The last two years of the sixties saw flower power wilt with a vengeance. Vietnam burned on. Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan was thriving. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy were assassinated in the space of two months. Charles Manson’s murderous crew offered up their victims to nihilism. Mick Jagger sang “Sympathy for the Devil” as an Altamont rock concert fan was killed by Hell’s Angels.

At the same time, along came the Jesus People—earnest, alive, “freaks” with smiles instead of frowns or vacant stares. The long hair was confusing to many Christians, but the message sounded first century: “Get ready! Repent because Jesus is coming back soon!”

Some Christians criticized it, saying it had a “simplistic mentality,” with “an excessive emphasis on experience and feeling.” Others called the Jesus Movement counterfeit Christianity. In 1971, the mass media noticed, and Look, Time, Life, and Newsweek gave the movement mostly positive, though somewhat superficial, reviews.

That was about 25 years ago. Looking back, who were these “Jesus People”? And what has happened to them today?

Communal Beginnings

The Jesus Movement, like the time that spawned it, was psychedelic in the variety of its participants. A 1974 study suggested that at its apex, the movement comprised 30,000 to 3 million people, depending on how one defined a “Jesus Person.” But one common factor was a testimony of a personal, revolutionary encounter with living Truth:

“When I was in the peace movement,” said one young convert, “I was always looking for peace and joy and love, and there never seemed to be any. I’d come home at night and it just didn’t seem real, it just didn’t last. You know, it says in the Bible that if you build a house on sand that, when the wind ...

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