As Roger Kimball recently observed, Easter is “a holiday commemorating a miracle,” and back in April of 1956, three Manhattan skyscrapers illuminated certain windows to form crosses, a massive “public display of Christian affirmation.” That was then, Kimball laments, and “now things are different.”
The Biden Junta is the easily the most anti-Christian administration in U.S. history. Biden’s FBI infiltrates churches, persecutes pro-life Christians, and portrays Christian parents as domestic terrorists. Christians are targeted for believing that men and women are different, and so on. In the midst of this jihad, Christian affirmation has been on full display on movie screens across the nation.
Jesus Revolution, directed by John Irwin and Brian McCorkle, dramatizes a spiritual awakening during the late 1960s. Launched on February 24 at number three, Jesus Revolution remained in the top ten, and as of April 6 had taken in $50 million at the box office, a landmark for any movie. To its great credit, the film provides historical context, a previous religious movement headed by different brand of evangelist.
Timothy Leary promoted personal salvation based on lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD, a synthetic chemical made from a substance found in ergot, a fungus that infects rye. In 1966, Leary founded the League of Spiritual Discovery (LSD), incorporated as a religious institution in New York State.
In Jesus Revolution, Steve Hanks (JailBait) plays Leary, whose slogan, reportedly a suggestion of Marshall McLuhan, was “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” By 1967, thousands were taking it literally and heading for California, where the magical mystery tour was waiting to take them away. It did, big time, and viewers might benefit from more detail.
People wore T-shirts reading “Better Living Through Chemistry,” and “There is No Hope Without Dope.” LSD came branded as Orange Wedge, Blue Cheer and such, and was sometimes bundled with other exotic substances. No refunds for bad trips, and there were plenty.
By 1968, many of the beautiful people were walking around, as John Kay of Steppenwolf said, “with tombstones in their eyes.” The people of the Jesus movement sought them out, but not just as an audience for preaching. A network of communes called the “Houses of Miracles” gave drug culture dropouts a safe place to stay, and grow.
The unofficial minister of the communes was Orange County minister Chuck Smith, played by “Cheers” veteran Kelsey Grammer. Jonathan Roumie (The Chosen) plays hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee, a key figure in the movement. Lonnie and his wife Connie were veterans of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the “best known distributor of LSD,” as Jay Stevens explains in Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream.
Lonnie has a theatrical side that disturbs some of Chuck’s older church members. On the other hand, Lonnie brings in many from the streets. The ministry grows by leaps and bounds, with Lonnie conducting mass baptisms at Pirate’s Cove. Young Greg Laurie (John Courtney) eventually takes the plunge and soon becomes immersed in the ministry.
Greg meets Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow) also involved with the growing church, but her parents look askance at Greg’s career possibilities as a preacher in the style of Lonnie. Greg grows in the faith and expands his role. Young people come from far and wide to hear him and get baptized. The Jesus revolution winds up on the cover of Time Magazine and the rest is history. A two-hour film can’t possibly cover it all.
Timothy Leary got busted for drugs but in 1970 the Weather Underground broke him out of the California Men’s Colony, a prison in San Luis Obispo. Leary fled to Algeria, where Eldridge Cleaver and other Black Panthers had taken refuge. Leary moved on to Switzerland and Afghanistan, where he was captured and returned stateside. In 1976, California Gov. Jerry Brown released the LSD prophet, who passed away in 1996.
The Houses of Miracles expanded into the Shiloh Youth Revival Centers in the Pacific northwest. Some communards moved on to more conventional churches and lifestyles while others went their own way.
In 1973, Lonnie and Connie Frisbee parted company and Lonnie died in 1993. Chuck Smith, a mainstay in the Calvary Chapel churches, passed away in 2013. Greg Laurie and others continue to this day, preaching the gospel around the world.
With Hollywood so hostile to Christianity, it is something of a miracle that Jesus Revolution, based on Greg Laurie’s book, ever got made. The movie has earned $50 million, and that success evokes another back story.
As the late Paul Johnson noted in Modern Times, religion failed to disappear as the left had so confidently prophesied. Modern idols can’t deliver, and spiritual hunger runs deep. During the administration of a demented anti-Christian bigot, people flock to see a public display of Christian affirmation.
Meanwhile, it’s good that Easter signifies a miracle, Roger Kimball writes, “because we are going to need one.” Jesus Revolution hints at the possibilities.