October 21, 2017

Fr. Ernesto: Biting My Lip Hard

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Biting My Lip Hard
by Father Ernesto Obregon

The cartoon above makes me bite my lip real hard. The cartoonist caught just what some people think about the trend in some churches to turn the worship service into a coffee shop atmosphere with some talking. While the term “seeker sensitive” is not as much of a buzz-word as it used to be, the concept is still around.

But, there is a root that goes all the way back to the Jesus People of the 1970’s. The Jesus People were the parallel cultural reaction to the “hippies.” In both cases, there was a legitimate and merited rejection of the cookie cutter mentality of the 1950’s. They were not the only groups that pointed out the nominalism and cookie cutter attitude of the 1950’s. For instance, in 1956 the book “Peyton Place,” a book which tore into small town hypocrisy in the North, was released. In 1968, the country song “Harper Valley PTA” was released, pointing out hypocrisy in the South. George Orwell’s book 1984 points to a post-nuclear world in which the prevalent security and Cold War culture of the 1950’s is severely criticized.

Both the hippies and the Jesus People challenged the prevalent culture by dressing in ways that challenged the culture and behaving in ways that shocked prevalent culture. In the case of the hippies, events such as those chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, was one example. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were chronicled as they made their way around the country in their brightly painted bus, using LSD and generally shocking people. The Beatles write the song “Magical Mystery Tour” about that type of trip:

Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (And that’s an invitation), roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (To make a reservation), roll up for the mystery tour
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away
Waiting to take you away.

The Jesus People were something different, however. I am fully convinced that this was a true movement of the Holy Spirit. To this day, I still believe that God could not get into the churches of that time. After all, as chronicled by Martin Luther King in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, many of the churches either openly supported both the segregation and miscegenation laws, or were cowed into total silence. Their stand was so antithetical to Christianity that God decided to raise praised to himself from even among the stones. Many youth with a “stone” heart, many a youth who was rejecting the culture and acting out by taking drugs and joining other religions, had their heart touched by the Holy Spirit and a revival broke out.

As with many a move of the Holy Spirit, people with free will took that move one way or the other. To the good, many churches were renewed, many people were touched for God, many people became life-long Christians. Twenty years after the beginning of the Jesus People movement, a group of those people entered the Antiochian Archdiocese, changing the face of Orthodoxy in America. That very move of the Holy Spirit in the 1960’s has today resulted in an openness to converts that was simply not present in American Orthodoxy of the early 1960’s.

On the other hand, it is also true that some have slowly taken the Jesus People movement in a different direction. For them, the message of what they experienced was misheard. Over the decades since then, the message that they took from it is that the Church must be a counter-cultural entity, meaning that it must always be doing things that are on the “cutting-edge” of culture. Any “rules” about what should happen in a worship service were slowly relaxed, and then dismissed. Nowadays, one can indeed find churches like those mocked in the comic above, where one comes in with their coffee, sits on a couch, has a sermon/discussion, etc. When multiple tattoos were still cutting-edge, many in these churches jumped into tattoos, piercings, etc. [Note: my purpose is not to criticize tattoos and piercings.] What I am trying to point out is that Christian slowly became defined as one who is always adopting the latest cutting-edge cultural trend and bringing it into the Church.

I look back with both nostalgia and horror. I was part of the events back then. I have a deep nostalgia for singers such as Keith Green, who truly called us to live out what it means to follow Jesus. I have a deep nostalgia for a faith tinged with wonder and discovery, and strong church growth. At the same time, I look back with horror over some of the other events from back then and how they led us into some of the craziness we see today in the cutting-edge congregations. And, yet, I would welcome another move of the Holy Spirit, a move so strong that Orthodoxy is again touched with the wonder that Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory expressed when he welcomed home the Evangelicals who flocked in back in the late 1980’s and continuing on for many years after that.

• • •

Thanks to Fr. Ernesto for permission to re-post this piece. I resonate with much that he says.

He blogs regularly at OrthoCuban.

Comments

  1. Quite an interesting piece.

    I agree with much of it.

    I don’t, however, believe that “counter-cultural” is more aligned with those on “the cutting edge”.

    I believe that traditional worship styles (more or less) and Word and sacrament ministry…are “counter cultural”.

    Far too many churches poo poo the sacraments and therefore it all reverts back to the person in the pew. And the church had better keep the interest and the comfort level of those “free-willers” very high…or they will just split for greener pastures.

    • Danielle says:

      “I don’t, however, believe that “counter-cultural” is more aligned with those on ‘the cutting edge’.”

      I’d agree that it isn’t. What we saw was an evolution from a counter-cultural stance to a highly “cultural” one. For a while, Jesus People were actively breaking the rules and subverting culture. At their best moments, this was speaking truth to power, especially about civil rights, and challenging aspects the postwar establishment.

      Then that generation began to grow up, and the counter-culture’s posture and style was adopted by the mainstream culture. It became a part of mainstream culture, and the former activists got nice jobs and had 2.5 kids. You can tell this has happened when there are a lot of consumer products meant just for you, and most of them are not coming out of people’s basements. Welcome to the age of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. At this point the counter-culture isn’t inconsequential, certain ideas remain, and the counter-culture has left its mark by getting into the mainstream. But it’s no longer counter-anything that is still very powerful. It becomes part of the establishment.

      Putting on very casual clothes and drinking latte in a large church with an expensive sound system subverts nothing. Here, the counter-culture is become the culture: everyone likes coffee and guitars. And the church culture is suspiciously similar to the culture of the community in which it sits. Some good ideas remain–everyone is welcome–which, when taken seriously, are still subversive. And perhaps some older attitudes and ideas that were really not working in 1968 and still don’t work, are helpfully forgotten. But at some point, being “counter-cultural” becomes a “style” and “cutting edge” means being mainstream, but at the front of trends.

      This doesn’t make traditional churches the new counter-culture, either however. It does make them less expected by some people. Whether something is really challenging culture is a contextual question. Nothing is always doing it, and most things don’t do it most of the time. This is why it’s so hard to sustain a “counter-culture” which has become influential. It quickly morphs into something else.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > the counter-culture’s posture and style was adopted by the mainstream culture

        Oh, yea; this is an excellent succinct way to describe it. When avaunt-garde is culturally orthodox… I dunno, it sure make conversation frustrating.

        > Some good ideas remain – everyone is welcome

        Yes, sorta. For a certain value of “everyone”. My experience with deliberately inclusive groups is that they generally have very strong biases.

        > Whether something is really challenging culture is a contextual question.

        Ditto. I also do not believe challenging culture is necessarily always virtuous or always the role of the church. Challenging for the sake of challenging is just another form of dogma.

        > it’s so hard to sustain a “counter-culture” … It quickly morphs into something else.

