Lost Boys

I saw an insightful cartoon a number of years back. Somebody was done up flamboyantly — I forget how, whatever was outré the year of the cartoon — and walked past a mother with her children at the mall. The mother, ever mindful of good manners, corrected her children earnestly. “Children, don’t stare.” “But, mom . . . isn’t that what he wants?”

So the point of the ploy is to get people to notice — which is not the same thing as getting them to see. When people just notice, the trick has worked, and whatever dopamine is released at such times gives the trickster hipster his needful buzz. But when people see, what they see is the poor, lonely soul under the tattoos, the flamboyant hair, the accessorized man purse, the loafers to be a little light in, or whatever else it is this year. People who do this sort of thing love being noticed and hate being seen — although being seen can also frighten them with a little fragmentary bit of hope. Maybe someday somebody will break down the walls of their little game and let them out.

The metrosexual vibe is this very thing — figuring out a dress code for the lost boys, one that will ensure that they get noticed, and prevent them from being seen.

No matter where you go, people are always just people. The same move is perfected by those unfortunate sisters who want everybody to notice their breasts without anybody seeing them. So they take the girls out for a walk in order to be noticed, but if anybody acts like they saw, such a person is immediately dismissed as Mrs. Grundy’s legalistic aunt, and the responses can be pretty funny.


But let’s get back to the boys. There are many Christian lost boys, a datum which complicates the picture somewhat. These are those who don’t want to be utterly lost . . . just a little bit lost. They don’t want to lose their faith entirely — and this puts them constantly on the lost and found table, not being quite sure which one they are supposed to be. They want to be found enough to not go to Hell, and lost enough not to be mistaken for some dweeby Christian. Anything but that.

If they did themselves up in the full tilt metrovibe, they could move to Portland and instantly be a lost drop in that great ocean of nonconformity. So they seek out smaller Christian communities with a strong identity, which means a community with an edge or a boundary, which enables them to take up residency right near the city limits and still be, and this should not be hard to guess, edgy. Look, ma, no hands.

But what else is out there on the edge? That’s right, the suburbs. So Christian hipsters are actually the suburbs, found right outside the ring road of any genuine Christian culture. Just as modern American suburbs have identifying markers, so also our suburbs of edginess have certain distinguishing characteristics. For example, they talk a lot about community, but the mirror they spend so much time in front of is a mirror filled with self. They usually have a great mimetic eye, and think that this somehow qualifies them to have creative control of the whole operation. This qualification is that they can still get people to gasp at church, whereas nobody at all gasps in Portland.

But having a sharp eye for what constitutes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life is like running out into the meadow with a butterfly net in order to catch the wind. To become an effete aesthete, a metrosexual dudeling, is a Prufrockian triumph. And T.S. Eliot marks that poem with a citation from the Inferno — and a dismal account of a failed conversion, an account of one who halted between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21).

So the opposite of the selfish is never the communal, even if it is communal and trendy — the opposite of the selfish is the humble. And it has never been — in the history of the world — a goal of the humble to get the folks to notice.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • DanielBlowes

    Everyone’s drowning and we keep describing the water.. The LifeBoat: Jesus.

  • Douglas Wilson

    Daniel, one of our tasks is to speak to those who love the water.

  • http://benbowmanspeaks.com Ben Bowman

    So you know a lot of hipsters Doug?

  • Douglas Wilson

    Ben — knee deep in them.

  • http://www.hendersonavebaptist.org Aaron Snell

    Think you mean hip deep.

  • http://thegoodestnews.blogspot.ca/ Dan Glover

    But its more authentic to jump in with those who are drowning than to stand in the lifeboat holding the other end of a rope with a life preserver tied to it. Besides, standing in a lifeboat is so judgmental. It not about being hauled into the boat, its about thrashing around with drowning people in deep water…with an undertow. But man, is it ever getting hard to dialogue and identify, what with all this salt water in the lungs…

  • http://kyriosity.wordpress.com Valerie (Kyriosity)

    Aaron: That comment ster’d me to laughter.

  • http://benbowmanspeaks.com Ben Bowman

    Nice one Aaron.

    Chasing cool is a lot like chasing the wind.

