Branding Weirdness

There’s a swagger to [Tara Isabella] Burton’s prose, no surprise to those who wisely read her regularly. But the swagger isn’t merely the swagger of a gifted stylist, as it had been in Burton’s pre-conversion work.

Rather, it is the swagger of a person who has encountered reality and then, turning back to view the unreal offerings of a world in rebellion against its creator, rightly reckons that reality is far more interesting. This, of course, is precisely what makes both Chesterton and Capon so delightful to read: There’s not a trace of fear in either of them.

… For Burton and her fellow Weird Christians, it is not that Christian faith has caused them to shift to the left, simply becoming a reliably Democratic voting bloc in the same way the old Religious Right is reliably Republican.

Rather, it is that in embracing Christianity they have embraced a vision of the good life that confounds all of the prominent visions currently on offer in the United States …

[But i]t is not hard to find Ramones tee-shirts prominently displayed at suburban department stores. It is not hard to find bougie grocery stores that play the Who on the in-store sound system as their customers stroll through the aisles trying to settle on which of the 17 brands of salad dressing they’ll buy to go with their kale salad.

Inherent in the nature of American consumerism is the ability to ingest, assimilate, and spit out even its most strident critics. Anything can be made into a brand and perhaps nothing can be more easily branded than the anti-brand faux-rebelliousness of recent punk culture. If Weird Christianity is to make good on its missionary promise, then it will need to avoid the obvious danger of becoming the Hot Topic to Willow Creek’s Old Navy or Boomer Catholicism’s Land’s End, all of which are welcome at American capitalism’s table.

How will that slide toward unreality be avoided? To begin, it will be avoided by regarding weirdness as an incidental good, but not a goal in itself. Weirdness can be branded and commodified. The Bruderhof? Not so much. But then that is precisely the point: The Bruderhof is not trying to be weird; they are merely trying to be faithful ….

Jake Meador, Keep Christianity Weird | Mere Orthodoxy (emphasis added).

I wish I could say “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking as I read TIB’s New York Times piece,” but I’d be lying. It’s much sharper and more perceptive than anything I was thinking.

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