        Exactly.

        And why bother? Just focus on helping and participating; sometimes that will involve being counter, and sometimes it won’t. Today is not the 1950s, the Jesus-People approach would be very out of place and ineffective [for lack of a better term].

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          > Some good ideas remain – everyone is welcome

          >>Yes, sorta. For a certain value of “everyone”. My experience with deliberately inclusive groups is that they generally have very strong biases.

          The when I look at the website of the local megachurch and the school associated with it, I see a sea of smiling white faces and the paraphernalia of American middle class existence. No, my town is not exclusively white middle class. Far from it.

          This isn’t necessarily a condemnation of the church. There are many reasons why churches tend to segregate themselves along ethnic and class lines. While hardly desirable, it is the state of American culture. But don’t talk to me about evangelism and inclusiveness when what I see is an ethnic and class monoculture.

          On a tangential note, a couple of weeks ago the megachurch sent their vacation bible school kids into my neighborhood, obviously hitting the houses with kids’ toys in their yards, to pitch their VBS program. I thanked them, and explained that my daughters had already been to VBS that summer. (Why couldn’t I send them twice? No reason, but it surely wouldn’t be to that megachurch–but I didn’t tell them that.) They asked where, mentioning specifically a new wannabe megachurch that started up a couple of years ago. I replied no, that they had gone to the Catholic church. Their eyes got wide and the practically ran back down the driveway. It was as if I had said I sent my kids into the woods to sacrifice goats.

          • Radagast says:

            “It was as if I had said I sent my kids into the woods to sacrifice goats.”

            That was funny. This weekend I was in the woods with the Cubs scouts (summer camp) and one of the Moms attending whose origins were in SBC mentioned she didn’t understand why Catholics were required to pray to saints and could sin as much as they wanted because all they had to do was see a priest and then they could sin again. I chuckled and said sometimes perception and mis-information get in the way of reality. I also said that on the Catholic side there were some that had the perception that SBC just needed to say the “I accept Jesus as my personal Savior” magic words and then they were in the saved group and could sin as much as they wanted because Jesus had died for all their sins. I went on to say since she was raised in a faith that “looks” so much different we didn’t have the time to discuss the why’s without much groundwork. She agreed she was ready and eager to refute everything I would say to which I laughed again…..

        • Danielle says:

          >Yes, sorta. For a certain value of “everyone”. My experience with deliberately inclusive groups is that >they >generally have very strong biases.

          Yes, I concur. I almost put “everyone” in quotes. The reality is that idea that everyone is welcome has been created as a value. Everyone must now pay lip service to it, and can argue otherwise only while obscuring what they are doing. But that doesn’t mean inclusivity is lived reality.

  2. Faulty O-Ring says:

    I don’t remember the “Jesus people” and frankly can’t imagine the sort of person who would think of becoming one as a viable social option. It must have been like joining the Hare Krishnas in L.A..

    Then in the 1980’s, when religions of all types swerved to the right, we get things like the Southern Baptist purges, Islamic fundamentalism, Protestant conversions to Eastern Orthodoxy, and the pushback against Vatican II.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I don’t remember the “Jesus people”

      Neither do I, so that part of this post is lost to me. I’m both too young [’70s child] and where I was young there were only three types of people – farmers, UAW workers, and the unemployed. No vibrant movements just desperate scrabbling as the systems crumbled. I’ve only read about the 1960s… and it is a period that usually just makes me frustrated – it sounds like an exciting time, one with apparently a lot of good intentions, but most of them either flamed out or just went in wonky irrelevant or deleterious directions. After the civil rights race related victories the enthusiasm seemed to persist for awhile but never congealed again.

      > Then in the 1980?s, when religions of all types swerved to the right,

      Is this really true?

      • The bigger names of the Jesus people were the late Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, and Greg Laurie who still ministers to a large church (and is seen/heard on some TV)

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Ok, but I do not see how that supports the statement “religions of all types swerved to the right”. Both these gentlemen represent one sect of one religion in one region. I could come up with many examples of religious figures who in the 80s and 90s swerved Left [for a certain value of “Left”].

          • Danielle says:

            This statement is too broad, but I think it is generally safe to say that there was strong conservative resurgence in the 1980s in religious communities. This was a response the cultural and political shifts of the 1960s and 1970s, which did away with the fragile centrism of mainstream culture and politics in the 1950s-early 1960s. In evangelicalism, this resurgence obscured and sometimes chased out people who shared evangelical heritage and who lived through the upheavals of “the sixties”, but took that legacy in a different direction than the conservatives did. Many, but not all, of the Jesus People types shifted to the right.

            This is a shameless plug, but my graduate school colleague David Swartz wrote a relevant (and well-written) book on some of this, “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”

          • David Cornwell says:

            “This is a shameless plug, but my graduate school colleague David Swartz wrote a relevant (and well-written) book on some of this, “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”

            Swartz now teaches undergraduates at my alma mater, and is one of those professors I’d love to have a chance to learn from once again. He has a perspective and understanding that gives me hope for the young.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            I would only modify Danielle’s comment by saying “conservative politically”. There was a kind of hardening of theological lines which was often called conservative, but many of these theologies were less than a century old, and couldn’t be honestly called conservative. There was also an odd reorganization around rhetoric rather than doctrine or practice/good works. For example, you had a resurgence of folks who would say something like “I believe in inerrancy” or “I believe in Calvinism”, and to this day they will work together, even though one may be credo- and one paado-baptist, or one charismatic and one cessationist. This may sound doctrinal, but it is actually a rhetorical divide, which is honestly a sort of theological manifestation of the highly politicized developments of the 80s and 90s.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Right–and today you see fundamentalist Baptists politically allied with conservative Catholics and even Mormons, which is theologically weird. Back in the day, Orthodoxy would have been associated primarily with Russia, which of course was the enemy, so it had little appeal to conservatives who weren’t born into the sect.

            I’ve read about the Jesus people, of course, but get them confused with the groups that practice Flirty Fishing, eat out of dumpsters, and believe in UFO’s.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        > it sounds like an exciting time, one with apparently a lot of good intentions, but most of them either flamed out or just went in wonky irrelevant or deleterious directions.

        I am too young to have been a hippie, but not by a great deal. I suspect that were I ten years older I would have dived right in. The music was terrific. On the other hand, I have always been fond of personal hygiene. I went to college at UC Santa Barbara in the early 1980s. When I first arrived, the campus neighborhood still had a remnant of hippie culture, with stuff like the store selling hippie clothes and crafts and kerosene (which threw me at first, until I realized that it was for people living off the grid). There also was a food co-op and a genuine head shop. Also a coffee house that introduced me to good coffee, long before good coffee went mainstream. This remnant disappeared while I was still in school. I was not tempted to join in (except for the coffee), but it made for a much more interesting place to live than the yuppie clothing stores that largely replaced it.

