Christian history flashback: What’s the legacy of the Jesus Movement 45 years later?


[Referring to Time magazine's 1971 cover story on the youthful "Jesus Revolution"]  A lot has happened since then -- culturally, religiously, movement-wise -- and I’d be fascinated to see you revisit your journalistic and theological mind.


This interests Josh because his parents were members of Love Inn, which typified the youth-driven “Jesus Movement” of those days. It was a combination church, commune, Christian rock venue and traveling troupe, based in a barn near the aptly named Freeville, New York (population 500).

As a “Time” correspondent, the Religion Guy figured this revival, which was hiding in plain sight, was well worth a cover story, managed to convince reluctant editors to proceed, and did much of the field reporting including a visit to Love Inn. Arguably, that article -- by the Guy’s talented predecessor as “Time” religion writer, lay Catholic Mayo Mohs -- put the “Jesus freaks” permanently on the cultural map.

The following can only sketch mere strands of a complex phenomenon and offers as much theorizing as hard fact. For some of the history, the Guy is indebted to the valuable “Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism” by Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College.

Quick summary: The Jesus Movement developed pre-existing phenomena into a youth wing that energized and reshaped U.S. evangelical Protestantism as a whole. This occurred just as evangelicalism was clearly emerging as the largest segment of American religion while beginning in the mid-1960s moderate to liberal “mainline” Protestant groups began inexorable decline.

The Jesus Movement was related to and influenced by the “Charismatic Movement,” which first reached public notice around 1960. This wave took a loosened version of Pentecostal spirituality into “mainline” Protestant and Catholic settings and, especially, newer and wholly independent congregations, along with free-floating gatherings akin to the secular Woodstock (August, 1969).

Early “street Christians” clustered around hot spots such as the Living Room in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, the Christian World Liberation Front adjacent to the University of California at Berkeley, Seattle’s Jesus People Army, and His Place on the Sunset Strip (led by Arthur Blessitt who later evangelized his way across the nation pulling an outsize wheeled cross).

The first and foremost impact of the movement was upon the lives of individual teens and young adults who turned to robust Christian faith in those years. There’s no way of calculating the number of those affected by these scattered phenomena. Many were enabled to escape the bonds of substance abuse and other aspects of the youth culture’s underside. Some later popped up as ministers and lay leaders.

Love Inn is an example of a second aspect, a Jesus haven that eventually turned into a conventional congregation complete with a Christian school. Its founder in 1969 was “Scott” Ross, a noted rock D.J. who was “born again” in an era of drug-related deaths and other tragedies. One early Love Inn participant was star guitarist Phil Keaggy, one of many Christian rock and pop artists who were emerging.

The third result was groups that grew into megachurches.

Continue reading "What’s the Jesus Movement’s impact 45 years later?", by Richard Ostling.

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