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Jesus Revolution
Is the Hippie Revolution in Religion

Film review of Jesus Revolution
(2023 movie  directed by Jon Erwin & Brent McCorkie)
Christina Herath

Based on real people & the movement of the 1960s that swept the California scene

Released this year (2023), Jesus Revolution is a drama film about the real life “Jesus freak” movement, portrayed through the eyes of three individuals who took part in the movement of the late '60s and early '70s, which was primarily based in California. This “Jesus movement” blended the lifestyle and free-love spirit of the hippie counterculture with evangelicalism. With its “do what feels good” code that rejects authentic Dogmatics and Morals, it was a hippie form of “born-again Christianity” that really has nothing to do with Christianity .

These events, by the way, took place at a time when the Catholic Church was beginning to suffer from the lamentable consequences of Vatican II, when the Church opened her doors to the modern world, which was trampling the norms of a once Christian society.

First, there is “pastor” Chuck Smith, a stiff-necked preacher who faces dwindling numbers in his protestant temple. Very soon in the movie, he meets Lonnie Frisbee, a wandering hippie preacher who encourages Chuck to open his dying Calvary Chapel to Lonnie’s “people,” that is, the hippie youth. He agrees, and the hippies enter with their first Christian rock music and the first hippy "evangelical mega-church" found its start. This is based on the true story of what happened in California in the 1960s.

Then there is the confused teenager Greg Laurie from a broken family, who finds his “place” in the hippie culture and Calvary Church with his girlfriend, who both find the “truth” for which they were searching in this free-love culture of Jesus.

Of course, the fairy tale turns sour. At the end of the film, hippie Lonnie – filled with pride over his healing powers – is forced to leave after he and pastor Chuck’s relationship turns sour. Chuck replaces him with Greg and buys the latter his own church so that he too can become an evangelical hippy pastor.

Purpose of the film

Now, it must be mentioned that this film is much more than a protestant film.

Pastor Chuck preching to hippies

The real pastor Chuck preaching the love movement free of all restraints to hippies in California

It is a justification of the Hippie Revolution in religion, the Jesus Revolution which made a new evangelical “religion” for Protestants – and also Catholics, sad to say – based on feeling, emotions, love and the newly emerging rock and blue jean culture. It was the end of an era, a once Christian era, and the beginning of the new era, the New Age of freedom, drugs and rock music.

The film Jesus Revolution celebrates this Revolution in the religious sphere and invites viewers to sympathize with what we should firmly reject.

Endorsement of hippie culture

At the start of the movie, we are introduced to the young “hippies” who, as the news reporter explains, are in a movement that rebels against the “materialistic” old fashioned society. Watching these immodestly dressed hippies dancing to rock music like drunkards on TV, protestant “minister” Chuck Smith and his wife look on with disgust. But their daughter, Jeanette, reminds them that all these hippies want is “peace and love. Isn’t that the same thing you want?”

jesus movement

Hippie Lonnie counsels pastor Chuck to open the doors of his Calvary Church

At first opposed to this new movement, “pastor” Chuck changes his attitude after he meets hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee and his “Jesus Freaks.” Lonnie is played by Jonathan Roumie, the actor in the blasphemous Chosen series, who calls himself a Catholic. The real Lonnie Frisbee of the '70s “Jesus movement” was a closeted homosexual in his personal life. Later on, he was excommunicated by his denomination for his sex life.

Getting back to the movie, Lonnie and "pastor" Chuck later converse as the pastor’s daughter looks on with joy. At one point Lonnie says: "The drugs – it’s a quest... for God!”

According to his way of thinking, then, all the other vices and bad habits could be a “quest for God”: drunkenness, promiscuity, homosexuality, the list is extensive. In fact, Lonnie and pastor Chuck, preaching tolerance and free love, eventually set up a commune, first in his yard, later in a house, then a hotel, and finally, in real life, in a “tent city.”

jesus revolution


Pastor Chuck opens his home & church to the hippies, presented as good but misunderstood ‘kids,’ below, he washes their feet as they enter his church

washing feet jesus revolution
There is the vividly symbolic scene, when "pastor" Chuck welcomes and opens his "church" to the first bedraggled group of hippies and invites anyone from the “old era” to leave. A few do – they are presented as stiff and fake persons. But the rest stay and join the Jesus Revolution. Instead of trying to convert these hippies to the good morals, clean clothing and good customs of Christian Civilization, the newly invigorated old folks are ready to give that all up and join the casual counterculture.

