The other day I came across a movie trailer for the film “The Jesus Revolution.” A flood of memories reawakened in me and as I watched the trailer and the special feature about making it, I had the feeling that a missing key in my spiritual search was rediscovered. This may be strange to some but to others they will understand. Let me give my recollection of those times and my thoughts about the movement and how it affected me.
The Jesus Movement grew out of the Sixties revolution which produced the Hippy movement. The Hippy movement wasn’t just about sex, drugs or flowers but it had more to do with a spiritual search for meaning and purpose. The movement split into two branches, one the original Hippies and the other the “Jesus Movement.” Eventually these branches would become the New Age movement and the Christian Charismatic movement. The Jesus movement offered a unique opportunity for the main line churches but many of them dropped the ball because they couldn’t think outside the box. The Catholic church totally dropped the ball and became extremely silly in the 1970’s and 1980’s with felt banners, dippy songs, clown Masses and wishy-washy priests. The Catholic leaders both ecclesial and lay were not in touch with the “earthiness” and the gravity of the Jesus Movement. They didn’t understand the sincere depth of the spiritual search of the young people of the time and what they were looking for and they still don’t today. They missed the boat completely. The only worthwhile movement to come out of the Jesus Movement in the Catholic church is the Charismatic Renewal Movement.
The Jesus Movement was a radical call to live the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. It was a call to follow Jesus the Teacher who walked the talk. Who was robust, radical and bold. Who was unconditional love in the flesh. It focused more on the human Jesus, the Jesus who laughed, wept and shared life with his friends and disciples.
I was 17 years old when the Time magazine for June, 21 1971 came out with a psychedelic portrait of Jesus and the title “The Jesus Revolution”. I read this article and something was set on fire deep within me. Not to long afterwards I bought the LP album “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the fire within me was flamed into a roaring blaze. I was a Catholic boy who went through Catholic school and heard all the bible stories about Jesus and my image of Jesus at this time was of a kind and gentle man, somewhat feminine who carried lambs and walked on water and who was very far away someplace else. Suddenly with this article and Jesus Christ Superstar I was presented with a Jesus who was kind and gentle but who also was bold, radical and masculine. He was a Jesus who called us to walk the talk and to live the Beatitudes. This excited my imagination and I wanted to know more so I began a search to find this Jesus. Were to look though? I didn’t really know anyone involved with the Jesus movement. But his name was on the lips of everyone I knew. My friends Ken and Jerry and I would have long discussions about Jesus, God and religion. I remember walking home late at night after our discussions contemplating what we talked about but still no closer to finding this Jesus. He alluded me.
I remember one rainy night being tormented with this question, “who is Jesus” and I fell on my knees and asked God to help me. Finally, I went for a walk in the rain and as I walked, I thought, “I’ll go to the rectory and ask the priest to help me.” When I rang the doorbell, I hoped that Fr. Sumter would answer the door. He was an awesome priest in his late twenties. He wore John Lennon glasses and had a fu Manchu mustache. He was really cool. I stood there in the rain and when the door opened it was him. In my desperation I told him what was troubling me. I needed to find out who Jesus is. I didn’t know Jesus and I desperately needed help to know him. I stood there wet and he looked at me and said, “just a minute” and left and in a few minutes, he returned and handed me a book and said, “read this.” He wished me a good night and closed the door. I stood in the dark, in the pouring rain stunned thinking, “is that it!” I was hoping he would talk to me but he just gave me a book that turned out to be a catechism book and a poor one at that. This cool and awesome priest let me down, what was I to do now? (I found out a few years later that he left the priesthood soon after that night. So apparently, he was having doubts too.) I began to read the gospels in secret because at that time reading the bible was forbidden for a Catholic. It might drive you insane.
But I sought Jesus everywhere I could. At coffee houses, in rock music, in “rap sessions” (this was intense discussions on various topics, mostly religious in our case and nothing to do with the modern music), sitting on the banks of Lake St. Clair, even sitting in my apple tree, anyplace either with people or by myself. At our parish Youth Center, I created a meditation room and I painted two murals on the walls, one from a King Crimson album and the other a collage of themes from the music of the Beetles. But center place I had a little table with a bible opened upon it and a candle. By the time I turned 19 years old though I became disillusioned and nearly stopped looking.
That rainy night on my parish priest’s porch I began a search for the Truth. When I was 24, I met a fellow named Nathan at a toolmaking shop I was working at. He was a Baptist guy who reawakened my search for Jesus. This led me out of the Catholic church and eventually to a non-denominational church called “The Fisherman’s Net.” There I met many people who were active in the Jesus Movement in its early years and I learned allot from them. A few years later in the mid 1980’s I returned to the Catholic church but I had changed. In the early 1990’s I went through a divorce, became a Secular Franciscan and later joined a community affiliated with John Michael Talbot and his ministry. Many of the people in this community were also active early on in the Jesus Movement. But my search for Jesus took an unexpected turn when I began to study Tai Chi and Eastern philosophy and it was here that Jesus stepped forward and said, “come follow me” and I began to walk the path with him and he showed me how to think outside the box and to breathe fresh air into my lungs and most of all he taught me how to be human. Recently, since my retirement I’ve become a bit lost as though something has been missing in my life. Seeing the trailer to this movie, as I wrote above, has given me the feeling that a missing key in my spiritual life has been rediscovered.
The Jesus Movement stalled and splintered in the 1980’s but maybe the Holy Spirit is once again on the move and will set the world on fire. Maybe this film will be the torch to do so.
This movie, “The Jesus Revolution” is being released in theaters on February 24th. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully it will do what the creators wish it will do, ignite the hearts of people to follow Jesus. We so need this in our world today.
(Note; the author of this article is not receiving any financial commission from the film makers.)