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Heaven, Hell, and Hipsters

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Attracting Young Adults to Megachurches Through Hybrid Symbols of Religion and Popular Culture in the Pacific Northwest, u.s.a.

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Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll attracts unconventional churchgoers. Hipster youth ages 18–25 comprise the core of the church’s 12,000+ weekly attendees – surprising, amid Driscoll’s controversial promotion of strict gender binaries and fundamentalist theology. Furthermore, the Pacific Northwest boasts the country’s lowest rate of church affiliation (Killen 2004). How, in this so-called ‘religious none-zone,’ has Mars Hill grown rapidly among young adults? I suggest only a portion of Mars Hill’s regional growth relies on content preached in the pulpit. Using ritual theory (Collins 2008) and non-linguistic semiotics (Turino 2008), I posit a connection between Mars Hill’s music ministry and Seattle’s vibrant indie guitar rock scene. By identifying Mars Hill’s mimicry of local concert culture aesthetics, I argue that secular ritual in a sacred space has created a potent ritual environment (Sylvan 2002), contributing massively to the church’s appeal among a majority “unchurched” demographic.

Affiliations: 1: Ethnomusicology, University of Washington, Seattle,


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