Christian hipsters and capitalism don’t mix, or at least that’s what Brett McCracken argued in his 2010 book Hipster Christianity. His thesis proved correct a year later when many young Christians joined the Occupy movement to protest the evils of Wall Street.
But today’s young Christians are thinking about capitalism differently. They’ve traded protesting Wall Street to make a profit of their own. In the Federalist, I argue that Christian hipsters today are becoming friendlier towards capitalism and that they even work to redeem it.
Maximizing value for the customer is a top priority for millennial entrepreneurs. This ethos is something Occupiers say is absent on Wall Street. It can come in the form of social consciousness, but also just by simply making a really good product. A “good product” might mean it is handcrafted or made out of local, organic ingredients. The artisanal market, which has returned in part thanks to modern hipster culture, is not a rejection of capitalism, but a new response to an ever-evolving market which today demands high quality, locally made goods.
Christian hipster entrepreneurs are also not concerned with labeling their business as “Christian.” While our parents may have needed an ichthys or a Bible verse stamped on the bottom of their products to redeem the profit they made, we don’t. Many in our generation are convicted that God has called each individual uniquely to fulfill His purpose, whether it’s planting a church in Africa or creating value for others in the business world.
Perhaps this conviction stems from the belief that the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28, to fill and subdue the earth, applies directly to our work. To “fill and subdue the earth” requires us to be good stewards of our gifts and resources, by continuing to grow them and multiply them through our God-given creative capacity, just like the good and faithful servants in the parable of the talents.
While Christian hipster entrepreneurs recognize a capitalistic society can create temptations toward greed and selfishness, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, they see business as a God-given opportunity to love their neighbors through their work. They trust the profits will come if they work with a heart to serve others.
Even though Christian hipsters may sound as if they’re rebelling against capitalism, many are actually celebrating the best things about the free-market economy. Sure, they may not call it capitalism, but between creating mobile apps that fight human trafficking and serving up organic grilled cheese sandwiches from their food trucks, they are showing the world that capitalism is capable of good.
Young Christians today believe that capitalism, like everything else, has not fallen too far from God’s redemptive grace.
Read the full op-ed in the Federalist.
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