Blessed Are the Uncool

I don’t know about you, but I have a deceidedly love/hate relationship with the Christmas season. I suppose it isn’t all that profound—isn’t it obvious?—that our culture has nearly ruined Christmas with the commercialization and fashion and sex and Santa stuff. Yet, I love it. Yep, I work in retail, I enjoy watching our staff “wait on” customers and ring in sales. I believe in our products (well, most of them, anyway) and I think shopping can be an act of blessing, a meaningful service, not just a mindless ritual or capitulation to crass consumerism. Still, I get really, really sad at the mall, perplexed by the lostness of our world and feeling very lonely. Even as deeply orthodox truths are sung in Christmas carols (there is sometimes better theology in the mall’s muzak than in some churches) the whole busy season zooms by in a blur. So, I’m perplexed and sad, even though I love all the holiday stuff. I get all sentimental even listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”….and we watch the corny Christmas movies, too. I love Elf and The Santa Clause and the like. I love our big Christmas tree, even as I worry a bit about Jesus and his call to serve the poor. I know I don’t live as simply as I once aspired to. The whole X-mas vibe, people talking about vacations and parties and the lovely decorations everywhere just makes me feel all this stuff very deeply.
And, so, I have a love-hate relationship with that new aesthetic that is all over the tube; have you seen the oh-so-cool Target ads, the “Love-Peace & Gap” ads, these ads with Moby-esque soundtracks? Man. Everything is so detached and cool and ironic and weird in a hip kind of way.
Blessed Are the Uncool: Living Authentically in a World of Show by Paul Grant (IVP; $13.00) may be the most important book of the season because it challanges us to think about how badly we desire to be cool. And I hardly need to mention the ironies of this; a very cool book, laden with hipster allusions and quotes from chic sociologists who write books with titles like Cool Rules: Anatomy of an Attitude and Hip: The History (both very good books that we stock, by the way) calling us away from inauthenticity and the shallowness of coolness. How cool is that?
I suspect as I spend more time with this book, it will move me deeply, and I will try to take to heart Grant’s call to uncoolness. I sometimes make fun of myself as a bit of a bookish geek, but I’d wonder if it is just pride— playing dumb with tongue in cheek to impress the crowd. I wonder if this book will convict me. I am sure it will be insightful, both as cultural criticism and as personal spiritual formation. From dipping in to it here and there, I can assure you it is very smart, and very well written, and deeply faithful. That the author grew up (son of a missionary family in Europe) in a multi-ethnic setting, and has a serious interest in hip-hop culture (how many other books written by white evangelicals quote Fifty Cent or bell hooks?) makes this exceptional. There is an uncool website, too, and blogs for each of the chapters. Paul Grant hopes to have readers share their stories and discuss all matters of uncoolness. Check it out at uncoolbook.blogspot
Know anybody that is cool enough to want to read about it? Know anybody whose sunglasses mask an inner shame, whose preformance rebellion is rooted less in serious cultural witness and more about posturing? Know anybody who desires to be set free from this odd coping mechanism and wants live authentically as God sees us and as God call us to be? This could be a very rare gift, an invitation to break out of the vexations we have about Christmas, the “merchants of cool” and find ourselves free enough to live into a lifestyle of real compassion, pathos and care. Now that would be cool!
And, if this rings a bit shallow to you, perhaps you need this one: Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion by Dick Keyes (IVP: $16.00.) (Check out Dick’s work at the L’Abri in Massachusetts, here.) Although I hope to review it more substantially later, this brillant book, on a topic about which little is written, will surely be on our “best of the year” list, and it may be just the thing for some of you out there. Moi? you ask. If the shoe fits, buy the book. My friend Steve Garber has a great blurb on the back, so cool or uncool, this book is really a very important contribution.
Merry Christmas.

Blessed Are the Uncool: Living Authentically in a World of Show
Paul Grant (IVP) $13.00
Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion
Dick Keyes (IVP) $16.00

3 thoughts on “Blessed Are the Uncool

  1. YES! I can’t wait to read about being uncool, after so much uncoolness in my life. That’s a very fun topic. I’m not sure whether to wish you a cool Christmas or a boldly uncool one. Perhaps it will be like ours: so definitively uncool that it might be re-categorized as cool.Have you seen Geez Magazine? The editor is formerly from AdBusters, and he is touting “The Buy Nothing Christmas,” which is so uncool it’s cool. Wish we would have thought of that a few hundred bucks ago… I’m headed to the uncoolbook site now.

  2. And I’m with Denise…headed to the uncoolbook site, too, but first wanted to commend you on your honesty about your feelings about the season (“I love our big Christmas tree, even as I worry a bit about Jesus and his call to serve the poor. I know I don’t live as simply as I once aspired to”). Don’t think you aren’t preachin’ to the choir just because I don’t live in the suburbs! I really felt your sentiment on this…I feel much the same way. The whole thing about cool/uncool is interesting. I’m intrigued about the book! I remember Shane Claiborne talking about ‘cool’ in his book. He was giving a talk, and folks were making a big deal about how ‘cool’ he was (or something to this effect) because he had dred locks. The buzz bothered him so much that he cut off his locks right there in front of everybody, as he was about to speak. Then (not missing a beat!), folks circulated a NEW buzz about how cool it was that Shane Claiborne cut off his dred locks! Some folks are just cool — even when they try not to be. I, of course, can never be mistaken for being a part of this group!:)Peace, friend.Michele

  3. The uncool site has a link to a “group,” for which you can sign up, to discuss uncoolness. Six people, including the author, are signed up for that group. The rest are obviously friends. It’s so comic it seems planned. What if you invited people to be uncool and no one would commit? I love the great folly of it. Sounds like something I’d do.I read every single page, though, of the entire blog. Uncool is an irresistible idea. I echo what Michelle said– I too do not live as simply as I wish, and am a bit afraid to add up the expenses from this holiday. Without analysis, we sure had a great stretch of days. I hope you did, too, and I hope some rest is in sight for you.

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