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Jesus Movement

The Jesus Movement was composed of the Jesus People or Jesus Freaks. It arose spontaneously on the American West Coast in the 1960s and 1970s and spread throughout North America, and Europe. It was a portion of one of the periodic Awakenings[?] that occur in American history, in which the values of American society are radically altered.

The Jesus Movement was the Christian component of the Hippie Movement, and as such was a counter-counter cultural movement. Some became disenchanted with American life and became Hippies; later some Hippies became disenchanted with Hippie values and became Jesus Freaks. The term "Jesus Freak" was originally a pejorative label, but then taken on as a name by the Jesus People. They kept many of the mannerisms and style of the Hippies, but changed the content. Hence, free love became free love of God and people (see agape); phrases like "One Way" focused on God supplanted the focus on the individual; "Just Drop Jesus" replaced dropping acid.

Jesus People were known for great openness and honesty. They were primitivist in theology, seeking to return to the original life of the early Christians. They often therefore viewed the American church as apostate and took a decidedly anti-American stance in general. They called for a return to simplicity and Holy Poverty, and were against materialism. Jesus People had a strong belief in the miraculous, signs and wonders, healing, demonic possession and exorcism, and a rejection of the excluded middle. They tended to be strongly evangelistic and millennialistic. What they lacked in theological depth, they made up for in zeal for Christ and love of others. They strived for social justice and seemed to simply be in love with Jesus. Some of the most read books included Ron Sider[?]'s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger[?] and Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth[?].

Perhaps the most illustrative aspect of the Jesus Movement was its communal aspect. Most Jesus Freaks lived in communes. Although there were some like the Calvary Chapel[?] movement who did not, these remained more on the fringe of the movement. Within the commune the group became more important than the individual, and communal sharing of possessions was the norm. Some of these communes became highly authoritarian.

Unlike most Christian movements, there was no one coherent leader of the Jesus Movement. Some of the larger names included Lonnie Frisbee[?], who along with Chuck Smith started the Calvary Church movement. Most churches in the United States rejected the Jesus Freaks. Lonnie was the primary evangelist and responsible for the growth of the Calvary churches; Chuck Smith was one of the few pastors who welcomed the Jesus Freaks in, and thus allowed for the dramatic future growth of his denomination.

Another early leader was Linda Meissner[?], who formed the Jesus People Army[?] in Seattle. She later joined her group with the Children of God, not discovering until later the practices of that group. One of her disciples was Jim Palosaari, who along with his wife Sue started a number of Christian communes, discipleship[?] schools (to develop theological depth), and rock groups. One group toured through Europe, developing Christian music and drama; another eventually became JPUSA, Jesus People USA[?], the largest and most enduring of the Jesus People communes; another included the rock band Servant, the first Christian band with an extensive light show. Out of JPUSA came Cornerstone, the USA's largest Christian music festival; Jim Palosaari was one of the originators of Greenbelt in England, the largest Christian rock festival in the world.

Christian music, or Jesus Music, began as an industry within the Jesus Movement, as Jesus People seemed to enjoy singing whenever possible. Many music groups developed out of this, and some became leaders within the Jesus Movement, especially Keith Green. The music of the Jesus Movement eventually became the full-fledged industry of contemporary Christian music.

As the society changed, the Jesus Movement did not. It was primarily a reaction to a counter-cultural movement and as such, as the Hippie Movement died out, the Jesus Movement lost what it was reacting to. Jonestown, though not at all related to the Jesus Movement, also succeeded in scaring many away from the idea of communal living. By the early 1980s most of the Jesus Movement had died out, survived mostly by the music, Calvary Chapels, and JPUSA.

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