  • Darrell

    The strange thing with this whole thing is that I have yet to meet someone who looks like a hipster that will admit they are one. Generally they spend their time makes jokes about hipsters.

  • http://www.hendersonavebaptist.org Aaron Snell

    Never leave a pun unintended.

  • Tim

    Where are those people who shriek something about slavery after Doug Wilson says anything on any topic? Somebody overslept.

  • Adam Crowl

    Doug, do you not relegate yourself to now defining what is normalcy regarding attire for men in this article? If so, what is it? Or does it all come down to motivations that provoke dress? I ask because all attire has it’s roots in popularity of a culture (whether that of today, yesterday, etc.), the same “look at me ma, no hands!” attitude the hipster has in their “Portland” looking attire I could see being said conversely to the man wearing slacks with clean hair and a beard, “Look at me, I’m normal guys, I promise!” The problem seems more to do with motive than actual attire itself, shouldn’t someone be willing to turn the scalpel on oneself/culture that they are speaking from as well?

  • Douglas Wilson

    Adam, great question. In fact, it is the question. The short answer is that metrosexual dress plays off normalcy. In other words, I am not the one who has to define normal — the rebel dresser is one who does that. So I am not attacking (for example) neckties, no neckties, or skinny neckties. I am attacking ironic detachment and vanity.

  • Adam Crowl

    I understand that, and I think that is a great point done in a classic satirical Doug sort of way in this post. One of the biggest strokes of arrogance/ignorance of recent days is the attire one wears when the saints gather. We feel as though we have progressed because denim is acceptable on Sunday, yet if someone did want to come dressed up in a suit people would assume he was working that day or some sort of a square, same sin different clothes. This is the idea I was getting at I guess, less a concern with what is/is not normal, and more the idea that the rebel dress of hipster-dom is often/always done in efforts of ironic detachment and vanity, but the persons attempts to dress themselves at all could be done with the motivation of detachment and vanity as the sin can shift to the man/woman who desires to look normal/detached in a sea (or as you put knee deep) culture of hipsters. I do think it is good to call sin sin, and to get specific about it to avoid neutrality of it, but “normalcy” can become and idol to people as well I’m sure, just a thought.

  • http://www.keelyprevailingwinds.com Keely Emerine-Mix

    Goodness.  Someone’s a little upset about crecmemes.com, it looks like.  Isn’t just awful when you train people to use the serrated edge and then, wonder of wonders, they tire of your harangues and use it against you?  If the rebuke you deserve comes from the Holy Spirit through a legion of Christian guys in skinny jeans, coiffed hair, and goatees, and sisters in Christ in funky frames, striped tights, and a scarf for every day of the year, I, for one, welcome it.  Kinda sad, though, that you don’t.

  • Seth B.

    I RACED over here to see what Keely had to say. I’m always at the edge of my seat to see what comes out of the mouth of someone who’s been chewing Mr. Wilson’s ankle for ten years! =D

  • http://www.keelyprevailingwinds.com Keely Emerine-Mix

    Seth B., dear heart — really, I’m not worthy of that amount of energy.  Why not just expend it on trying to understand what’s wrong with your Fearless Leader?  I’d run away from him, figuratively speaking, and not toward me.  But they’re your saddle shoes, not mine.

  • Seth B.

    Keely: I had the same fear when I first sat under Mr. Wilson’s tutelage. He seemed to make sense sometimes, and other times I thought he was crazy. So to be safe I embarked on a great deal of theological study on my own. Among them are: Cornelius Van Til, R J Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, B B Warfield, Abraham Kuyper, Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Cyril, Basil, N T Wright, Jay Adams, Kenneth Gentry, Tertullian, and C S Lewis. Those are only the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I’ve read entire books (usually more than one) by all of those authors just listed. I promise you, there is nothing to worry about in Mr. Wilson’s theology. After reading all those men (carefully) I’ve come to the conclusion that he has his head screwed on much straighter than most pastors these days. I have some minor disagreements here and there with Mr. Wilson, but as far gaping holes or alarm bells ringing you won’t find any. Trust me, I’ve done my research on his “controversial” theology. What gets him in trouble most of the time is saying outlandish things like “homosexuality is a sin” and “women can’t be pastors”, which if you believe in *orthodox and historical* Christianity, you shouldn’t have a problem with.