Spiritual revival is huge news lately. What is happening at Asbury University has been in the news for weeks. Is it real? Is it fake? Is it woke? Is it sincere? It is all anyone wants to talk about. It is self-evident that we are in desperate need of Christian spiritual awakening. It is no secret that we are living through the greatest cultural revolution our nation has ever seen. There is serious, irreparable political division, powerful forces have unleashed leftwing cultural subversion and racial unrest, there is rapid technological change, there is the looming threat of nuclear war, and our nation is committed to an increasingly unpopular conventional war, and the younger generations are increasingly disenchanted and pushed to the margins of society. The more things change, the more they stay the same. To say there are parallels between today and the 1960s would be a massive understatement.
Enter the film The Jesus Revolution. The film premiered last weekend at number 3, a surprising showing for an independent Christian film with a budget of $15 million and very little marketing. Compare this to the current box office leader but commercial flop, Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania, with a budget of $150 million and a marketing spend of at least the same. The contrast couldn’t be greater, and not just in terms of money. Disney-Marvel is a pop culture Goliath, and until now, they could put out hot garbage and make money. The movies are meaningless drivel, CGI spectacles for braindead consumers. That the giant seems to be stumbling is very good news. The Jesus Revolution, on the other hand, tells an actual story and does so artfully. Unlike what you have come to expect from typical Christian movies, which have all the subtlety of an Afterschool Special, there is no obtuse preachiness or sappy, overindulgent emotionalism. It is a well-paced film that hits every note it intends to. And unlike most Christian films, it had the budget for professional cinematography and professional acting. Each shot looked good, and many scenes were outright beautiful. And to have a cast led by Kelsey Grammer, Jonathan Roumie, and Joel Courtney (as Chuck Smith, Lonnie Frisbee, and Greg Laurie, respectively) was impressive as well. To be perfectly blunt, it did not look like a film that emerged from the evangelical Christian cultural ghetto but rather was a real movie made about and for our people. The last time that happened was nearly 20 years ago with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
The film centers around “The Jesus Movement” or “The Jesus People Movement” from the late 1960s and early 1970s, telling the story of how Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith (Grammer) embraced ministry to counterculture youth after meeting converted hippie Lonnie Frisbee (Roumie), along with the subplot of now-megachurch pastor Greg Laurie’s (Courtney) conversion and subsequent leadership role in the movement. The film deftly navigates between both the Scylla of displaying these men as stainless steel, sinless paragons of virtue and the Charybdis of gratuitously cynical grittiness, instead showing flawed redeemed sinners genuinely seeking to follow God’s call in their life.
The central conflict in the early part of the film focuses on Pastor Smith’s struggling, elderly congregation of “squares” who stuffily refuse to accept the (literally) unwashed hippies who Frisbee had led to their congregation. Setting aside for a moment just how subversive the counterculture movement truly was, the emphasis of the film was not on forcing stodgy Christians to accept the destructive leftism of the hippies but rather on viewing them as desperately lost people badly in need of Christ, whose place in the existing social order has been shattered leaving them extremely vulnerable to the gospel.
The theme of ministering to a lost and rejected generation should be the main takeaway from this film for our particular cultural moment. As much as our situation parallels the 1960s, there are indeed some significant differences. The counterculture movement was far-left cultural warfare, and it is now generally known that the movement was largely seeded by the defense and intelligence community (for more on that fascinating subject, see Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, and Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream).
Our lost and derided generation is not left-wing, nor is it the result of intentional subversion by the powers that be. Instead, our rejected youth are very much right-wing, and the organic result of their inheritance being consumed before they were born and their being systematically locked out of mainstream society. Our marginalized generation is made of young men who were the very first generation to be born into a world with the internet, who had access to the internet before the Regime clamped down on forbidden information, and whose eyes were opened to politics vastly more radical than their parents’ generation which coincided with the rise the mainstreaming of both extreme sexual degeneracy and diversity, equity, and inclusion mandates which have severely limited the career prospects of young, white, heterosexual, Christian men.
There are millions of young men, many of whom are fatherless, lost, and above all else, extremely lonely. Unlike the hippies, these young men do not often gather in real life. They are atomized and isolated. At best, their social gatherings consist of playing video games together online. They are treated as freaks and losers, often called “incels,” a derogatory internet phrase for young men who lack the social status to win sexual attention from women. Naturally, in a sexually perverse anti-culture, this is the single-most demeaning slur a young man can be called.
One would think that evangelical churches would be overjoyed to present an entire generation of marginalized and radicalized young men with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but mainstream conservative evangelicalism views online dissidents the same way Chuck Smith’s congregants viewed hippies. “We can’t have people like that in our churches. This is a church for decent, upstanding Christian folks!” “We cannot have racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Nazi incels in our churches getting our carpets dirty!” Mainstream conservative evangelicals might not dress the same way the squares in The Jesus Revolution did (unless the latest megachurch fashion for megachurch pastors is crew cuts, horn-rimmed glasses, and wide paisley ties), but the attitude is the same.
There is an entire lost generation that no one wants to touch, and whomever the Chuck Smith of our day is, will set off a similar massive revival. The young men who see how disgusting, godless, and soul-sucking our society is, the ones who have been chewed up and spit out by it, are a mountain of kindling waiting for a spark. The first pastor who doesn’t tell them, “Repent you evil sinner for rejecting global liberal democracy,” will lead a revolution that will undo the destruction of the 1960s and decades prior and vanguard who will restore order to a collapsing nation. May God soon give us such a man.
Andrew Isker is the pastor of 4th Street Evangelical Church in Waseca, MN. He is a graduate of Minnesota State University and Greyfriar’s Hall Ministerial Training School, and he has served churches in Missouri, West Virginia, and Minnesota. He is the author (with Andrew Torba) of Christian Nationalism, and the author of the forthcoming book, The Boniface Option. Andrew, his wife Kara, and their five children reside in his hometown of Waseca, MN. He can be found on Gab @BonifaceOption.