Watching the “Jesus Revolution” movie, one can’t help comparing those times of tumult in the late 1960s and early 1970s to our own.
The last great spiritual awakening happened in America then, and it came on the aftermath of the highly contentious presidential election year of 1968 that saw the assassinations Democratic candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There were massive protests about the military draft, the war in Vietnam and civil rights. Violent riots followed King’s killing.
The hippie drug counterculture was prevalent, with its slogan coined by LSD advocate Timothy Leary, “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Meanwhile secularism, marxism and nihilism were on the rise on college campuses, with many in the baby boomer generation challenging decisions being made by the federal government and questioning the central God-and-country tenets that had undergirded the whole American experiment in liberty for the previous two centuries.
So for any who think the United States has not faced the kinds of upheaval and doubts about our institutions that many have these last few years, a look back at the late 1960s will dispel this notion.
“Jesus Revolution” captures this time powerfully and provides a message of hope that the same God who transformed a culture then, can do it again.
Evidence of that may be seen in the recent weeks-long revival that recently broke out at Asbury University in Kentucky and other campuses. In fact, Asbury had a very similar outpouring in February 1970 during the Jesus movement.
Actor Kelsey Grammer plays California pastor Chuck Smith in “Jesus Revolution.” Smith was one of the prominent leaders in the movement, which saw hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, come to faith nationwide.
Grammer told NBC’s “Today” that shooting the movie took him right back to his teen years in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when all of this was happening.
“What it reminded me most of … in our time, the love, the sense of community, the things that we all had, it was real, and I miss it,” he said.
“Who knows?” Grammer asked. “Maybe the film will bring some of that back. The light in people’s eyes then was genuine and sincere and there was a connection of faith that was extraordinary.”
Regarding our current times, Grammer told Movieguide, “We are surrounded by contrary information, and the only one, single clarion call is still from Jesus Christ saying, ‘This is the way. This is the path.’ And it’s a very cool thing.”
“An invitation to walk in the light of love is the best thing yet,” he said.
The film’s co-director and co-writer, Jon Erwin, whose other works include “I Can Only Imagine” and “American Underdog,”shared that coming across a 1971 issue of Time magazine with the cover “The Jesus Revolution” sparked his interest in this period in American history.
In fact, that issue, along with one in 1966 asking “Is God Dead?” both are seen in the “Jesus Revolution” movie to illustrate the arc American culture made in a few short years.
What a difference 5 years makes. In 1966, Time asked, “Is God Dead?,” then in 1971 Time ran “The Jesus Revolution” cover after revival had broken out nationwide during the #Jesus movement.
— Randy DeSoto (@RandyDeSoto) February 21, 2023
Erwin recounted that it took seven years to bring “Jesus Revolution” to the big screen.
“You feel swept up into this movement,” he said of this time period. “If a Jesus revolution happened before, it can happen again. Why can’t the next Jesus revolution begin right now?”
“For years, we’ve been working on this story. We almost got it made, and then COVID got it shut down,” he said. “I just think there’s a divine hand on the timing of the film.”
Harvest Christian Fellowship pastor Greg Laurie, who came to faith as a teenager during the Jesus movement and is a central character in the “Jesus Revolution,”said he believes many will accept Jesus into their lives while watching the film, particularly when they see the baptism scene.
In it, Laurie (played by actor Joel Courtney) prays with hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee, (portrayed by “The Chosen” star Jonathan Roumie) to receive Christ just before being baptized in the Pacific Ocean off Newport Beach, California.
In the scene, his love interest Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow) is also baptized by Smith (Kelsey Grammer).
Jacob Coyne — a preacher and founder of the mental health organization Stay Here — sees parallels to the time period “Jesus Revolution” covers and now.
Coyne attended the Asbury revival in Wilmore, Kentucky, last week and was profoundly impacted by what he experienced there.
“I think it’s funny, given there’s this Jesus Revolution movie coming out in a couple of days in theaters that’s highlighting the revival that happened in the seventies. And I think that this is so similar,” he told The Western Journal.
“God never does anything by accident,” Coyne continued. “He loves to speak, specifically like this and prophetically like this, so I think what God saying is what he did then, he’s doing again.”
“Because the Asbury revival in the seventies is what really kicked off the Jesus movement. It spread all across the nation. So I believe that God’s doing it again. There’s going to be a Jesus movement again over the next few years, hopefully the rest of this decade that reaches all across Gen Z and Gen Alpha,” Coyne said.
Let it be so.
Learn more about “Jesus Revolution,” which opens Friday nationwide, here.