Jesus People Movement

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Time Period
1967
Description
The Jesus People Movement, or just Jesus Movement, is a resurgence of evangelical Christianity arising out of the social turmoil and counterculture of the late 1960s. Disillusioned by the drug and "hippie" counterculture to produce lasting satisfaction, Jesus People turned to conservative forms of Christianity for fulfillment and salvation. The movement quickly spawned its own institutions such as communes, music festivals, new forms of music, marches, and coffeehouses.

The symbol of the movement became the "One Way" sign, a clinched hand with an extended index finger to represent Jesus as the "one way" to salvation. The "One Way" sign became prominent on Jesus People book covers. Famous celebrities, like President Jimmy Carter and Johnny Cash, also flashed the symbol at the movement’s massive 1972 rally in Dallas.

The movement fizzled out over time, but it influenced numerous "modern" churches (e.g., Calvary Chapel), other religious movements, and the modern Christian music industry.
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Narrative
The Jesus People Movement, or just Jesus Movement, is a resurgence of evangelical Christianity arising out of the social turmoil and counterculture of the late 1960s. First glimpses of this new revival came in the 1960s as some, disillusioned by the failure of the drug and occult counterculture to produce lasting satisfaction, turned to conservative forms of Christianity for fulfillment and salvation. The movement was not confined to the United States, although it often was associated with California in its early years. While many participants came from backgrounds like ex-drug users or hippies, which offered an intriguing public face to the movement, much of the movement came from teenagers with mainline or evangelical church backgrounds who, as stated by David Di Sabatino (The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource), adopted a "spiritual hippie chic as a middle ground" between the more radical counterculture and the cautiousness of their home church’s traditionalism. The movement quickly spawned its own institutions such as communes, music festivals, new forms of music, marches and coffeehouses.

Its name was no accident in that the Jesus Movement was a movement was deeply centered on Jesus Christ as the main dimension of relating to the divine as contrasted with an emphasis upon God the Father or the Holy Spirit. The centrality of Jesus to the piety of the movement and its participants could be seen in several ways. One was the ubiquitous "One Way" (i.e., Jesus is the one way to God, salvation and heaven; see John 14:6) hand sign in which a believer raised a clinched hand with index finger extended. By the early 1970s, at least, this sign had become a significant way for one to identify with the movement as seen in the massive rally, Explo ’72, held in Dallas in June 1972. The sign was a central feature in the background display behind the rally’s concert stage along with other Jesus-related slogans. Everyone there seemed flash the sign -- from famous musicians (Johnny Cash) to famous speakers (Billy Graham) and rank-and-file attendees, some of whom went the extra step of making larger-than-life models to display. Similarly, the 1971 book by Duane Pederson, a significant early Jesus Movement leader, has this sign on its front cover. This public expression of Jesus’ centrality was true across the movement, even though many Jesus People were involved in Pentecostal or Charismatic spiritualities that emphasized experiences with the Holy Spirit.

Another window into this Jesus-centered piety could be seen in the lyrics of the songs the movement produced, especially the worship songs that became popular. Few such songs mentioned God the Father or the Holy Spirit by name. Instead the clear trend in the songs was to worship Jesus Christ explicitly or to worship deity by other biblical names like Lord, God or King. Not surprisingly, the songs that reflected on a divine name for liturgical devotion were songs that dwelt on the name of Jesus. The songs also tended to emphasize Jesus as the main actor in the drama of salvation. By these aspects, the movement’s songs reflected a recurring aspect of the spirituality of popular American evangelicalism in which an emphasis upon personal salvation leads to a piety fascinated by the Savior, Jesus.

Although few would still identify with the movement, it has left a substantial impact through new forms of worship that are band-based in instrumentation, popular music-based with respect to the songs and informal and folksy in tone. Several new denominations, like Calvary Chapel and the Association of Vineyard Churches, have their roots in the Jesus Movement.

Resources

Di Sabatino, David. 1999. The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Photographs

Jesus People demonstration- photo courtesy The Hollywood Free Paper, www.hollywoodfreepaper.org (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Jesus people at a coffee house- Hathi Trust- from Soldiers v. 26 (1971)

March in Sacramento- photo courtesy The Hollywood Free Paper, www.hollywoodfreepaper.org (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Love Family musicians in Seattle- Flickr- photo by Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)

Jesus Army March- Flickr- photo by Robert Croma (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Lester Ruth

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