the hipster movement, “hipster Catholicism,” must be shown the door.
It is not a shocking revelation that Catholic hipsterism is merely a fad that will come and go, but what is, in fact, reassuring, is that the gooey, degenerate and heretical moral and theological core of hipster Catholicism now cresting during the pontificate of Pope Francis, will also come and go and be remembered as just a fad.