Sunday, September 9, 2012

The "Jesus Movement"


I’ve been reading about the “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It was directed at hippies.  There were some big evangelical pastors, like Orange County's own Chuck Smith, who spearheaded the effort to bring wayward youth counter-culture back into the fold of Christendom by presenting Christianity (probably the most conservative element of American culture) as a form of rebellion.  To me, this seems a dubious enterprise, which hijacked searching youth, directed their efforts away from social/political consciousness and toward traditional religion and morality.  Although, don't tell a "Jesus Freak" that his/her experience was "religious."  It was re-defined as a "relationship" with God.

The narrative that the Jesus Movement gave its followers was a very old “lost and found” story.  Hippies who were, admirably, questioning the social/cultural/political forces of their day were told that the end of their searching was to be found in Jesus.  Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, if their belief in Jesus allowed them to CONTINUE questioning the social/cultural/political forces of their day.  However, the effect of their salvation tended to be essentially conservatizing.  So-called “Jesus freaks” of my parents’ generation tended to develop a rather rigid and conservative morality and lifestyle, trading their long hair and Volkswagon bus for a house, children, perms, church potlucks, corporate or religious jobs, and Republican politics.  By the mid-1980s, lots of former hippies had been thoroughly tamed into the kind of people they were originally rebelling against, hence the weird cultural similarities between the 1950s and the1980s.  

A popular slogan of the Jesus Movement was "One Way" (i.e. accepting Jesus).

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