Long, Loud, and Underground: 


The Search for Value Within The Jesus Movement







HI 383 Topics in the History of Modern Christianity



Instructor: James Enns


April 04, 2009


Dan Renton



Word Count: 4284



           Corona del Mar is most arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in southern California. It is a beach that many seek for its leisure, sport and regeneration. However on this specific day, it was the site of something more profound. Waves gently collapsed into water saturated sand as surrounding cliffs began to fill with crowds of people. The mood is one of respect and anticipation.[1] Most people are dressed in tank tops, and shorts. Some are wearing sandals, others are in bare feet. They have come to declare their love for their God by mass baptism.

           This was the typical scene forty years ago for Calvary chapel, a small church located in Costa Mess, California. In a two year span Calvary Chapel boasted 8,000 baptisms and twenty thousand conversions to the Christian faith.[2] Calvary Chapel was just one of many churches that was benefiting from a movement that swept across the nation like wildfire during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.[3] Scenes like this one in California were becoming regular occurrences throughout North America. It was known as the Jesus People movement. 

           The Jesus People Movement was a surge of interest in the person of Jesus that took the nation by surprise. Jesus People were recognized by their emphasis on a transcended personal God who came to earth in the person of Jesus.[4] Some came from the hippie movement, others were raised in church. This movement became so popular that Variety and Billboard magazines predicted in 1971 sex and 60’s themes would be out and replaced by religion by the end of the decade.[5] It would mark the first time since 1920 that Christianity was considered culturally relevant.[6] It was a controversial movement because it legitimatized inappropriate cultural trends like long hair, beards, informality in dress, and rock music. [7] 

The Jesus movement had important consequences on Evangelicals and American society. For better or worse, the national impact of the movement cannot be ignored. It would be impossible not to study twentieth century church history and not discuss the Jesus People. To do so would result in an in accurate interpretation of American Christianity. The Jesus People were able to reach a specific sub culture that traditional evangelism could not convert through common means The effects of this movement force Christians to ask difficult questions.

            What was the value in this movement that was different from the value in more common expressions of Christianity? What did people see in this movement that they didn’t see in the common church? Through examining communes, underground papers, and music, this paper will demonstrate that its unique worth according to Jesus People was its emphasis on love.[8] Jesus People emphasized that God had a strong passionate affection for people. This emphasis on God’s affection led also led to a sense of deep affection and attachment to each other. To best understand this argument, it must be framed by a brief understanding of its roots and a clear definition of the movement.

Cultural Setting for the Jesus Movement

            The Jesus movement was a direct consequence of the hippie movement. It was a movement born in the mid 1960’s and they were known for establishing their own communities. The hippie movement was seen by some historians as a cultural trend that nearly brought the U.S.A into a national breakdown.[9]  It was the largest shift in cultural values American had seen and was cultivated by a period of uncertainty. The validity of the space race led many Americans to question the value of the American dream and the pursuit of materialism.[10] At the time Parents wanted to spare their children the agony they had known through events like the great depression.[11] As a result the advertizing industry placed a large emphasis on material goods.[12] However, the focus on materialism did not seem to bring securitity for youth. Despite their vast education and wealth youth lived in an era of uncertainty. Baby Boomers were in high school when Kennedy was murdered and they attended college when King was shot. Many watched as many of their friends went off to a controversial war.[13] 

In response to the uncertainty and dissatisfaction, the hippie movement was born. It was an ideology that communicated that it wanted more than its culture had to offer. It rejected the values of traditional Americans which also included church. Hippies were searching for freedom and spiritual truth.[14] A significant amount of teens left their homes to roam. Hollywood and the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco.[15] They left home in search for love and peace that the hippie movement offered. Many came from middle class homes in Iowa and Texas.[16] Haight-Asbury became the hub for the hippie 

largely because rent was cheap and a significant number of rock bands made their headquarters there. It was so popular that in songs where written about it, “ If you’re going down to San Francisco / be sure to put some flowers in your hair.”[17] Rock Music was seen as the common medium to commiucate hippie teachings. Hippies turned to drugs, sex, and the occult to find spiritual truth.[18] Hippies taught against the values of Western culture and withdrew from the “rate race.

