Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Sally Thomas, who is a pretty groovy homeschooling mom and poet, writes a review of Preston Shires' recent book HIPPIES OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT in which she discusses what happened to many of those hippies-turned-evangelists of the seventies. Where are they now?

"Their conversions to Bible-believing Christianity were not the sort to rejoice the hearts of suburban, middle-class parents. The intelligence that one’s runaway daughter had given her life to Christ, been baptized in a bathtub, and taken up residence with a bunch of barefoot, long-haired, guitar-strumming, tongues-speaking twenty-year-olds in a place called Maranatha House was only marginally less disturbing to the average Methodist mother than the news that the same daughter had moved in with a professional tabla drummer and changed her name to Windflower."

When the hippies turned "from evangelizing the street to evangelizing the Church", as Thomas puts it, something not so pretty happened, in retrospect.

Not surprisingly, this ...was light on bishops and heavy on extemporaneous prayer, direct interventions of the Holy Spirit, and beanbag chairs. Given a certain orientation toward an emotive, experiential, eschatological, not to say hallucinogenic flavor of Christianity, heavy on baptisms in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and anticipating the imminent Rapture, the majority of those who did integrate into churches gravitated toward churches with a greater degree of innate ecclesial fluidity: Pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical. But wherever they went in those heady days, they remade the Church in their image."

My friend pastor Bill Mack likes to tell the story of attending his first church as a young adult, a pentecostal affair in which he worked, if memory serves, as a janitor. He began to notice there weren't any old people in the church. Upon being asked about this, a member shrugged, "Ah, after awhile they realize they just can't keep up anymore."


Unknown said...

That generation's mode of thought was "anti-establishment." Everything "old" was removed as useless, all that was different was accepted. And now that generation is the one which demands changes to the liturgy and hymns.
Just as their music was emotion over substance, it is no wonder that they gravitated to religious expressions that suited their culture. It would be interesting to know more about how they changed the religious culture they entered.

Bruce Gee said...

The actual review can be seen by clicking on the book title at the top. The reviewer goes into quite a lot of detail about just how they went about changing the religious culture of the churches they entered.

How to best describe? A campaign of Shock and Awe?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read.

One of the unfortunate things that has come out of the Jesus Movement mentality is a disdain for history, culture, liturgy. I think the impact of Jesus Movement on low-church Protestantism has been considerable. It's basically merged with the other streams until they're fairly unrecognizable.

For example, popular evangelicalism today overall is shallow -- as someone has said, you can put their doctrinal beliefs on a 3x5 card. Plus, it's become more of a feeling, a movement. If it's free-flowing, it's of God. If it's not, it's, uh, dead.

But I think the story is more complex. I've met ex-Jesus people who are now become Lutheran, Calvinist, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. They're enmeshed in a particular tradition. In C.S. Lewis's terms, they've found a room. They're not in the front hall anymore.

There's a hunger out there for substance. I think it's part of a maturing process. Unfortunately, many are stilled mired in low church Protestantism's own rituals of anti-intellectualism and lack of appreciation for history and theological texture. I feel sad for them because they're stuck and they don't know it.

Bruce Gee said...

Great comment, uh, "Anonymous".
You yourself have admitted to being a crunchy conservative, emphasis on crunchy, whatever that means. Part of what it means is that you yourself, and me along with you, come out of some sort of Enthusiastic background.
I would argue that the motive for being attracted to whatever magical stuff was going on back in the day of the hippy movement has become the matured motive for our love of liturgy, great hymnody, and the Divine Service. I see a connection there. It is often the life-long Lutheran who is the most desensitized to the richness of the DS and to how satisfyingly deep and rich is the Lutheran Evangelical theological tradition.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm enthusiastic about some things...Nestle Crunch bars, Lemon Diet Pepsi (RIP), my wife, and my kids.

But seriously now...there's a great book by Daryl Hart, "The Lost Soul of American Protestantism." Hart argues that what all Protestantism has in common -- except confessionals like Lutherans and confessional Presbyterians -- is that "mainstream churches, both liberal and evangelical, abandoned large pieces of their Christian heritage by working so hard to make their faith practical and relevant to everything from the personal lives of ordinary citizens to the affairs of one of the most powerful nations in modern history...by trying to make religion relevant, American Protestants ended up trivializing Christianity."

The Jesus movement, IMHO, is just one more example of Christianity accomodating itself to a specific group of Americans -- the hippies. Other than that, it's no different in its imbibation (yes, it's now a word) of pietism and revivalism. It's really not unique, in my opinion.

I remain, anonymously, Anomymous.

Bruce Gee said...

Strange that an effort to make Christianity lively and compelling ends up trivializing it. And by no means would most Protestant practitioners agree with you, or Hart.

I understand the desire to change something like Christianity in order to make it relevant, although I am with you in not agreeing with the changes. The problem is, changing it hasn't made it relevant, or the mainstream protestant denoms would be growing. I'm not yet convinced that the church growth movement has the answers either. Or if they do, I'm really not interested in taking part.
As always, I end up in these discussions being willing to be content with a small church, a remnant that upholds the One True Faith without selling out. Does that mean we worship in homes? That would be fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Here's another mouth-watering quote from Hart's book --

"Confessionalism cannot produce immediate results the way pietism promises, through either the imminent inauguration of God's kingdom on earth (the liberal Protestant preference)or the speedy end of human history in divine judgment (the evangelical hope). But confessionalism's longer perspective on the flow of human history, thanks to its understanding of the institutional church, often yields as much wisdom as pietism produces results."

Bruce Gee said...

Ah, so our choice is results or wisdom, eh?

I want it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Both ways, huh?

Well, it's like the Who said in "Magic Bus."

"Can't.........have it!"