It was probably in 2003 or 32004 while I was doing youth ministry in Augusta, GA. that I first talked of “the tyranny of cool.” Off the cuff, I was probably thinking in terms of hyperbole. I wanted to use language  that would convey the destructive quest of seeking to be cool. Freedom was the goal. Being a teenager is hard and they needed to hear they don’t need to make it harder by worrying about how cool they are. Or how cool everyone else thinks they are.

They were teenagers.

But in the evangelical world in which I swim, the same is true for adults. Like adolescents pining for attention and jockeying for position, young adults, mostly men – many of them pastors – take their message of what is cool public.

The tyranny of cool shames those who would not consult the experts on how to dress cool. By looking down on them. Indeed, even we Christians find it easy to say there is no greek or hebrew but cannot articulate “there are no crocs or toms.”

The tyranny of cool is a totalitarian regime dictating the movements and thoughts of all who live under its thumb. The church should be a sanctuary for all who long for freedom. But it’s not always. It is far too often another outpost of the gospel of cool which trades the robe of Christ’s righteousness by which we are justified for the threadbare of what is acceptable.

Every tyrannical regime has a propaganda machine bent on pushing all who would resist its will into conforming. Novelty, humor, being above it all and high walls enforcing the boundaries of celebrity are weapons in this authoritarian militaristic government. They have wielded our digital world with brand-named ferocity.

For years I sought to smuggle teenagers out through painful means. (Often those daring enough would be picked off by enemy snipers.) But who will set the adults free? Who will free them? Pastors? But the pastors now are hemmed in…in the name of being relevant.

We can’t even claim our first parent’s sin. They wanted to be like God. We just wanna be cool.

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