Why should the devil have all the good music?" asked Larry Norman on his 1972 album Only Visiting This Planet. Norman made it clear that Satan faced stiff competition for the hearts and minds of America's young people.
In God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford University Press), Larry Eskridge provides a rich, tender history of one of the more surprising developments of the late 1960s. Coffee houses, communes, buttons, record albums, and underground newspapers witnessed to American youth that there was still only "One Way" to heaven, but not exactly the way their parents had taken. These young people listened to Larry Norman and Love Song (one of the earliest Christian rock bands), bought Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth, spoke in tongues, and were ready for Jesus to return. In many ways, the "Jesus People" had the same basic beliefs as other evangelicals, but with an added fervency, literalism, and—in many cases—sweetness.
Eskridge begins his story in the Bay Area, the birthplace of both the counterculture and the Jesus Movement. Skillfully capturing the cultural and intergenerational tension among the Christians of this era, he introduces Baptist pastor John MacDonald and a young hippie couple, Ted and Elizabeth "Liz" Wise. Liz attends MacDonald's church "while coming down from the previous night's acid trip." Eventually, her excitement about Jesus proves contagious to her philandering and oft-stoned husband. Soon, he was telling his fellow joint-smoking friends, "Jesus is my Lord." Then Wise went to MacDonald's church and told the congregation, "He is back." Wise did not explain ...1