        >> Then in the 1980?s, when religions of all types swerved to the right,

        >Is this really true?

        No, not really, but it is true that the religious right rose in cultural prominence and changed the popular perception of Christianity. Jimmy Carter, a few years before this shift, was considered odd for being professedly a “born again Christian.” It was not thought odd that a born again Christian would be a Democrat. Ten years later that would have been really weird. Nowadays if you tell someone you are a Christian they will pretty much assume that you vote Republican.

        I think I mentioned a while back the Sanctuary Movement of the early 1980s, when a bunch of liberal churches very publicly took in (literally into the churches) refugees from El Salvador and dared the government to come in and get them. The issue was the El Salvador was a murderous authoritarian dictatorship, but it was an anti-Communist murderous authoritarian dictatorship, so the official policy was to ship the refugees back home. At that point the notion of liberal churches taking action like this was not weird. Nowadays many people scoff at the notion of there being such a thing as a liberal Christian church. They are poorly informed, but the perception is the point here.

  3. Not to nitpick or anything, but Harper Valley PTA, the movie and the TV series, were set in Harper Valley, Ohio.

    I want to see Southern hypocrisy skewered as much as the next Yankee, but you’ll need an actual example to do so. 😉

    Now, seriously, to your point that “Christian slowly became defined as one who is always adopting the latest cutting-edge cultural trend and bringing it into the Church”. Even in the “emergent” church I attend now, nobody would make any claim to being “cutting edge”. We’re all painfully aware that we’re lagging behind the times in this regard, just maybe a decade or so faster than the rest of the American church. 😉

    • Cincygirl says:

      And if our friend Jeff Dunn were here; he would be the first to point out that the movie was actually filmed up the road in his hometown of Lebanon, Ohio 🙂

  4. Jon Bartlett says:

    The Spirit moves where he wills…. Sometimes in liturgical ways, sometimes pentecostally, perhaps best of all when the two are combined. But always changing the people involved.

    We go wrong when we try and institutionalise and preserve what the Spirit is doing – at all ends of the spectrum.

    • Robert F says:

      The spirit we can institutionalize and preserve is not the Holy Spirit, who blows where he will. The Jesus People, when they were being serious, were objecting to church institutions that put preserving traditions first, but left people unchanged. After all, if the first movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church at Pentecost had not changed anyone, in both subtle and obvious ways, the Church would not have survived, and we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > were objecting to church institutions that put preserving traditions first

        My understanding is that the traditions in those institutions they were objecting to were not Christian traditions but cultural, economic, and racial traditions that had settled into the Christian community. Those same traditions still dog many of our institutions, but in more subtle ways. Full-frontal confrontation of subtleties won’t work, you’ll just look crazy and be easily dismissed.

    • I struggle to see the Spirit moving where so much goes against the book the Spirit allegedly help write.

  5. I remember the Jesus People. So what happened to it? It basically evolved from a counter-cultural movement to the Christian subculture, together with Christian Radio and TV, Christian music, Christian aerobics, Christian schools, even Christian underwear.

    Starting with an event called Explo ’72, it became the highly organized, multi-billion dollar corporation that we know today. John Fischer analyzed this in a blog he had:

    http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/new-wave/

    It became a way to withdraw into a safe, Chrisitan environment where non-Christians never ventured into, while the original Jesus People went out into the world, and non-Christians flocked to their message.

    • Yup. The Jesus People is the Moral Majority is the Culture War. Every person I know who was a Jesus People person back in the day is a front line culture war fighter.

      It’s a lesson from history we should learn. And also remember that while the Greatest Generation was pretty great, they had some pretty great blindspots and screw ups as well. It does us no good to glamorize the past.

    • Then there were the Jesus people in the ’70s Country song “Convoy.”

      “We crashed the line, we went for broke, with a thousand screamin’ trucks,
      And eleven long-haired ‘Friends of Jesus’ in a chartreuse Micro-bus.”

  6. The period of the late 60’s and the rise of the “Jesus People” was a unique time in cultural history whose like we may not see for quite a while. It was a time when post war prosperity, the expansion of higher education, the popularization of a separate music for the young and general social ferment all contributed to a sense that things were not going to remain as they once were. These were the conditions in which the “Jesus People” were formed and I was a part of it, leaving home to join a commune of, what turned out later to be, a Christian cult, The Children of God.

    Whereas in California Chuck Smith, along with a number of other small churches, welcomed an influx of the “new ” youth, some others, such as the group I was a member of, proposed an abandoning of the “church system” altogether because it was hopelessly corrupt while, at the same time, creating a new paradigm for the “real” Church.

    We began street witnessing, committed ourselves to massive scripture memorization and going nowhere without our little 3×5 inch bibles, ready at all times to open them up to show others “the way”. These were activities that the standard church had neglected and were, in fact, AFRAID to do, afraid that it would disturb their way of doing things and actually change the nature of belief.

    Almost 50 years later, my former group now almost gone, having morphed into a nefarious sex cult, I am still affected by the brief 3 years I spent memorizing and reading the bible. My faith was begun in that group. In fact, to this day I still retain a lot of those memorized verses, so much so that my pastor sometimes comments that I know more scripture than he does. But the group never did teach us how to live life, only to follow orders and stick to THEIR way of doing things, THEIR paradigm.

    So when I re-entered the “real world” my faith became shipwrecked and I floundered for a time before settling into one of those benighted “system” churches that we were taught to avoid. I grew, I learned how to live, I changed, and I watched other refugees from the Jesus People groups re-enter the “normal world, bringing their former way of doing things INTO the Church as they slowly became leaders. This is just what humankind does, it adopts those thing which it cannot avoid and makes them their own. Soon it all becomes part of the general culture, it becomes who we are today!

    • Oscar,

      Thanks so much for sharing all of that. Some of us are just too young to have seen these things firsthand, so it’s good when someone tells what it was like from the inside. I’m glad you’re able to retain the positives of those years.

    • “We began street witnessing, committed ourselves to massive scripture memorization and going nowhere without our little 3×5 inch bibles, ready at all times to open them up to show others “the way”. These were activities that the standard church had neglected and were, in fact, AFRAID to do, afraid that it would disturb their way of doing things and actually change the nature of belief.”

      Neglected or knew to be pointless or not part of normal Christianity? I’m so put off by many pastors, all over the age of 50 it seems, who continually harp against and take shots at other churches and denominations. Normally over some petty doctrine that proved to be their own personal lord and savior way back in their youth.

