Jesus People

by Elias Blum


This is an absolutely fascinating film. It provides a glimpse into a social and religious movement that stood at a turning point of American (and, by extension, world) history.

Ever since I read Alan Geyer’s ‘Ideology in America’ I’ve been interested in what he calls the ‘great reaction’, the politico-religious upheaval of American society in the 1970s that popularised ‘new conservatism’, rejected the social changes of the 1960s, and turned the Woodstock generation into eager Reaganites.

Besides being sociologically interesting, this film is personally poignant. There were a few scenes that almost moved me to tears, especially the beach baptism scene.  It makes me remember, with much fondness and nostalgic longing, similar experiences in my own life.  I know something of what these people must have felt – what a buzz and a joy and a release it is, how beautiful and powerful it seems, how overwhelming is the sense of being found and grounded in a movement with a great, holy and transformative purpose.

Most of all, it still makes me wish we could turn the world upside down and rebuild it out of peace, love and freedom.

I think that is what these ‘Jesus people’ were aiming at. They found in the Sermon on the Mount a better expression of their ‘hippy values’ than they ever found in the false allure of drugs. But what happened? A decade later, most of these folks went on to join the Republican Party’s ‘white evangelical base’, become sales executives or PR managers or advertising brokers, and bring up their kids as the MTV generation. Instead of changing the world by challenging its systemic injustices, they just found a place within it.

Maybe I am just disturbed by the lost opportunity. The religion of Christianity has little left to offer, but we need a ‘Jesus movement’ – a progressive, creative, community to be salt and light, to heal and transform the world – as much as ever.


PS. The song at 30 – 31 mins is beautiful, too. That should be dug up and reused.