Duane's Interview with Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley of Abingdon Press (United Methodist) recently interviewed Duane for an upcoming publication about the Jesus Movement.

First of all, how did what we now know as the Jesus Movement come into being?

I believed then, and still do, that the Movement began as the result of a spontaneous moving of the Holy Spirit. God did a new thing, and it was all about His Son, or as Tim Smith said it, "the world was in trouble, there was an answer, and we had met Him." As far as we know, it began first in the U.S., on the west coast. The earliest spiritual stirrings that would become the Jesus Movement may have occurred in 1967 around the time of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. A young Bay Area couple in their mid-twenties converted a ramshackle Marin County farmhouse into what became the first Jesus People community, the House of Acts. The following year, that community opened a Jesus coffeehouse, the Living Room, in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Two seminarians from Mill Valley soon opened another Jesus coffeehouse in the Haight, called the Soul Inn. A spiritual revival broke out among students at UC Berkeley and they started publishing a Movement newspaper called Right On. Further up the coast in Seattle, a "Jesus People army" of local youth was forming and soon a newspaper called Agape was being distributed around the Seattle area, and another newspaper in Spokane called The Truth. In 1969, I started publishing the Hollywood Free Paper in the Los Angeles area, which eventually went nationwide and to Europe.

The Spokane papers made it all the way up to Kodiak, Alaska, where, as Tim Smith would later describe it, a group of eighty high school students were "awestruck to realize how much of what we were experiencing was happening elsewhere," and that "there was a name for what we were: Jesus People." That's an important point. Spiritual wildfires broke out in California, Washington and Alaska simultaneously but independently, and began to spread. None of us even knew each other at first. There was little or no coordination or organization in the beginning because we weren't making it happen - God was.

How much of a movement was it?

The Jesus festivals at the Hollywood Palladium often approached the theatre's capacity of 4,000. Ocean baptisms were taking place at beaches up and down the California coast and in Hawaii. At the peak of the Movement the circulation of the Hollywood Free Paper surpassed half a million copies, and that was just one of the Movement newspapers (although probably the largest.) Our directory of Jesus communities, Jesus houses, coffeehouses and Bible studies had listings in big cities and small towns in all fifty states, in Canada, and eventually in Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, where I was privileged to go and join in the celebration. But we didn't take the Jesus Movement to all those places, God did, and we would hear about it later as people would get in touch with us and ask us to add their coffeehouse or Bible study to our listings.

What types of people got involved?

All kinds. Hippies, bikers, surfers, stoners (many of whom were set free from drugs by Jesus), clean-cut suburban youth from traditional churches, Vietnam veterans back from the war, scared draftees waiting to go, people of all races and ages. Probably the majority of Jesus People were between 14 and 30, but some were middle-aged and even elderly. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic. Guys and girls. Everyone from long-haired bearded hippies in sandals to guys in a suit and tie, and all praising Jesus together.

How would you describe your role in the movement?

Astonished observer, primarily. Those of us who were thrust into the limelight by the news media were only witnesses to what was being brought about by God's Holy Spirit, and at the most exciting moments, we were tools in His hand. I was given the privilege of publishing the Hollywood Free Paper, but God brought in talented artists, writers and photographers who really created much of its content. I booked the Hollywood Palladium for the now-famous Jesus festivals, but it was the musicians and (most importantly) the teens and young adults who attended that really made those the memorable events they were.

How would you explain the Jesus Movement to young people today who weren't alive in the late 1960s and 1970s (or the late 1970s and 1980s for that matter)?

Young people today might not understand the atmosphere of those times. The air fragrant with sandalwood incense, day-glo colors swirling on psychedelic posters. A gentle long-haired friend quietly strumming a Gibson twelve-string left behind by a brother who never returned from Vietnam. But those things were just artifacts of the times in which the Movement was taking place.

