Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Fourth Great Awakening - The Jesus Movement

The Fourth Great Awakening is a religious phenomenon that some scholars, notably economic historian Robert Fogel, argue took place in the United State in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It should be noted that this terminology is controversial as many historians believe that the religious changes that took place during these years in the U.S. were not part of an "awakening", to be understood like the first three awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted.

Call it what you will, it happened. I was there and I was a part of it.

Some religious groups which grew or were created during this period were Christian, though quite different from other Christian denominations. Christianity saw a great deal of change during this period, particularly new forms of Evangelical Christianity which emphasized a "Personal Relationship with Jesus" and formed into a number of newly styled "non-denominational" churches and "community faith centers."

The Fourth Great Awakening also saw the rise of nontraditional churches with conservative theology such as mega-churches and a growth of para-church organizations During these years, mainline Protestantism lost many members, due to the fact that people suddenly realized there was so much more to Christianity than going to church every Sunday and hearing the same boring sermon. This new found fervor expressed as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ awakened new life in the souls of those that embraced it and grew in their Christian walk.

The Jesus movement was the major Christian element within the hippie counterculture, or, conversely, the major hippie element within the Body of Christ. Members of the movement are called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks. The movement arose on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and spread primarily through North America and Europe, before dying out by the early 1980s. The Jesus movement left a legacy of various churches and other Christian organizations, an impact on the development of the contemporary Christian left, and Jesus music, which greatly influenced contemporary Christian music. The Jesus Movement was in essence Jesus Moving across the United States and across the world.

The terms Jesus movement and Jesus people were coined by Duane Pederson in his writings for the Hollywood Free Paper. The term Jesus freak was originally a pejorative label imposed on the group by non-Christian hippies, but members of the Jesus movement reclaimed the phrase as a positive self-identifier.

Though still a part of the broader hippie movement, the Jesus movement was partly a reaction against the counterculture from which it originated. Some people became disenchanted with the status quo and became hippies. Later, some of these people became disenchanted with the hippie lifestyle and became Jesus people. However, the Jesus movement kept many of the mannerisms and styles of the hippies, but changed the cultural content to reflect their newfound Christian faith. For example, the Jesus people gave hippie slang a Christian spin: "free love", instead of designating a rejection of traditional morality regarding sex, became the free (agape) love of God and people; phrases like "One Way" supplanted the focus on the individual with a focus on God, and; "Just Drop Jesus" replaced "dropping" acid.

The Jesus movement was restorationist in theology, seeking to return to the original life of the early Christians. As a result, Jesus people often viewed mainline denominations, especially those in the United States, as apostate, and took a decidedly anti-American political stance in general. The theology of the Jesus movement also called for a return to asceticism. Also, the Jesus people had a strong belief in miracles, signs and wonders, faith healing, spiritual possession and exorcism. The movement tended towards strong evangelism and millennialism. The group's theology rejected the excluded middle. What they lacked in theological depth, Jesus people 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 by those within the movement 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. Though there were some groups, such as the Calvary Chapel movement, which did not live in communes, these remained more on the fringes of the Jesus 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.

There has been a long legacy of Christian music connected to the Jesus movement. Jesus music, also known as gospel beat music in the UK, primarily began when some hippie and street musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s converted to Christianity. They continued to play the same style of music they had played previously, but began to write lyrics with a Christian message. Many music groups developed out of this, and some became leaders within the Jesus movement, most notably Larry Norman, Barry McGuire, Love Song, Second Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill Randy Matthews, AndraƩ Crouch (and the Disciples), and later Keith Green. The Joyful Noise Band traveled with a Christian community throughout the U.S. & Europe, performing in festivals held underneath giant tents. In the UK, Malcolm and Alwyn were the most notable agents of the gospel beat.

Perhaps the height of the Jesus movement was in the week-long gathering in Dallas, Texas known as Explo '72, which brought the hippies of the Jesus movement together with young people from traditional, Christian families and churches.

The Jesus Movement declined towards the end of the 1970's. By the early 1980s, the Jesus movement had, for the most part, died out. Its influence persists, however, in the alternative Christian music industry, Calvary Chapels, and JPUSA (Jesus People USA), all of which found ways to stay relevant in a rapidly changing culture. Christian writer Maynard Pittendreigh made the observation that most of those in the Jesus movement moved as individuals into different churches. Some moved into the Calvery Chapels with its emphasis on charismatic theology, less traditional worship and contemporary music, while others moved into very traditional and liturgical churches.

The Jesus Movement spawned other changes within traditional Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was an outgrowth of the Jesus Movement. It blossomed not only in Protestant groups but in Roman Catholic groups as well. Evangelistic organisations such as Billy Graham’s Crusade and David Wilkerson Ministry became focal points of the Jesus Movement. The fervor resulted in the growth of religious schools such as Oral Roberts University and Liberty Bible College. As the young Jesus People matured they filtered into mainstream society and churches. They raised families, they felt the need to be in the world, but not of the world. One outgrowth that we see today is the Home School Movement. The values the Jesus People still embrace cause them to shield their children not just from the perils of peer pressure and associated vices, but what these Christian parents perceive as public instruction that is not congruant with the teachings of the Bible.

In hindsight we see that these Four Great Awakenings have left their mark in some way on American society and a spark of each is still kindling today.

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