           Drugs were seen as a tool to initiated spiritual quests. This in turn led to the practice of yoga and the participation of cults. [19] Hippies turned to drugs and eastern religions instead of church many reasons. Churches were seen as part of the Western institution. The church’s relation to American culture in part led to the rejection of Christianity.. Drugs and Eastern religions offered experience in spirituality and fellowship that many did not perceive in regular church.

           While not all churches were suffering, a vast majority of them experienced a sharp decline prior to and during the hippie movement. Protestant denominations such as the United Methods had lost thousands of members during this time and they were not alone.[20] Many churches were forced to make budget cutbacks and lay off staff.[21] Reasons for the decline included sermons that offered little spiritual help, and a sense of ritualism that made many church goes feel bored.[22]  

Many churches at this time suffered from a lack of genuine fellowship which is arguably the most effective way to communicate God’s love. Instead they were concerned with tradition and politics. These stood in the way of expressing God’s love through loving people. When people did not find these things they left traditional spirituality in search of spiritual practices that would give them love peace. Growing dissatisfaction with the church and American culture provided the premium environment for a counter cultural movement.

The Beginning of the Jesus movement.

           This environment contained the best conditions for a revival in Christianity to begin. The hippie movement was a search for spiritual freedom and the Jesus movement was seen as a popular answer to that search. People who did not find authentic fellowship or passion for God found it in the Jesus movement. It was within this cultural framework that Jesus movement began. 

           Primary sources make it difficult to determine the exact date this movement began. However the first most significant manifestation of this movement can be traced to California.[23] In 1967 a Christian coffeehouse opened as mission in the Haight Ashbury district.[24] It was used as means of evangelism. Eventually people from the converted to Christianity and started coffee houses, communes, and newspapers of their own.

            It largely originated as a gospel presented from former hippies to current hippies. As a result converts articulated their faith in sub cultural slang. This presented a clear simple message of who Jesus was without traditional Christian language. When it was presented in their language it made them feel as if Jesus was being presented without the religious baggage that led to its rejection.[25] Up until this point, Jesus and Christianity were seen as mundane and complicated.[26] Pat Boone, a witness to the movement said, “People were attracted to Jesus, not the institution.”[27] When this happened many hippies began to realize that everything they were looking for was found in Jesus. Converts like Barry Macquarie, explained it like this, “Everything wrong with world (and the answers to that) were found in Jesus.”[28]

           By the time the movement gained national attention, coffeehouses and communes were in fifty states and ten provinces.[29]  Christian singers of that era described it as a holy explosion and believed that it was God’s way of communicating that He cared for this generation.[30]

           Jesus people were recognized by four beliefs but the most fundamental two were the belief in a direct experience with Jesus and their emphasis on authentic community. This was unique to American Evangelism of its time. They also were recognized by a belief that they were living in the last days and practiced healings, tongues and other charismatic trends. [31]They were quick never to classify themselves as Pentecostal. Their zeal and their intentional love for people were the two most powerful traits that defined them as a movement. Their success at popularizing Jesus and loving people expressed itself through many forms that included communes, underground papers, and music.


           Next to coffeehouses, Christian communes were the earliest expressions of the Jesus movement. It was through communes that the movement’s unique value was first communicated. Christian communes varied in structure and philosophy but almost all were created for the express purpose of authentic community and intense study of the Bible.

           The earliest was a semi commune. It is connected with the beginnings of the Jesus movement. Arthur Blessit any early missionary to the California, established a ministry to youth on Los Angles’ sunset strip. The mission took form coffee house named His Place. It was described as a twenty-four hour home for wayward youth.[32] His Place provided a pragmatic venue for Blessit to communicate a direct relationship with Jesus. Blessit’s articulation of the gospel was seen to win the affections of youth.[33] His Place became less and less popular as more and more coffee houses and communes spread through California.[34]

