The “Jesus People”—Modern Phenomenon
THE “Jesus people”—youths in old clothes, with bountiful hair—walk Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard handing out invitations to meetings. Sixteen thousand of them gather for a meeting in England. In many cities these youths, dressed in blue jeans and T-shirts, take to the streets to urge others to “accept Jesus.”
Also called “Jesus freaks,” or “Street Christians,” they put up Jesus posters, wear Jesus buttons, and emblazon their car bumpers with stickers that say: “Honk, if you love Jesus.”
These young people are common where the hippie culture is prevalent, but not all were hippies. Many have been involved in youth revolt groups, but have come away disillusioned. Thousands were formerly on drugs. Some testify that they have put aside prostitution and black magic.
They have mass baptisms and carry Bibles. They have religious coffeehouses, distribute psychedelic newspapers whose “far-out” art appeals to today’s youth, and have set up religious communes in which many converts live.
The “Jesus movement” is not an organized activity with an individual leadership or a central spokesman. Nor do the various groups necessarily agree among themselves.
The “Jesus people” are former Catholics, Jews, and Protestants of every persuasion—as well as being people who had no religion at all. “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Jesus,” proclaimed a poster being carried by hymn-singing young people, who were shouting “Love, not lust,” in front of a cinema showing pornographic films on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
A young girl, who said her parents were “Jewish atheists,” commented that she moved into one of the “Christian houses,” or communes, in Los Angeles when she saw the “joy and happiness” of friends who had “accepted Jesus.”
There is no carefully reasoned acceptance of what they are taught. The appeal of the “Jesus movement” seems to be: “This works, try it.”
How did this come about? Why did the religion their parents followed fail to attract these young people? Why have they rejected “organized religion,” and turned to what they consider simply to be the person of Jesus?