And so, we have the start of the charismatic movement that has swept through not only the protestant institutions but also the Catholic Church. Sadly, today almost everyone is following this new spirit that led to the guitar and beach masses, the constant hugging and peace sign, and, of course, Christian rock music. As Lonnie explains to Greg when he invites him to join the Jesus Revolution: “We love each other freely and without discrimination. No façdes, no lies, just a relentless search for the truth. You define God the best you can. Turn on, tune in and drop out… be reborn.”

Later on, in a blasphemous scene, we see a long line of hippies waiting to enter Chuck’s building of “worship” as he washes the dirty feet of each person at the door. To one he says: “I baptize these feet in the Name of...”, using the same formula the True Church uses when baptizing individuals. It is a desecration of the Sacrament of Baptism. But the viewer is supposed to believe that Chuck is the good guy saving hippies!

A new hippie religion

It must also be noted that the producers of the movie made sure they did not leave out the protestant denial of the Holy Eucharist truly being Our Lord’s Body and Blood. At one point when Smith is preaching to his congregation, he states that Our Lord took a cup and said that the cup “represents” His Blood. Very subtle, but still grievously heretical.


Lonnie lays hands on people & ‘heals’ them

The charismatic style of everyone laying hands on one another and praying, the constant habit of feelings over reason, the clapping and cheering during immersion baptisms - all these things would program the mind of the modern-day Catholic youth to accept the protestant reforms of Vatican II as good.

At another point in the movie, Lonnie begins to randomly “heal” persons whom he senses have some trouble. This simply teaches the viewers the lie that God performs miracles in heretical and schismatic sects. There is a spirit moving in these “healings,” but it is not the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, it must be mentioned that there was no mention of real virtue or sanctity in the entire film – just a feel-good Protestantism mixed with some revolutionary principles. Although the movie makes the charismatic evangelical services look like what we usually expect, with a band singing some happy music and then emotional preaching, an online article declared that the real Lonnie Frisbee’s services were typically more similar to rock concerts than any other worship services of that time.

rock festival

The real services, above, were more like rock concerts; below, the Love Song band, which performed for Chuck

Love Song band 

Furthermore, the “Jesus revolution” people are presented as rejecting drugs and only following the “love one another” line. This is untrue. These people were also dirty, smoking marijuana at the least and usually taking psychedelics as well; they embraced free love and disdained any authority that did not fully accept their perverse ways.

So it is a false, utopic portrayal of the “Jesus Revolution” – sadly, one that has ended with our present generation, riddled with anxieties, personality disorders and confusion. This is the fruit of the “Jesus Revolution” which the movie ignores.

The “Jesus movement” is presented as a kind of evolution of religion. Out of the stuffy hierarchical Church and its structures, into the streets and "getting dirty" with the people; it is the Francis church par excellence.

An ecumenical scene with a darker message

Our protagonist Greg is given an opportunity to speak at a Catholic Church and a priest, Fr. Malone, introduces him to the youth in the pews. Since Fr. Malone is too old and jaded to reach the youth, he allows protestant Greg to lead this “youth service”, and he wins them over better than the Catholic priest himself!

Chuck batzing in California

The real Chuck & Lonnie baptizing hippies
at Pirate's Cove in California

Here is the message for its Catholic audience: “See, if the Catholic Church had not opened their doors to the modern world, it would have died. This is part of the evolution of religion that had to happen to bring liberty and love.” This is false. Had the Church remained firm in her Doctrine and Morals, there would have been a resistance to these enveloping “waves of the spirit” that flowed over the people and drew them to the Jesus Revolution.

The movie ends claiming that historians consider the “Jesus movement” to be the greatest spiritual awakening in America. In reality it was the beginning of the end of what was left of a Christian society, a new stage of the Revolution, one that accomplished the almost-complete destruction of sound doctrine, good customs and dignified behavior. The Revolution seeped into the Catholic Church as well and everything slid downhill at a faster and faster rate.

It would be good to watch this movie only with a critical eye, as a means to understand the hippie and cultural revolution of the 1960s. But one should be very careful not to be lured in by its attempt to legitimize the hippie evangelicalism that paraded under the name of “Jesus movement.” Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly was not present in this revolution.

hippie Jesus rock

The Jesus movement introduced ‘Christian rock’


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted January 20, 2023
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