      Is street witnessing good? Yes, but it’s not a mark of a “true church”. Is Scripture memorization good? Yes, but only if you know what you are memorizing, how it fits into scripture, and isn’t just a list of proof verses for victory over whatever. Is carrying a Bible good? Yes, when it’s used properly and not just as a “here’s the gospel you rejected it ok my job is done you’re going to hell praise jesus for persecution” witnessing tool.

      I’ll write a separate comment, but the Jesus People may have been used by God, but all I see is death and ruination in it’s wake. It’s another Great Disappointment or Burnt Over District. But now it’s nationwide.

      • I’ll write a separate comment, but the Jesus People may have been used by God, but all I see is death and ruination in it’s wake.

        Not at all what I see. There were thousands of people who had been living in the counter-culture without hope who met Christ. If they had stayed where they were who knows where they would be at now. I have friends who died from their counter-culture lifestyle.

        Many people who are boomers in the church became Christians through that move of God.

  7. Very good post. I think this illustrates what all churches (and Christians), in one way or another, face continually. Richard Niebuhr, in his 1956 ‘Christ and Culture’, says that the question of how the church, and Christians, relate to the culture, is ‘the perennial question’. He points out the two extremes, ‘Christ against culture’, probably most epitomized in our day by groups like the Amish, and many fundamentalists, who retreat from the culture, and ‘Christ of culture’, the stance adopted by many mainline churches, where the values of the culture are adopted almost wholesale. Some see this as a troubling issue, and it does present challenges, but as I have noted before, this is actually one of Christianity’s strengths – it is uniquely able to flourish in pretty much any kind of culture, largely because it is able to adapt to the culture, and because, unlike religions such as Islam and Hinduism, it does not necessarily impose a social structure on society (Focus on the Family and such thinking excepted!).

    The pitfalls with this, however (aside from Niebuhr’s extreme positions) are, on one hand, that it is easy to import too much of the culture (even if it does not overtly adopt its values on issues such as morality) and the church simply becomes another cutting-edge coffee shop (as Fr. Ernesto describes it). The church simply mimics the culture and implicitly endorses its values in the name of ‘relevancy’ rather than challenge its values (i.e., while perhaps rejecting its sexual ethics, implicitly endorses values such as materialism and self-centeredness – the ‘American Dream’). As Fr. Ernesto, and other commenters note, there isn’t much that is really counter-cultural about these churches, in fact, quite the opposite.

    The other pitfall is that one particular culturally-based expression of the faith becomes the ‘true’ model or the ‘true’ church. Whether it is the Amish, who seem to believe that the late 19th century was the time to stop the clock, or the Roman Catholic church, which seems to believe that late antiquity or the Middle Ages saw the perfect expression of the faith, or Southern Baptists, many of whom seem to think that 1956 was the magical year when church was ‘done right’, these are really expressions of the faith as embodied in a particular culture – in a particular place and time. Even the churches of the New Testament period (which are often held up in conservative circles as the ideal model) were an expression of the faith in a particular context – the Roman Empire (and as seen in Paul’s letters, they too had trouble deciding what to embrace and what to reject). But if Christianity is to thrive, for example, if Southern Baptists are to be successful anywhere but the South, or the Amish are to thrive at all, it must engage the culture, and to some extent reflect that culture. But it must do so while maintaining what is truly counter-cultural – the values of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this sort of counter-culturalism seems to be hard to find, whether one looks at cutting-edge coffee shop churches or more traditional ones.

    How about a church that is culturally relevant AND counter-cultural in its values? Getting that right, I’m afraid, is really ‘the perennial question’ (and when we find it, we seem to want to stop the clock and say ‘here it is; don’t mess with it’).

  8. Rick Ro. says:

    I read a book last year called “Reborn to be Wild” by Ed Underwood. He became a Christian during the Jesus Movement and writes about how truly Spirit-filled it was. He goes on to say that it began going off the rails when Jesus Movement Christians began doing the human “stuff”…going to Bible studies, then going to seminaries, learning theologies. Various doctrinal camps started to form, with people saying you needed to speak in tongues, have full immersion baptisms, etc. and then the other camps saying, No, No, No. His claim (which makes sense to me) is that as more and more “learning about God and the Bible” and more “theology” entered the picture, the less it became about Jesus (fancy that!) and the less Spirit-filled it became.

    • This resonates with me, the early movement was childlike and sincere. I remember reading the Living Bible and the Good News Bible in the 70’s and the early “born-again” movement, movies like “Brother Sun Sister Moon”. The focus was on Jesus, simply loving and living as he taught. How I wish something like that would happen today..

      • Radagast says:

        …”the early movement was childlike and sincere”…

        And simple and naïve. I grew up on the tail end of the sixties into the seventies. A large percentage of the population in the sixties were youth, young, idealistic, rebelling against any and all authority, and rejecting what had come before them. This was nothing new, except, because of the number of youth, they could be organized. If we fast forward 20 years they became part of the machine they despised. When I was young I felt I was born 10 years too late as the sixties culture really appealed to me. As I aged I realized that it did not accomplish nearly as much as it proposed to do, and screwed up more than it fixed.

        • Your going to hate me but:

          “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

          There is a lot to be said for someone who simply loves and trusts Jesus with all their being, it puts all our theologies and jaded opinions to shame.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            And I believe this is a misapplication of that text.

          • Misapplication is putting it kindly. And it goes against so much other scripture about maturity and growing in the faith.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Adam and Stuart, I’m not so sure about the misapplication. Yes, there are scriptures about growth and maturity, but there are several that speak of a child-like approach to faith. As further evidence, when Jesus picked people to follow him, he didn’t pick those mature and strong in faith (of which there were plenty around). Just the opposite, actually. So I think there’s a call for us to be a mix of child-like and mature. If our “growth and maturity” leads us in the wrong direction (aka Pharisee-like), then we need a good injection of “child”.

        • Richard – agreed. I’m probably about the same age as you, and was very naive (and young) when I encountered the Jesus People and charismatic renewal stuff. It was all too easy to accept the weirder authoritarianism that permeated many groups, because we didn’t (I didn’t) know any better, and because there were good things happening… but the bad stuff became more and more pervasive over time.

          I also think that as young people from both groups got married and started having kids, the marketing aspects of “Christian culture” were inescapable, and they (we) were the target demographic. Politics weren’t far behind, and presenting a political agenda with a veneer of godliness was another thing that went down too easily for many of us.

          I can recall being utterly baffled after reading the final chapter or so of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?, as it seemed like a 180 turn away from the openness and apolitical stance that had characterized his previous work. (And L’Abri itself; I’d been to the one in Switzerland just a few years before the book came out and couldn’t reconcile what I saw and heard there with what was in How Should We Then Live?)

