Hip, Edgy Evangelicals Come to Godless East Village

The East Village isn't a neighborhood one would normally associate with Bible-thumping evangelical Christianity, but here we are. The Times has a feature on Trinity Grace Church, a "hip" church that just opened up a new branch in the godless, immoral wasteland of the East Village. Trinity Grace is trying embarrassingly hard to be "with it," from the pastor's ear gauges to having meetings in a cigar bar. Well, it's Easter. Should we give these guys a chance?

In 2006, as a new arrival from Orlando, Fla., Mr. Tyson held the first service on Easter, in a bar on the Upper West Side. Back then the congregation was called Origins, and Mr. Tyson wore his hair in a faux hawk and preached in T-shirts, trying to create a church for people who did not like church -- radical, crunchy, grounded both in Scripture and in the writings of the economist Richard Florida about a mobile, urban creative class.

Services in bars? Faux hawks? "Origins"? Freethinkers, the lot of them.

A week later, for the church's second service, the congregation would be about a third smaller, but at the moment Mr. Wasko was on a roll. He beamed at a family from Miss Frazier's Bronx group, sitting in the front pew. He quoted from Scripture and from the band Death Cab for Cutie.

Because Death Cab is still relevant in 2011.

Sexual morality has been a divisive issue for some Christian churches, and a challenge for an evangelical church trying to move into the East Village. Trinity Grace considers all sex outside marriage sinful, and marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Mr. Wasko said that he had kissed three women before marrying his wife, and that he now regretted all of them. In its counseling for couples, the church subdivides physical affection into a 10-step "purity ladder," moving from amorous looks to intercourse, and insists that couples who have already been intimate stop, and abstain until they are wed. Anything past kissing, Mr. Wasko said, "is an on-ramp where things progress pretty quickly."

Decidedly un-hip! Surprise surprise, the good folks at Trinity Grace are just as homophobic and sex-negative as evangelicals everywhere else. What's annoying about these people isn't necessarily their stance on issues like sex and homosexuality -- those are old hat, albeit bigoted. It's that they're trying to seem so hip and edgy in an awkward "Cool Dad" kind of way and it's disingenuous. Also unnecessary. The East Village is hardly Sodom and Gomorrah anymore, and even if it were, that would be just fine. 

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

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