The Decline and Fall of the Jesus Movement
It isn’t really news—the Jesus Movement disappeared decades ago—but did anyone offer condolences?
It really didn’t die, it morphed. “Crazy kids” grew up and built more adult-like churches with well-designed, “seeker-sensitive” architectures, shows, and excellent kid’s programs. That was the intent, at least, and billions were spent on the upheaval.
Obviously the plan backfired, or at least failed to work as advertised. Jesus Freaks are losing the interest of their kids. It means kids are leaving Christianity (racing away) because their adult-like churches are mostly for adults. Without kids around, the sweet church buildings are becoming very costly reminders of defeat, leaving The Remnant more apathetic about the faith. So begins the slow, depressing migration into a congregation filled exclusively with a few white hairs–the same costly tombs Jesus Freaks once ran away from in their youth.
There lies the tragic Decline and Fall of the Jesus Movement—something beautiful died.
The System devoured the Jesus People, that is what happened! Is this too dramatic? Maybe, but only if we agree The Cause once-championed by Jesus Freaks was truly misguided. But if that’s too hard to swallow, if The Cause was righteous, it means the movement was crushed and its leaders were silenced.
Does anyone still remember The Cause?
Clearly The Cause is silent today. Loud voices once protested The System because it devoured its youth. Jesus Freaks once knew this! But do their kids know it?
The Vietnam war exposed the raw, underlying nature of The System and everyone knew that Corporate America benefitted while young people paid the price. Pro-war or anti-war, either way The System devoured young people. Vets came home to barely a “Thank-you.” Anti-war protesters were silenced harshly. Young people were voiceless, disposable, irrelevant, but their bodies fueled The System.
The Vietnam war is over, but The System still crushes precious human life with great indifference, as the recent economic collapse proved. How many hardworking, honest people played the Corporate game all lifelong, just to reach retirement and find their holdings all evaporated? How many 50-year-olds worked faithfully for decades and suddenly they get dumped like trash at a time when re-employment is almost impossible? Are these rare occurrences? Not at all.
This is the inherent nature of The System—Capitalism rewards greed and punishes kind-heartedness. This is why companies are cutting back on health care benefits, so we hear innumerable horror stories of families with someone who dies because cheaper insurance won’t pay the bill. On this point the Republicans are clear, and nobody can deny Republicans are consistent Capitalists. The Democrats try to fight the inherent ruthlessness that defines America—let’s not debate their effectiveness here—but surely the Jesus Freaks once championed real answers and real hope.
Remember the Steppenwolf outrage against “The Monster”? Where they wrong? Either The Cause is irrelevant, or Jesus Freaks slipped into irrelevance.
Someone forgot The Monster is real. It is so real, even non-Christians see it. Non-Christians agree with the Christian worldview, does anyone realize this anymore? They were mad, just like Christians! Even though their future depended on America, they renamed their nation Amerika. Why? Because they knew youth were disposable trash in The System, just as Kafka described in Amerika:
“Within Amerika, a scorned individual often must plead his innocence in front of remote and mysterious figures of authority…” ((See Wikipedia, Amerika.))
This cold and remote beast is The Monster we once saw clearly. First the non-Christians quit struggling against the prisons of corporate Amerika, but it’s hard to blame them—they could find no freedom elsewhere. If they dropped out of Corporate American prisons, they simply fell into new prisons of LSD and “free love” which actually cost way too much.
Jesus Freaks, however, know better than to kiss The System.
It all started with the quest for freedom. That’s what the hippies and YIPPIES and “freaks” wanted. The ones who met Jesus discovered the freedom their hearts screamed for.
Jesus invented a moving, grooving Body of Christ where Jesus Freaks tasted freedom. It left sweet memories. Nowhere else on earth will people pull together as brothers and sisters with such open hearts. That’s where we learned to “bear one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the ‘law of Christ.’” ((Galatians 6:2))
In the Body of Christ people love one another, even in the beginning:
[We are] constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NASB)
Christians unleash a “labor of love’ which flows from our spiritual lives:
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8 (NASB)
“Joy inexpressible!” That’s what Jesus Freaks found in the Body of Christ.
Freedom is what made the Jesus Freaks fun.
Maybe the critics were correct when they said Jesus Freaks were just lazy, but their laziness sure produced more gold than all the busy-bustling little fussing lives enslaved by The System. Look at the big pile of broken little toys and pieces of paper produced by a lifetime of hard work in The System—at the funeral people consider that pile of trash and say, “He was an industrious man!” They should say, “What a joke!” (Their kids say it, or think it—their kids say, “Why didn’t he spend more time fishing with me? That’s what I remember the most.”)
Lazy Jesus Freaks uncovered a lost treasure! They rediscovered the freedom once enjoyed by the original Jesus Freaks who ran around with Jesus. Those guys trashed rituals, soiled “holy places” (really just “horror-places”!), and they enjoyed non-stop “rap sessions” around a camp fire at night. They were crazy-free.