          • I’d LOVE to read an Internet Monk review of that book. I need to read it myself some day…

          • Err, sorry, Radagast! You and Richard Hershberger and I must be about the same age, and both of you said similar things in today’s comments, so…

          • I also think that as young people from both groups got married and started having kids, the marketing aspects of “Christian culture” were inescapable, and they (we) were the target demographic.

            Interesting you should mention that aspect. Back in January Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum blogged about God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America. It’s worth reading. The next day he posted some further observations about the book, one of which was that the author pointed out that the JP movement began to fizzle out when they started getting married and having children. Make of that what you will. Something happens when the revival gets domesticated.

          • Chuck, thanks for the links.

            I could have simply said that things changed for people in the Jesus movement when they finished HS and/or college and got jobs, regardless of whether they were married or not. Leaving college and taking on adult responsibilities is the heart of the matter, I think. Marriage and kids is the next step for most, and at that time, people were still marrying either right out of college or in their early-mid twenties.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        This does not resonate with me at all. This kind of movement is bound to, inevitably, go cultish, become cult-of-personality, or just flame out. And it will take a lot of well intentioned simple and/or naive people down with it.

        > the early movement was childlike and sincere.

        Perhaps, or ungoverned, and what people do when they are ungoverned… Something/someone cannot remain childlike. Institutionalization provides at least the potential for governance and some degree of continuity; institutionalization slows things down, which is good. Humans being moody and reactionary things.

        > How I wish something like that would happen today

        I am not sure it hasn’t. Perhaps this formation today takes on the harsh/hostile tenor of the current over-culture, while the movement of the ’60s had the inclusive “free love” vibe of the times. There is no shortage of cultural opt-outs patrolling my neighborhood eager to explain to me “the way”, but their message has a mean-spirited undercurrent and is child-like in its simplicity.

        • > How I wish something like that would happen today

          Spend some time around the IHOP crowd.

        • Adam, I was IN that movement and can say as a first hand participant that the energy, hopefulness and devotion in the movement came from the newer believers who were so excited about their faith that they were ripe for some manipulation.

          As I said in my earlier post, as the youthful energy grew older and entered the churches and leadership ythey became co-opted by the trappings of the ordinary. I don’t recall anyone else say that they were part of the movement so I thought that my perspective might be useful.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Yes, robin. He shares how the early part of the movement was all about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, then went off the rails when it was more about Doctrine, Doctrine, Doctrine. He concludes the book with comments about revivals needing to be focused on Jesus again and letting go of the other things we Christians tend to get distracted by.

        • Like Scripture and baptism, as you mentioned he mentioned?

          • Rick Ro. says:

            If you’re going to tell me that to be a Christian, the Bible and Baptism need to be done a certain way and that takes precedence over Jesus…yes.

    • Yes. Studying God’s Word is is quite the opposite of what the Spirit would lead us to do. The truly spiritual would never attend Bible study, go to seminary, or learn theology. We would just cross our legs, meditate, and receive divine revelation imparted directly to our emotions.

      *end sarcasm.
      Come on, Rick. I think this Underwood guy is out of his mind. I do not believe the Jesus movement formed any single new “theological camp.” I believe as the new converts pushed deeper into their knowledge of the scriptures, they all simply found their way into many of the established or emerging theological camps. The doctrines that speaking in tongues is a mandatory experience or baptism must be by full immersion predate the Jesus movement. Becoming a traditional Baptist or Pentecostal did not make the hippies any less spiritual.

      If the Jesus movement went off the rails when they began doing “human stuff,” what then were they doing before, and what should they be doing now? I swear, I have developed an allergic reaction to the term “Spirit filled,” ’cause usually it is a way of saying “we’re the real deal Christianity, not like those hypocritical vain impostors over there” (which is usually referring to the quite, humble predecessors in the faith who delivered the scriptures, traditions, and Gospel to a rather presumptuous generation). Anybody who believes that Jesus is Lord and has risen from the dead is filled with the Spirit.

      • Agree that “Spirit-filled” language can cause division or judgment of others. Different groups work out what a Spirit-filled life means, but at a very basic level it seems both fair and scriptural to make the distinction between “indwelled” (all believers) and “filled” (a command to be obeyed).

        • Good point. Like when Acts said that Peter was full of the spirit and spoke certain things… There is an angle to that kind of language where we should expect the Spirit to be active and working in our lives, though most Protestant denominations have different takes on what that should look like. I know the passages you speak of where we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit.” I’ll have to take a closer look at them and their context, I’m not really sure where to go with that command.

          • Be careful not to hyper spiritualize it. It could mean nothing more than “keep walking with the Lord”, “go in peace”, “keep letting God work”, etc.

        • Normal vs sub normal Christians. Second class citizens in the Kingdom.

          More Keswick bs.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “I do not believe the Jesus movement formed any single new “theological camp.” I believe as the new converts pushed deeper into their knowledge of the scriptures, they all simply found their way into many of the established or emerging theological camps. ”

        I see no great mystery here. Whenever a group forms in reaction to some other group, the reaction is the central fact of their existence and is a strong unifying force. Move forward a few years and it often turns out that there are divisions within the group, once they get past congratulating each other on not being part of the group they are reacting against. This is a thumbnail history of the Reformation, and why we have both Lutheran and Reformed and Anabaptist traditions.

        ” I swear, I have developed an allergic reaction to the term “Spirit filled,”…

        Testify, brother!

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Well, don’t blast Ed Underwood for me stating (poorly) what he talks about over the course of an entire book. The point I was trying to make was that he thinks the Movement began to go off the tracks when it became less about Jesus and more about the “other stuff.” That’s what I was trying to say, perhaps poorly. And whether or not you like the term “Spirit-filled,” clearly a focus on Jesus OVER AND ABOVE the other stuff probably leads to a greater and closer walk WITH the Spirit.

        It’s a good book. I recommend it.

    • So the Jesus People movement went off the rails when they discovered Scripture?

      Maybe it’s just me, but that makes me question the authenticity of whatever the movement was (as a whole).

      • Stuart, the Jesus People movement went off the rails when they entered the mainstream. They were told that their excitement and energy should be tempered and that zeal needed knowledge before it could be truly productive, This meant becoming “one of the many” in any one of the established churches.

        And to assume that the Jesus People “movement” was some monolithic group would be a false premise. Sure, many were Pentecostal in nature, but not all. I met a number who were “holiness” followers, some hewing to “reformed” teaching and also some that were just plain loony. The movement even spanned to the Catholic Church, for Pete’s sake!