           One of the more long lasting communes was called Mansion Messiah and was a created by Calvary Chapel. Chuck Smith, a prominent figure head in the Jesus People movement was leading Calvary Chapel. At first Chuck was repulsed by young people’s long hair and clothing.[35] In a television interview Chuck told that his attitude changed one night while he was complaining about hippies. He looked over and saw his wife weeping in prayer for them. His wife turned to him and told him that he needed to reach out to them. Chuck intentionally spread the gospel among teenagers. He and his wife invited new converts to stay at his home. Within a week twenty one new converts were residing in the Smith house hold.[36]

           Soon after, Mansion Messiah was created. It was a two story Christian commune.[37] It was never meant to be a permanent place of residence.[38] It was created because leaders at Calvary chapel desired to use it as an example of how Christians should live.[39] Jesus People came to the house to strengthen their faith and learn how to live in Christian fellowship. [40] Rules were strict and rigid. An enforced curfew existed as well as an expectation that rooms were tidy. Women were not allowed in men’s rooms expect to clean.

           Primary documents indicate that along side the regulations, commune dwellers engaged in hours of Bible study regularly.[41] The commune was usually open to visitors from outside Calvary Chapel. Routine Potlucks invited some two hundred guests from the local neighborhood.[42] Financial support for the commune was also an exercise in Christian fellowship. Some individuals acquired full time jobs and gave their paychecks to the commune while other maintained and repaired the house.[43]

           A group called Jesus People U.S.A also used communes to express simple relationship with God and love for another. It was an experiment in community that lasted beyond the Jesus People Movement.[44] JPUSA converted a ten story building into a commune.[45] It was designed to be a permanent residence. 

Similar to Mansion Messiah, income was shared among the community and meals became community affairs.[46]

           This commune practiced a frugal approach to living and was intentionally inclusive. Anyone who was in need of shelter and food was welcome to join.[47] The emphasis on community and inclusiveness did lead to abuses. As a result some individuals left this commune wounded. A shared system of leadership was put into effect to safeguard from abuse.[48]

           Many other communes were established throughout nation. Not all were positive examples as the above three were. Some communes emphasized withdrawal from culture as shown by the Children of God, a borderline cultish sect that was created during the Jesus movement[49]. They believed themselves to be the only true form of Christianity and predicted a communist controlled America.[50] As a result they withdrew from culture and took on traits similar to cults. Little communication was allowed once individuals joined.[51] This in turn worried parents. If members choose to leave they had to obtain permission from the sect’s leaders before they could do so.[52] Children of God were also known to purposely seek persecution from traditional churches by interrupting church services.[53] 

           It should be noted that organizations like the Children of God did not make up the majority of communes. The Children of God were looked down upon within the Jesus Movement.[54] They were outnumbered by more socially acceptable communes. With the expectation of the Children of God, communes were the pragmatic expression of the movement’s value that was different from the value of traditional Evangelism. Communes provided a true sense of community by forcing believers to live with each other. This created a community of interdependence, responsibility, intimacy and honesty. In this era a significant amount of Americans did not observe the same level of community in many churches. This could be the reason the Jesus Movement became popular among youth. The unique value in the Jesus movement was its authentic love for each other which was expressed through communes.

Under Ground Papers

           If communes communicated the movement’s authentic love for people, underground newspapers were the expression of its unique value in a simplistic gospel. Time magazine summarized evangelism by stating that it, “emphasized an immanent God over nature and social movement.”[55] In contrast Jesus people emphasized, “ a personal God who comes to earth in the person of Jesus.” Jesus People were militant about preaching the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ.

           A popular means to convey that message was accomplished through the publications of underground newspapers such as the Hollywood Free Press. The paper was created by Daune Pederson. After his personal conversion experience, he noticed that underground newspapers were popular. Spending time in prayer, he approached business men with the idea of Christian underground newspaper.[56] Supporters were few and those that contributed, wished to remain anonymous. Eventually The Hollywood Free Newspaper was launched. Its purpose was to promote the teachings of Christ.[57]    Surprisingly, street people began to take the papers and respond to it. Often times they would leave no forwarding address or name, “If your Jesus is really for real, man, I want to know more. I’d like to rap with you about the guy. Where can we meet? When? Are you going to have another paper?”[58] 