What young people of any era would relate to is the warmth, the love, the closeness to Jesus and each other. The Jesus Movement was intensely personal in ways the Sixties counterculture never could be. For most of us it became a second, and for some their first, family. A Jesus house, coffeehouse, "church in the park" or other outpost of the Movement in your city or town meant a place where you, and your dreams and fears and questions, were always welcome. A place that seemed light years away from the constant drumbeat of helicopters in Vietnam, light years away from the tear gas of protests on the campus quad. A place where you belonged and felt connected to something larger than yourself. A place where we were more than just rebellious teens and young adults, more than scruffy, unemployed hippies, more than college students trying to figure everything out or Vietnam vets trying to forget the war. We were a Movement. We were the Jesus People.

Christian author Shane Claiborne described the early New Testament church as "the little revolution of love," and said that it "had little cells multiplying all over the empire." In many ways, the Jesus Movement was a reflection of those exciting aspects of the early church. For reasons we may never completely understand, God decided in the late 1960s to demonstrate to the church and to the world that the second chapter of Acts was still a valid and viable model for his "little revolution of love", and that He could raise up leaders, teachers and preachers from the hippies of Haight-Ashbury and the street people of Hollywood Boulevard.

How would you describe the theology of the Jesus People? What aspects of the Christian faith especially resonated with people in the movement?

The emphasis of the Jesus Movement was a return to the simple Gospel and the New Testament prototype of Christianity, centered in the life and teachings of Jesus and demanding a personal relationship with Him, placing a renewed emphasis on discipleship, evangelism and Bible study. The second chapter of Acts was a big "roots" passage for us.

The Movement was fervently evangelistic. First century believers turned the world upside down because they had a sense of urgency about the Gospel. The Jesus People felt that same sense of immediacy. As with the New Testament church, Jesus People often felt we were living in the end times.

Bible study was a major emphasis. LIFE magazine once wrote of the Jesus Movement that "Bibles abound, whether the fur-covered King James version or scruffy back-pocket paperbacks; they are invariably well-thumbed and often memorized. For them ... it's the ultimate How-To book, like the very ambitious manual of an automobile mechanic." Greek interlinear New Testaments were not an uncommon sight at studies, as well as fine-point pens for underlining and margin notes.

What, do you think, is the legacy of the Jesus Movement?

Certainly the music. What we know today as the contemporary Christian music (CCM) industry owes its origins in large part to the Jesus Movement. And the musical worship styles so popular in evangelical churches today grew out of the early Jesus People music as well.

A family of new churches grew out of the Movement, including Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. Also, as the Movement grew, more and more young people from traditional churches were radicalized by the new "hippie" Jesus People and joined the Movement while maintaining ties with their home church. As the Movement began to fade in the mid-1970s, many of them stayed in those churches, becoming Sunday School teachers, youth workers, pastors, even missionaries. So in that sense, much of the Movement's very positive influence on both the evangelical and mainline churches came about as the Movement faded and the Jesus People took their experience and message back into traditional congregations.

A friend of ours once wrote that the Jesus Movement "continues to this day inside every brother or sister who remembers the Movement and who still prefers a personal relationship with Jesus to empty religious moralism and culture wars." The lasting impact of the Movement is in the lives of those individuals who were a part of it and have stayed true to Jesus all these years. Do they, and the people whose lives they have touched and continue to touch, think differently about God? Undoubtedly, and many of them write and tell me so. Do we worship differently because of the Movement? If your church's praise band ever includes a piece by Love Song or 2nd Chapter of Acts, if your church's youth group has ever held a noisy, tearful outdoor baptism at a beach or in a mountain lake, the answer is yes.

"Belief" is a key word for this curriculum piece. I know it's kind of a vague question, but what role did belief play in the ideas, actions, and values of the Jesus People?

Christian author and musician John Fischer has written of his experiences in the Jesus Movement, and recalls feeling an impulse to take his faith "into the veins of everyday real life," living out the sacred pages of the New Testament "in a sort of Acts 29 and beyond." Like the early Christians at Berea, Jesus People engaged in careful Bible study in order to discern and believe the Truth, but more important was the compelling need to live out those beliefs.

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