        And no, there hasn’t been anything like it since then. The things that tilled the cultural ground from which they sprung was a product of the times and is not repeatable. Maybe some inspired movement may form with a similar appeal to youth, such as the Emergent Church thing, but nothing will span such a wide swath of the Christian experience as did the Jesus People of the late 60’s.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        You’re mis-reading what I said, or maybe I mis-represented what Underwood feels happened. The problem came when they read scriptures (which I believe we all feel is GOOD and appropriate), then began leaving Jesus out of what they learned (which is human interpretation, which can be BAD). In other words, it was as they dove into scriptures and then picked and chose various verses as THE way (speaking in tongues or not, full immersion baptism or not) that the Movement began to change and lose the Jesus/Spirit-filled aspect.

        And as some have pointed out, that came as the “rebels” began to plug into mainstream. As they “grew and matured” in Christ, they moved toward established theologies, seminaries, etc. It became a movement no longer just interested in Jesus.

  9. To this day, I still believe that God could not get into the churches of that time.

    That is a very small God you believe in. And a very judgmental writing off of a whole generation of the faithful. I don’t buy it. You think that was the first generation to lack sincere enthusiasm and be mired in cultural bondage to sinful patterns? Find me the generation that is exempt from this.

    The Jesus people brought zeal without knowledge. They rode the back of the charismatic movement, revivalism, and Campbellite anti-doctrinalism that reduced the sum total of the Christian faith to a “personal relationship with Jesus.” They had, imo, ironically many of the same flaws as the generation they rebelled against, only manifested in different ways.

    Was it a “movement of the Spirit?” I don’t think the Spirit moves in our categories and conforms to the labels of activity that we apply to our doings. The Spirit was moving in the work of the Jesus people, and often enough despite it. He was also moving in the cold, dead, formalistic churches, in spite of their flaws as well. You cannot stop the Spirit from creating and sustaining faith wherever the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed. The Jesus people did this to some extent, and also did other less helpful things. The established churches of their time also did this to some extent, and to another extent did other, harmful things. The churches of today are no different. There is nothing new.

    Many were brought to faith in the Jesus movement. My own parents were brought out of the Catholic church by it. Being raised in their new tradition, I was brought to despair and frustration by it. I’m not going to call social phenomenon, demographic shiftings, and religious trends a “movement of the Spirit.” Just because many people respond to it doesn’t mean that all of the response is a genuinely positive thing. And just because the movement leaves victims behind doesn’t mean the Spirit was absent and not doing anything constructive through or in spite of it.

    There are a lot of “movements” in the church, historically and today. I will not attach God’s name to any of them. Not even the Reformation. The Spirit only has one movement, and that is to spread the good news of Jesus and bring sinners into the family of God. Wherever this happens, the Spirit is moving. …and I’m willing to bet that more often than not it goes unnoticed by the masses, who are always in search of some new excitement. There are too many social, political, and sinful ulterior motives that play significant factors in what we consider “movements” for me to be comfortable spiritualizing them as solely the work of God. He is building his church, and has not taken any vacations. Not during the middle ages, not during the 50’s, not today. We can take comfort in knowing that the Spirit is always moving and at work, even when we do not see it.

    • Danielle says:

      Hm, I read that statement differently. Given the context …

      “To this day, I still believe that God could not get into the churches of that time. After all, as chronicled by Martin Luther King in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, many of the churches either openly supported both the segregation and miscegenation laws, or were cowed into total silence. Their stand was so antithetical to Christianity that God decided to raise praised to himself from even among the stones.”

      … I took the point to be that because people were excluded from the churches, and the churches were so far complicit in injustice, that it took activism and ‘movement of Spirit’ (if you want to use that terminology) from the margins to speak truth. That is, I thought this particular section was making more of a social justice point. Or maybe I’m just importing civil rights rhetoric into the paragraph?

      My critique (to the point I read/imagined), if any, would be to point out that it was the black churches, and the activists who lived and worked in the south, who were the locus of this ‘movement’ – if we’re talking about social justice/civil rights, and not evangelical revival divorced from social change. White Jesus People and other hippies joined the civil rights cause, and got a lot of press, and really did help, but in some respect they were always college kids looking for Genuine Experience and true selves. They ultimately went back to their dorms and went on with life. They should not be faulted for that fact, but that doesn’t make them the locus of the story, either.

      • Good points. I’ll let the author speak to exactly what he meant by “movement of the Spirit,” but my response is to how I hear that phrase used in the more calcified traditions of the Jesus people today. But I insist that it is going to far to assert that because some churches are full of prejudiced people that God will not move there. We all still have our prejudices. That doesn’t justify the past, it simply disallows us for staying up on a high horse for very long.

        • As I read some of the arguments prior to this one, I find myself thinking that some of the definitional work that is done by some of those posting would make any definition of revival impossible. Both the First and Second Great Awakenings in USA history could easily be said to not be moves of the Holy Spirit by the definitions that are used in some of the posts.

          To clarify myself, I would argue that the time of the Jesus People could be classified as the Third Great Awakening in USA history. Like the First and Second Great Awakenings, a shift in church membership took place. Just like the First and Second Great Awakenings, great events happened outside the various church structures. Just like the First and Second Great Awakenings, the “movements” fed back into the established churches and changed them. Just like the First and Second Great Awakenings, some wonderful things happened, and some absolutely terrible sects and cults were started. Just like the First and Second Great Awakenings, it took a period of years for all the aftereffects to sort themselves out.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      >> To this day, I still believe that God could not get into the churches of that time.
      >That is a very small God you believe in.

      I read this statement as rhetorical flourish, phrased for emphasis. In relation to Fr. Ernesto’s writings and many posts here I hope we can agree on that; Fr. Ernesto’s many words do not describe a small god. Also, and perhaps this was just me, I automatically read “the churches of that time” to mean the and working-class/middle-class churches and possibly ethnic [Orthodox] of Fr. Ernesto’s sphere.

      > the first generation to lack sincere enthusiasm and be mired in
      > cultural bondage to sinful patterns

      I have no issue with the idea that at times this bondage is more pronounced, forward, and monolithic than at other times. Some generations are fractured in their various failings, and some generations seem unified in their failings; at least for generations within demographic groups.

      > The Jesus people brought zeal without knowledge.

      I believe this, but I never had the opportunity to meet one.

      > They had, imo, ironically many of the same flaws as the generation they rebelled against

      IMO those who refuse organization and structured dialog can never avoid this trap, at least not for long. It is a flaw in what we are.

      > goes unnoticed by the masses, who are always in search of some new excitement.

      I find this as potentially uncharitable as Fr. Ernesto’s locking-of-God-out-of-his-churches metaphor. The masses may contain some silly and superficial souls, but it also contains a lot of souls trapped in a frenzied existence who if distracted for a time by a shiny promise and a good show… who can blame them? [the churn seen in Evangelical churches demonstrates that most of those masses do tend to move on to somewhere else]. I read about the ’60s and other times and I usually ‘get’ why people tracked in a certain direction, even if it ultimately proved the wrong one.