           It was simplistic in nature and often pleaded for its readers to turn to Jesus. By new years of that year publication reached ten thousand, copies and at various times during its life it reached one million copies.[59] Pederson originally started paying for the newspaper by himself but publishing costs rose too dramatically. In order to fund the paper who became the first major vendor of soon to be Jesus People, bumper stickers, posters and buttons.[60]

           Soon other underground newspapers began to emerge most with a similar purpose as the Hollywood Free Paper. One of the more popular newspapers was Right On! It was distributed by the Christian World Liberation Front. It was an origination to street people on Californian campus. Time Magazine reported that this newspaper published over 250,000 copies. Right On![61]  had significantly more content and intellectual thought compared to other Christian papers. Like of papers it contained an evangelistic appeal but articles also included current issues such as the women’s liberation movement Right On! was directed specifically towards the college population at Berkley rather than street people.[62] Other popular papers included TruthMarantha, and For Real.[63]

           Underground newspapers expressed the Jesus movement unique value of love by communicating that there was answer for life’s uncertainties. Underground newspapers showed that Christians had an authentic love for people through the articles and opinions they discussed. Issuing free papers communicated authenticity to street people and made them stop and consider if there was something genuine to Christianity. Next to music papers became a popular means to communicate that Jesus was the answer to life’s questions.

Jesus Music

            The desire to praise God through new trends in music didn’t occur till approximately 1969.[64] Enthusiastic believers desired to express their joy in their new found faith. Because most Jesus People did not grow up in a church they began to write songs using the instruments they knew. Traditional church instruments were not used because most converts were not skilled to use them.[65] As time passed music was also seen by youth as way to share the gospel. Secular music of that era tended to focus on searching for truth.[66] Jesus People came to the conclusion that Jesus was the answer for that search and also expressed their conclusion through music. Put simply, music was used as platform for a philosophical discussion on the fulfillment of life.[67] 

           Traditional methods of evangelism would produce little positive results so young Christians such as Martha Carter would ask God to help write songs that would speak to her peers. Martha Carter was a musician out of Claremont. She had tried and failed to share her faith her friends.[68] She prayed that God would give her a song that would best communicate her feelings and express her faith in a meaningful way[69]. Her next song affected many of her peers in a powerful way, “And Jesus said, ‘Come to the water, stand by side. I know you are thirsty; you won’t be denied. I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried. And I stove to remind you for those tears I died.”[70]

           Songs like this influenced many of her peers to convert. This included four men who would later be known as Love Song, a Christian band.[71] One of those men was Chuck Girard a pioneer in Christian Rock music said, that he found the peace and love he was looking for at Calvary.[72]. Love Song wanted to reach youth that listened to Led Zeppelin.[73] Christian bands like Love Song drew youth into Calvary Chapel.[74] The musicians would often use the concerts as a venue to share their experience and the gospel.[75]

           Love Song joined together with other Christian Artists to spread the gospel. The record sales, number of conversations and follow up bible study lessons resulted in Calvary Chapel creating a non profit publishing company called Marantha.[76] When an individual converted, Maratha Publishing would give lesson one of a fourteen part Bible study for new believers. Lesson two was given after lesson one was returned.[77]

           The result of new religious music altered Christian youth culture in a powerful way by bringing a sense of freshness to an ancient faith, “I’m an Episcopal clergyman whom the Lord ‘turned on’ a few years ago. And I am more excited about your outreach than almost anything I’ve heard.”[78] Music was so pivotal to the Jesus movement that Calvary Chapel included this in their statement of faith, “We believe worship should be inspirational, therefore we place great priority on music.[79] For Jesus people it was music that conveyed a sense of peace, love, and worship towards God.[80] Christian culture was transformed into an intimate conversational worship of Jesus.[81]

           Eventually it became popular to sing of Jesus in secular culture. Songs like Amazing Grace, and My Sweet Lord became top forty hits.[82]  Famous secular stars began to convert and sing about Jesus. Among the more famous were Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton.[83] Because Jesus Music became popular it became more important to discern what was considered good Christian Music. Time magazine reported that not all Jesus Music contained good lyrics or was effective evangelism. They cited musicians like Larry Norman as professionally and theologically solid.[84]

