Christianity-based fringe movements began to take root in America throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and they eventually extended to other parts of the world before subsiding in the late 1980s. The Jesus movement was built upon a passionate faith that focuses on the human relationship with Jesus and the efforts of profoundly following Jesus in every aspect of life. With evangelical Christianity, the young followers underwent a revolution in a significant part of the world, and many individuals began turning to religion as a means of relief from their suffering and drug addictions.
Based on Greg Laurie’s novel of the same name, John Erwin and Brent McCorkle debuted their recent film “Jesus Revolution,” which centers on the renowned ‘Jesus Revolution’ from the 1970s and focuses on real-life individuals who played a significant role in bringing the faith to a community of ignorant young hippies who often wallowed in the darkness of an impulsive lifestyle. However, as the movement gains momentum, a number of character flaws come to light within the preachers, which ultimately leads to their downfall. Some of them were initially skeptics but subsequently came to believe in Jesus. Others actively participated in evangelism, but later weaknesses in their faith became apparent. To have a better understanding, let’s construct a thin distinction between these fictional characters and their real-life counterparts.
American pastor Chuck Smith associated with evangelist Lonnie Frisbee in the late 1960s. Frisbee was openly into hippie culture and emphasized having a personal connection with God or the holy spirit. Chuck and Lonnie started a faith-based community and used the gospel to reach out to the teenage generation of the late 1960s. When Smith formed Calvary Chapel in 1965, it had just 25 members. In 1968, with Lonnie Frisbee by his side, Calvary Chapel grew to be a sizable organization with plenty of “Jesus People” in it. Particularly, the hippies and young people began flocking to the church, fascinated by Lonnie and Smith’s sermons.
At the time, contemporary Christian music evolved and had a significant impact on the movement. The Chapel served as a multicultural missionary organization that enabled all age groups to come together and to cross their generational barriers. Pastor Smith had a significant role in the mentoring of several people who went on to become well-known pastors and figures in the Jesus movement. Among them, Mike Macintosh, Greg Laurie, and several others were prominent. Greg Laurie, however, started the Jesus revolution at a very young age. He was on the verge of atheism when he suddenly discovered a road back to religion, which reversed his drug addiction and intoxication.
Later, in 1973, he was given the chance to head up a bible study at a Californian church. With the group’s growing participation, Laurie established the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, with him serving as the senior pastor. However, as the movement gained popularity and more people were drawn to it, pastors began endorsing ardent faith in miracles, wonders, healing, prayer, and bible study. One of them, Lonnie Frisbee, a self-styled prophet, rose to fame for his healings and miracles thanks to his alluring preaching style and resemblance to Jesus. Calvary Chapel became a haven for the Jesus people owing to Lonnie’s ministry, where a large number of people congregated. But Lonnie Frisbee’s idealistic pursuits fell short, and he was forced to succumb to trivial diversions. His health significantly deteriorated once he started misusing drugs. Even more, questions were raised about his sexual orientation. Later, his closeted homosexuality began to be made known, and he was fired from the Chapel for hiding the truth about his sexuality. As a result, his marriage fell apart with his wife, Connie. Eventually, Lonnie Frisbee passed away at the age of 44 from AIDS. At his funeral, Chuck Smith eulogized him, referring to him as his spiritual son.
The reality about how Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith built the Chapel and attracted a sizable number of people is also depicted in the 2023 movie “Jesus Revolution,” although the film avoided explicitly focusing on Lonnie or identifying the reasons for his downfall. Rather, the film shows Greg Laurie as the protagonist, who generally didn’t get derailed from his course, and, with his eternal companion, Cathe Laurie, he continued his golden years, teaching the Bible and the holy messages of Jesus to inspire the youth. However, the film focuses on the fictional retelling of historical facts that may or may not have happened in real life.
The movie makes many dramatic and fictitious claims about the Jesus Movement without adhering to the historical facts surrounding it. The conflict between Lonnie and Chuck hasn’t been sufficiently underlined for the audience to see the contradictions in Lonnie’s beliefs. The movie comes across as a little bit more sanctimonious while at the same time failing to show the relationship between spirituality and humanity very well. It seems as though the movie touched on every subject without going into enough detail to give viewers a thorough understanding of historical events.
It can be debated whether or not people should have blind trust in healing and miracles, but it’s best to put it this way and say that people tend to hold onto beliefs that provide them with mental comfort. And if the hippies were able to quit using drugs by turning to their religion and spirituality, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the movement barely lasted a decade before it lost momentum. As the number of organizations and committees started to decline in the late 1980s, it gradually faded. However, the Jesus movement has had a significant impact on Christian music, culture, and religion, all of which continue to draw many people to the way of Jesus.