Tuesday, December 30, 2014

First Contact – Part 3 – Jesus Movement

The Jesus Movement got its start in the late 1960s, continued through the 1970s, and then died out in the early 1980s. Parts of this movement were also associated with the Hippie Movement. The movement consisted mostly of young Christians who were fed up with the status quo and wanted to see real change in the world.

In 1975, I was in college and loved rock music. One group I really liked was Grand Funk Railroad, and they were coming to Louisville for a concert. Not being able to find anyone else to go, I had purchased one ticket.

It was January 26, and I had decided to go to Walgreens for an early dinner before the concert. Walgreens, as well as many other pharmacies, used to have what was called soda fountains. Later, they added food. As an interesting side bar, it was in 1922 that Walgreens invented the malted milk shake, which became an instant hit. But to get back to my story, the Walgreens near my house in the mid-1970s had essentially a small restaurant with very good griddle hamburgers. That’s what I was after for my meal.

As I was sitting there in a booth waiting for my burger to be cooked, a young guy about my age came over and asked if he might sit with me and ask a few questions. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I said yes. I don’t remember all that was said, but I do recall the following.

The guy asked, “Have you ever had those moments when you are at total peace with the world and everything seems to be in its right place?”

After thinking about it for a few seconds, I responded, “Yes, I have.” I was thinking of the times I would turn out the room lights, put on some ethereal music, and just lay still letting the music envelope me. I was thinking of the times when I would be laying on our couch at home with the cool flow of air from our window air conditioner swirling about me as I read a classic science fiction novel that took me to unknown worlds. I was thinking of the time I came across a Gregorian chant on the car radio as I was driving at sunset. All these things made me feel at peace with the world.

“That’s good,” he said. But, of course, that wasn’t the type of peace he had in mind. He was thinking of the peace that comes from a knowledge of God and his son Jesus Christ. He went on to share with me the Gospel as he understood it.

I told him I believed in God, but not Jesus or the Bible.

He said, “A group of us are meeting tonight at a friend’s house. I would love it if you would attend with me.”

I said, “I can’t do that. I’m going to a concert tonight.”

“Who are you going to see?”

“Grand Funk Railroad.”

“How much did you pay for your ticket?”

“Six dollars.” (Yes, this was the typical cost of a big name concert in those days.)

“If you will come to the meeting, I will buy that ticket from you.”

“I don’t want to do that. I really want to go to the concert.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Of course, I was also thinking that I wasn’t about to go off to some stranger’s house with some guy I had just met. There was no telling if this guy was for real or not. And later when I got home and told my mom about this encounter, she had the same thoughts, urging me not to go.

Well, we parted company, my delicious burger arrived, and later I went to Freedom Hall for the concert. It was fantastic. However, the guy sitting next to me was quite different from the one at Walgreens. When they started playing Also Sprach Zarathustra before Funk’s entrance, he stood up and started yelling, “Oh my God! 2001 A Space Odyssey! Oh my God! I can’t believe it! They’re playing 2001! Oh my God!” Hey, granted, I thought it was cool also, but this guy was over the top. He was obviously stoned, but he must have been godly in his own way since he apparently had a God.

Sometime after that first contact, I had a second contact with the Jesus Movement. But in a way it was a first contact since this time it was the hippie faction of the movement. A friend and I had been at an outdoor rock concert and were making our way back to the car. A group of Jesus Freaks (that’s what they were called) was sitting around in a big circle on the ground. As we passed by one person in the group asked if we wanted to join them. We thought “what the heck” and sat down.

Well, we sat there for about 5-10 minutes just kind of looking around waiting for someone to talk. Not one word was spoken to us the entire time by anyone. Finally, one of us said, “We have to go now,” and we left.


I have thought about these first contacts with the Jesus Movement a number of times over the years. How would my life be different had I sold the proselytizer my ticket and went to the meeting instead? Could I have ended up being a minister? Might I have been disappointed and then pissed that I missed the concert? Maybe I would have been robbed and killed. You never know about these things.

It’s also interesting to think about how different the approaches of the Walgreens guy and the hippie circle were. The Walgreens guy was very proactive. He came to my table. He asked to sit and question me. He asked me to attend a meeting. He was willing to put his money where his mouth was by offering to buy my ticket. Six dollars may not sound like much today, but it’s the equivalent of about $26 today. That represents several hours of work at minimum wage.

By contrast the hippie circle simply asked me to join them as I passed by. Then apparently I was to somehow sense their faith and absorb it by osmosis without any further action on their part. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I know enough to know that the Walgreens guy’s approach was the more Biblical one.

In closing, you may find it interesting that at a later date Mark Farner, guitarist and lead singer for Grand Funk Railroad, apparently became a Christian and began playing contemporary Christian music. My wife and I bought a couple of his CDs. They were quite good.

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