The Jesus Revolution

The Jesus Revolution is a movie about a Christian revival in Southern California. The movement became a phenomenon attracting the notice of even Time Magazine. The movie focuses on three key figures; Pastor Chuck Smith, Lonnie Frisbee, and Greg Laurie.

Using my official rating scale I’m putting this movie at Fantastic.

The trouble with historical movies is they are never accurate. The idea behind them isn’t necessarily to tell you exactly what happened, but rather to give you the flavor of what happened and hit some highlights. All historical movies use creative license, but the question is, do they use this license to enhance the story, or rewrite history. I haven’t done a lot of digging to know how accurate this story is to history, but from a storytelling perspective there is a lot here to appreciate.

The characters are real people. This is not one of those cookie cutter Christian movies from the 90’s and early 2000’s. This movie builds on the foundation laid by the Kendrick Brothers. They don’t stop the story to make a theological point. They don’t turn characters into caricatures. The key figures are fleshed out so you get a real sense of who they are and what they are trying to achieve.

The evil is subtle and yet evil. What I mean by that is take the scene with the concert featuring Janis Joplin and Timothy Leary. Janis sings and puts on a fantastic performance. Leary comes out and delivers what I would call the anti-sermon. He is congenial, mesmerizing, but not with a twinkle or devilish grin. He’s simply a charismatic man encouraging the attendees to free their minds from the worries of this world. How? Through psychedelic drugs. He holds out his arms like he’s giving a blessing and then a plane flies over dropping packets of LSD. The crowd snatches them up and a drug induced stupor ensues. Leary is evil. He didn’t offer hope. He led many to their deaths.

The good is flawed. Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie and Lonnie Frisbee all wanted people to know Jesus. They wanted people to understand salvation and how Jesus takes away our sin and brings peace, joy, and eternal life. Smith couldn’t see past his conservatism and needed Lonnie to shake him up. Lonnie fell victim to his own success and needed Smith to humble him. Laurie was an angsty teenager trying to figure things out, failing, giving up, but in humility, getting back on his feet.

The theology is personal. There isn’t a lot, well, almost no theology, per se, in this movie. It’s not a Bible study, but rather a peek into the lives of the people who were there at the beginning of this revival. I have to admit, I don’t care for the “accept Jesus into your heart” statements at the baptisms, but at the same time I understand. When we’re young in our faith we don’t know how to express it and so we say what naturally comes to mind. God knows if the conversions were real, and God blesses those who preach the Gospel.

This is my main take away from the movie. We need a revival in this country. We’ve always needed revival. We took God for granted for too long (we needed revival then) and now, as a nation, we’re rapidly losing our grip on reality (we need revival now). If we could come together and bring the Gospel to people, not giving up doctrine, but also not letting it get in the way of Jesus. All I mean by that is, give people Jesus and let them grow.

Perhaps we worry too much about what people believe from the very beginning of faith. In reality, we should give them Jesus and let them grow and guide them along the way. Trying to push too much too soon can stunt growth.

Back to the movie.

Jesus Revolution doesn’t go into Lonnie’s personal life before he knew Jesus and the time when he fell back into sin. What I mean by that is all Christians sin, but there are times when we give up a life of repentance to wallow in our sin. This is where Lonnie ended up. As Christians, what do we do with this?

Lonnie knew the Gospel. He preached the Gospel and in the movie calls sinners to repentance. Even if he fell away and never returned, he did a great deal of good. More, probably, than many Christians who don’t fall away. Rather than focus on “What Lonnie Did” let’s put our hope in Christ’s ability to save.

The Jesus Revolution faded out as all revivals do because the enemy doesn’t want them to continue and we so easily succumb to a non-confrontational life. Let’s fight the enemy and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie continued to spread the Gospel. We can, too.






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