      > what we consider “movements” for me to be comfortable spiritualizing them
      > as solely the work of God.

      Or it is simply that we MUST categorize and label things in order to seek understanding and have discussion. If a movement occurs amongst religious people – it is a religious movement. Statements like ” The Spirit only has one movement”… and I might as well just walk away, there is nothing to be said.

      • Adam, my statement in response to his rhetorical flourish was also a rhetorical flourish. We all know that Fr. Ernesto has a very deep faith and spirituality, even from just his thoughts in the comment section here.

        at times this bondage is more pronounced, forward, and monolithic than at other times

        Good point. On the flip side, though, sometimes it is just more obvious.

        Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that getting caught up in the excitement of a movement is wrong per se. I just object to the automatic association of such excitement with genuine spirituality. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Discernment is important, the lack thereof leads to suffering.

        I am also certainly not against labels and analysis. These are good and profitable things for discussion and reflection. I just don’t want to conflate any of our movements with the Kingdom of God. It is important to maintain the distinction so that we don’t get so caught up in our own doings and enamored with our own vision of progress that we neglect the God who continues to work in the margins. I can accept that the one movement and mission of the Spirit is extremely multi-faceted, and that we benefit from considering it from the various angles.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Understood, I believe we are in substantial agreement.

          >i just object to the automatic association of such excitement with genuine spirituality.

          +1 And I admit, at this point in my experience, I am skeptical about excitement. Show me the yield, then I’ll dance.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          I was a ‘disciple’ of the Jesus Movement, but caught up on the crest of the wave during its later years.

          the most attractive thing to me was the genuineness of most of the people I was involved with. sincere and humble awareness of being ‘sinners’ accepted, loved and transformed by a loving God…

          although the movement could be construed as naïve, it, in fact, was more a reaction to religious hypocrisy no matter what the trapping: traditional liturgical and/or evangelical denominationalism. since it was a indication of God’s grace to a generation that radically sought out truth (no matter where that search led them), it clashed with the status-quo church environments that either did not appreciate what was happening, or simply intimidated by the enthusiasm of those naïve youth only wanting to experience, and share a love for Jesus that made many Christians uncomfortable…

          I was saddened as the Jesus Movement ‘freshness’ evaporated (or swallowed up) into the very Protestant flavors of the Old Guard it sought to protest against. I suppose you could say the Jesus Movement ‘moved’ into something more palatable, organized, doctrinal, recognizable, mainstream and acceptable. I do not believe the initial reaction was against theology, or even doctrinal differences, but against the “do as I say, not as I do” shallowness of what American Christianity looked like back in the 60’s.

          I was called out of the Roman Catholic faith tradition also as a result of a very dramatic ‘epiphany’ after a car accident. what I responded to was a revelation of the Living Lord which He initiated. He didn’t do it within the faith tradition I was raised in. in fact, that incident was not about doctrine, theology, tradition, worship expression, etc. His revealing was personal, intimate, specific to me as an individual and life changing. I too responded to His calling by radically adapting a semi-hippie (what I categorized as a ‘true disciple’ appearance) and piousness that caused my immediate family to believe I had a very serious mental and emotional over-reaction to the accident, and my situation at that time.

          the more doctrine I was ‘indoctrinated’ with during my sojourn into the Protestant Evangelical camp simply became a new form of religious bondage I had been called out of during the brief ripple effect of the epiphany I experienced. I became another sin-aware child of the Living God under the law of conformity which I had not been able to keep within the faith tradition I had been raised in. I am sure my story resonates with others that experienced something similar…

          I found a refreshing reexamination of what I believed in and why during my participation in the ’emergent’ (lower case ‘e’) conversations that sprung up on the internet thru blogs and websites that gave voice to the frustrated saints, and truly curious seekers, feeling safer behind an electronic username than crossing the threshold of any church. it was there that my faith was strengthened and challenged and ‘reformed’ into what I live out today. yes, I am still gun-shy about any dysfunctional elements I notice within churches I choose to involve myself with. I may understand the dynamic of being part of The Body, but heck, my past experiences caused me to feel much safer as a detached member. anyway, the Jesus Movement was not so widespread as to be a game-changer in how church was done, but it is a reminder of what being in love with Jesus with childlike faith looks like in our independent, consumerist American culture…

    • Miguel, it appears to me that your parents have a lot in common with my wife and I, and that my son’s journey may mirror yours in many respects.

      My wife and I both left Roman Catholicism for Evangelicalism, the “Jesus Movement” variety with a hint of Plymouth Brethren. You left Evangelicalism for LCMS, a conservative mainline Protestant denomination. My son left Evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodoxy and now he and his wife are Byzantine Catholics. Many of the things he says in favor of liturgy and tradition remind me of things you write.

      The way God makes things happen is curious, no? Speaking of being curious…are your parents still Evangelicals?

      • Cal, if you were in the Roman Catholic church prior to the Jesus movement, I’d be hesitant to say you never “met Jesus” there. You may have not found Jesus all that compelling or experienced much enthusiasm for the Christian faith, but being raised in the RC church automatically introduces you to a religious culture with a lot of Jesus paraphernalia. Consider that when the Jesus movement came along, maybe you already knew a significant amount of foundational information about this Jesus guy, even if such knowledge had not taken much root in your soul.

        It is very interesting the various comical ways that God gets our attention. My parents have always been fairly open to and affirming of my journey into Lutheranism, even if they didn’t always agree with all of it, because they could see fairly clearly what was leading me there, and those were good things. They remain associated with a non-denominational Evangelical church, but they struggle with discontentment over much of what they see. In our many conversations about it they have become increasingly open to Lutheranism and have ventured into some Sunday morning exploration. But they have many important social ties to their current congregation and a few doctrinal hangups with certain Lutheran positions that remain unresolved. At the last time of our discussion, I was not as prepared to defend certain doctrines from scripture as I am now. Thankfully, they remain such loyal adherents to sola scriptura that we are able to have these kind of discussions and debates in a very enjoyable manner, as those who receive the text as true while continuing to seek a better understanding of it.

        My brother is being drawn even more strongly into Lutheranism, and in an online quiz my sister’s doctrinal affiliation came out as LCMS, even though she’s never been to one. I think if we served a congregation in their city my family would attend, but living on the other side of the country certainly prevents these type of conversations from progressing very quickly.

        I see my family longing for a more Jesus-shaped spirituality than they are receiving in Evangelicalism, and they are beginning to see how Lutheranism has the tools to meet this need quite effectively. They may or may not eventually join us, but I know their frustrations with their current tradition are not faith strengthening and can be toxic to the soul.

        • Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Miguel.

          I now see things very differently than I did 40 years ago. I did not leave RC for doctrinal reasons but simply because I became disinterested in religion. Evangelicalism, and especially the turbocharged Jesus Movement version, showed me Jesus in a way I had not ever seen Him before, not even in 12 years of Catholic schooling. It also introduced me to a group of young men and women living in a manner which reflected to me an ideal of what Christianity should be.

          I see now that Jesus is in RC; my son’s change of tradition has helped me tremendously in this respect. He’s happy with Eastern Rites and I’m happy for him. But I could never worship again in that tradition, especially not with my Reformed views. I could see myself in a PCA or other conservative Reformed church (I would love to visit Michael Horton’s home church sometime), but for now and probably for the rest of my life I will remain where I am.

          I visit this site precisely because I have many discontents with Evangelicalism and long for a Jesus-shaped spirituality. But my aim is not to leave Evangelicalism but to reform it from within. Others are doing so, one congregation at a time, even in my own association of churches, and it appears that by God’s grace I am making some progress in my own church.

        • This may resonate with you, Miguel:

          https://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/pastors-class-22free-will22-etc.mp3

          Not sure if your folks, or brother are ready to hear something like that quite yet…but you’ll know if they are able to handle it, or not…or if it would help, or not.

          Thanks.

          • Steve, that clip is excellent! I will be sharing that with other friends. The explanation given is quite clear and compelling. I’m willing to bet my family could appreciate it, but I can hear a potential criticism of not enough proof-texting. That’s ok, I can supply them the references. 🙂

    • AMEN AMEN AMEN

  10. “I look back with both nostalgia and horror. I was part of the events back then.” I resemble that remark.

    Fortunately, I did not go along with some things, such as dropping out of college in order to have more time to dedicate to street and dorm evangelism before the rapture took place. That was the “horror” part. The “nostalgia” part was the fellowship and community we had back then, about as close to Acts 2.42-47 as it ever got for me.

    But the best part is that I met Jesus through the Jesus Movement in 1974. This December I will celebrate 40 years with Jesus and with the same association of churches (only four years old back then) I started out with.

  11. Richard Hershberger says:

    “The “nostalgia” part was the fellowship and community we had back then…”

    When I was in college I was a part of a voluntary community that spent together the vast majority our time not devoted to academics or sleep. We ate together, socialized as a group, simply hung out together, and so on. I feel similar nostalgia. It wasn’t a religious group, though. It was the gaming crowd, i.e. Dungeons & Dragons and so forth.

    I think it is a combination of our age and the social circumstances of college life. We were away from home for the first time. We also for the first time had a huge student body of potential friends. It was both natural and possible to seek out like-minded persons. Once we found each other, the sheer enormousness of the total student population made it natural to seek community within the group. We also were of modest financial means, so we tended to live together, pretty tightly packed.

    The thing is, you couldn’t pay me to live that way today. College is an age where people can thrive under such circumstances. I imagine living that way at my present advanced age and shudder. But it was pretty great at the time.

    I am vaguely in touch with the old gang. This is what Facebook is good for. It didn’t take me long to realize just how far removed I am from back then. If one of them is in the area, sure, let’s do lunch. Need a bed for the night? No problem. But if one of them moved next door, we wouldn’t have the sort of relationship we did in college, because we aren’t in college anymore and pretending otherwise for more than a few hours is just sad.

  12. I’m a bit too young to have any first-hand knowledge of the original Jesus People movement. I didn’t even know there was such a thing until 1999 when a friend drug me to a Cornerstone Festival in Bushnel, ILL. — which was put on by Jesus People USA in Chicago until they called it quits a couple of years ago. I don’t know how the festival or the current JPUSA community compares to the original movement, but I really loved the festival and returned almost every year until they shut it down. The atmosphere was so unlike anything I had ever experienced in “Christian” culture. Ordained pastors with mohawks. Hundreds of neo-hippies dancing celtic jigs to The Crossing. Late night worship on the beach. Drum circles. The Pink Nun. Mass baptisms in the lake. Extensive, uncensored theological discussions around campfires. Seminars with brutally honest talk about topics most churches wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. And, of course, a diversity of music and music styles you wouldn’t find at even a “secular” music festival.
    You could spend a whole day just meeting and talking with new brothers and sisters in Christ from a truly broad pool of religious backgrounds. One year I camped next to a Methodist Minister and his wife. He was a yearly festival attendee, though he admitted that it was the kind of thing his congregation would definitely not approve of if they knew about it. And that was one of the great things about the festival. Church leaders from any background could come there and talk freely about their frustrations, doubts, and misgiving regarding their own church environments without fear that the Religious Thought Police might be listening and taking notes.
    And as far as I could tell, the JPUSA folk didn’t show any signs of being brain-washed culture war zombies. And I hold the upmost respect for Glenn Kaiser. He’s a straight up, humble guy with a lot of hard-earned Godly wisdom. And he can make guitar scream one minute and preach the paint off the wall the next.
    As far as the original Jesus People movement — while I don’t know a whole lot about it — I would hesitate to blame them too much for the current evangelical circus. I see more influence from the corporate world and entertainment industries and from pop culture in general. I’d be much more prone to blame Jim Baker and his televangelist ilk. Once Christians saw the Christian version of Sony and Cher, it wasn’t long before churches were transforming their liturgy into variety shows.

    • Radagast says:

      So were there people dropping acid and doing peyote too?

      • With as many as 25,000 people in attendance during Cornerstone’s heyday — more than half of them teenagers — I have no doubt that some of that took place in the shadows. But I never even saw a joint being fired up or a beer being guzzled in the eight or nine years I attended the festival. Festival security was pretty tight, and, even more than that, there was just a general atmosphere of peace and Godliness. Over the years I met numerous non-Christians who were regular Cornerstone attendees, and many of them said they came because they could enjoy the music without all the drunken, drug-addled foolishness you find at secular music festivals.
        For me, Cornerstone was a place of peace and freedom and spiritual renewal, where I could shed all the people-pleasing pressure and just be myself with thousands of fellow freaks in Christ. I sorely miss it.

        • slug, you have it nailed just right! That is the same experience I had during the early 70’s and have not seen since. Today church people will hammer on you about reformed theology as the only truth or use any other difference to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd. Being “in Christ” has taken a back seat to doctrinal r rectitude.

  13. melissatheragamuffin says:

    I was born in the 70s and I remember the Jesus People. They have a community in Chicago that exists to this day.

    Shane Claiborne would probably be a good example of a modern day Jesus People type person.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      I actually think of Shane somewhat differently, mostly because he has very clear ideas (“agenda”, even) and rules. He has a purpose, while many of the Jesus People did not.