The New Rituals
Today young people are asking how to break free of The System, but Jesus Freaks are handing out rituals instead! Jesus Freaks should be burning the “Christian” flag, but they’re waving it instead! Am I on drugs, or is this really true?
Jesus Freaks already know that freedom comes from trashing the useless rituals which usually define Christianity, which Jesus never practiced, which his followers trashed, and which kill relationships! Rituals are not casual, not friendly. Rituals are complicated and rigid (“uptight”). By definition rituals suppress spontaneity.
Jesus Freaks naturally despised rituals because the whole Counter-Culture movement rejected The System and its rituals. The secular part of their movement rejected the rituals of the business world, which is a factory of rituals. Rituals enforce conformity, everyone knows this, right?
So why are Jesus Freaks trading freedom for rituals today? Paul was alarmed by the same problem arising among the early Jesus Freaks:
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law! Galatians 5:1 (NLT)
Paul was worried because his friends were becoming uptight, stuffy-religious-eggheads:
You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years.
I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing.
Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things! Galatians 4:10-12 (NLT)
Those Jesus Freaks were attacked by holy religious crackpots who were red-faced-angry about Christian freedoms:
They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. Galatians 2:4b (NLT)
Those Jesus Freaks were getting owned by sneaky little Dweebs! What a joke!
No Jewish religious crackpots are sneaking around us today, but there is a new crop of sneaky butt-kissers who want to enslave us. Ever heard of Brian McLaren? That fool is all about rituals. He’s lying to young Christians and telling them to embrace the “good old Dark Ages” and all the precious rituals from that era!
The “Dark Ages” and its rituals were misery! Hello! Have we forgotten it was a culture of slavery, ruled by The System? Are we easily-fooled because The System called itself “THE CHURCH”? What a lie that was! THE CHURCH killed and tortured the advocates of free choice! THE CHURCH killed Christians! Those who obeyed like dogs were raped by THE CHURCH, because it stole their money and let them starve—then built MASSIVE EMPTY CATHEDRALS which are so useless today. Yes, THE CHURCH invented rules to justify stealing from poor, ignorant peasants. Its father was the Roman Empire, so THE CHURCH called itself “The HOLY Roman Empire.”
So do we really want to romanticize that filth?
People, wake up! These new Dweebs like Peter Jones and Brian McLaren are suppressing freedom—and the Bible—with rituals! They brag about their great scholarship of THE CHURCH, they capture so many young people, they must be “the new gods of THE CHURCH”.
Where are the Jesus Freaks? We know better! Why does everyone let these guys spin their shtick?
Look at the silly magic rituals McLaren, Inc. sells to young Christians:
And there was another old Celtic prayer—to be said as faithful Christians splashed cold water on their faces three times in a simple morning ritual:
“Let me awaken to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
My new considerations turn out, as they always do, to be a rediscovery of something old and very precious.
Ok, what’s the big deal about a silly ritual like this? Why was Paul so horrified when his young converts embraced equally-trite rituals? Because rituals are relationship-killers.
Men, do you talk to your wives this way? Mothers, do you speak to your children in rituals? Why treat God like He’s sub-human? Why treat Him like a religious artifact?
Rituals are institutionalized fakery. McLaren’s “Let me awaken to you” ritual is completely innappropriate if I really need to say, “Oh God, why did I screw that hoe last night?” But no, I can’t tell God the truth because I’m programmed with rituals.
Rituals provide superstitious and simple-minded answers to complex problems. “Let me awaken to you” is plain silliness. It’s empty, it’s meaningless. Are these magical words? McLaren knows Jesus rejected repetitive prayers, but does he tell this to his young audience?
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 (NASB)
Rituals keep people enslaved. The Holy Roman Empire told the peasants they could purchase forgiveness if they sent money to the Vatican (of course). They told the peasants they must attend Mass every week, and only in their church-owned building could they receive forgiveness. Christians who tried praying in a barn or in the woods were burned at the stake.
I have a special place in my hear for the Celts. My clan comes from Scottish descent, just like McLaren, and I know all about the Celts. They were savages, painted themselves blue, ran into battle naked! The Roman Empire built a huge wall to keep filthy white trash like the Celts out! They were idiots, and they remained idiots throughout the Dark Ages while they were chanting their “wake-up” ceremony! Brian, why not teach about Jesus instead of the Celts?
I pray that McLaren will somehow, someday rediscover his roots which actually mean something: old grandfather McLaren was a powerful man of God who led many non-Christians out of The System and into the Body of Christ.
Brian, if you’re listening, please! Rediscover “something old and very precious” by returning to your grandfather’s radical faith!
And Jesus Freaks, if any of you are listening! Please rediscover the freedom you once loved, and pass this on to the young people who are so rightfully angry about The System and THE CHURCH.