           Not all reactions to the new music were positive. At first older adults found it difficult to connect with the new style of music.[85] Many churches and institutions of the time publicly denounced religious rock music. Prairie Bible Colleges’ president Maxwell wrote:

           Today’s Young people have become infatuated with ranting jingo of modern rock and roll. Much of our evangelical world is being swept into believing that the only way to reach the way out generation of young people is to give them the music that is rocking the world. We are told to get with it. It’s where the action is. This catches the crowds of youngeters. So popular is this wave of religious upsurge that many adults are left perplexed, yet fearful lest by opposing it they lose hold of their young people”[86]


           Maxwell stated that religious rock music would adversely affect Christian character.[87]He wrote that religious rock music was originally produced by Satan and that African Christians looked down upon Western Christians for embracing it.[88] He was not alone in his criticism. Among other things it was condemned for its simplistic style and abandonment of traditional church instruments.

           However critics of that era failed to realized that music was the medium new converts expressed their faith[89] Jesus Music focused on how Jesus transformed lives instead of formal theology. Many Artists did not include formal theological doctrines because as new converts they were unaware of them.[90]

           Simplistic love for God and authentic love for people were expressed best through music. Communes and Papers could not match the impact music had Many pioneer Artists contributed music to the sense of being loved by God and other people. By their own accounts this music communicated to a generation that God looked past appearances and they could find love and acceptance in Jesus Christ.[91] Although there were Christian traditions that did communicate love and acceptance, young people did not routinely find in it other Christian movements. Churches that used music to communicate a direct relationship and acceptance drew Jesus People through doors and into pews. The effects of communes, papers, and music created a title wave of consequences throughout Christendom.

Jesus People’s influence

           The movement traveled North to cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and Toronto.[92] It also jumped continents as traces of it were found in Australia and France.[93] It crossed most protestant denominational boundary and even leaked into Roman Catholicism.[94] The Jesus movement also transformed ministries of more respected Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham. Billy Graham went to great lengths to understand American youth culture. He even dressed up as hippie and engaged in conversations with youth. The end result was adopting the Jesus Movement motif into his crusades.[95] This produced acceptance of the Jesus movement as being a legitimate expression of Evangelism.

           The movement did not always produce positive results. It resulted in many dangerous sects such as the Children of God. It was during the Jesus movement that Christian music and bumper stickers became popular. The negative effects can still be seen in current Evangelical culture. Some Christian music labels and business have been accused of commercializing Christianity. Some social commentators go so far as to say that the practices of CCM, an organization that organized from the Jesus Movement had demonic strong holds.[96]

           One of the few expressions of Christianity that did not benefit from the Jesus movement until later was Christian academics. It was seen as largely antagonist towards the movement because of its anti- theological leanings. In the annual convention of the National Assioation of Evangelicals, Wheaton College President, Hudson T Armerding, acknowledged the sincerity of the movement but condemned it for its style in clothes and faddish nature.[97] Within a year Billy Graham rebuked this comment by stating that he encouraged anything that promoted Jesus Christ. He went on to say that churches and schools better stop quibbling and start training these new converts in deeper spiritual truths. Christian Academics eventually did benefit from the Jesus People movement when a new seminary opened at Melody Land Christian Center in Anaheim.[98] It hoped its nearly two-hundred and fifty student body would provide healthy theological leadership.


             Why did the hippie movement exist if the Jesus movement proved that the Church had a satisfactory answer for hippies? Why did they not initially turn to the church? The answer to this can only be found in the significance of the Jesus movement that was different from the significance from other Christian expressions. The unique worth was its emphasis on love. 

           The emphasis on love communicated to youth that nothing moral was in their souls, but Jesus still cherished them enough to die for their sins.[99] Love from God communicated that they had been forgiven. This love from God resulted in passion for God and love for people. The most common theme that surfaces during testimonies is this sensation that they were loved by God and by God’s people. The value of God’s love for them was expressed through communes, papers and music.

                      The Jesus movement serves as a reminder that while tradition and ritual are important, it can sometime get in the way of a Christian’s call to love people. This commandment is the primary method of worship towards God. If this does not occur lack of interest in God takes place. However when God’s love causes a love for others, people become passionate about the gospel. This was the unique value of the Jesus movement.