God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America


God's Forever Family @ Amazon.comI came of age in the late 1970s. Amy Grant’s song “1974” was for me closer to January 1977, but the sentiment was the same. My spiritual life up to that point reflected the influence of the Jesus People Movement (JPM) that began in the late 1960s and eventually faded away by 1979. The Lutheran Church I was raised in channeled some of the movement and had even begun to change its musical styles for youth before the JPM hit, incorporating folk-styled worship songs that emerged from Roman Catholic youth revivals that erupted post-Vatican II.

So when Christianity Today magazine named God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge its book of the year, I snapped it up and immediately started reading. A historical overview of the  Jesus People Movement, the book traces the movement’s rise among Haight-Ashbury hippies in San Francisco circa 1968, covers the establishment of countercultural Christianity across the country, looks at Christian communes, notes predatory pseudo-Christian cults that arose alongside the movement, discusses the genesis of Contemporary Christian Music, and concludes with how the JPM changed the American Church.

For Christians who came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s, I’d call it a must read. You might even see people you know discussed in the book. (I know I was surprised to see a pastor of a church I formerly attended named in the acknowledgments as a contributor of material and background info.) The story Eskridge lays out for readers has a bittersweet taste for those of us who recall those innocent days and wish the best parts of that JPM mentality had not gone missing from the modern American Church.

For those too young to remember the 1970s, God’s Forever Family serves as a history to explain why the Church today looks and acts like it does, for good and for ill. I even learned a few things.  I did not know the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship graciously bankrolled many of the most influential JPM ministries, or that Pat Robertson had a hand in establishing and legitimizing Christian rock music. The history depicted in God’s Forever Family will help make sense of contemporary evangelicalism and may de-vilify Christian leaders and their ministries that started with good intentions but somehow went off course or moved the entire Church in a direction that has not best served the Lord. In the pages of this book, we see how good intentions sometimes lead to less than ideal outcomes.

I won’t offer a review of the book other than to say I wish author Eskridge had delved deeper into more of the issues closest to my heart. But as an overview, it’s essential reading, covering a tumultuous era, the movement it spawned, and the impact it still has today. The JPM has been forgotten in recent years, so a contemporary revisit is most welcome.

The best Christian book published in 2013? Whether it is or not, you would do well to read it.

Musings for a Monday Morning


Many thoughts today…

Yesterday was  about the most beautiful day I can remember, one of those “It’s great to be alive” days. Wonderful morning in church,  a nice nap afterwards, some basic housecleaning, and then a fabulous afternoon and evening outside in absolutely perfect weather. Even spotted an Orchard Oriole on our property, a bird that in checking was not on my life list. How about that? Then my wife and I settled in to watch the second DVD of the Haibane Renmei anime series as part of a project for a friend. Even got to bed by 11:15. Just a superb day.

Which makes it all the more difficult to segue into current events…

While it may not have been the infamous History Eraser Button, Lee Grady of Charisma magazine claims “God Has Pushed a Great Big Reset Button.” In part, he says the charismatic movement is kaput.

You know it’s pretty bad when the Russians are claiming they’re now less Marxist than the United States. (For ultra-irony, the linked article was also featured in Pravda.) For further proof of the claim, perhaps we need look no further than this amazing bit of proposed legislation.

If you want to be really depressed, while also seeing how bad the economic situation is in our country (or your county), check out this animated, interactive map of spreading job losses.

Oxymoron of the week: A doctor who specialized in late-term abortions was gunned down in his Lutheran church yesterday as he handed out bulletins.  (So much for loving the sinner and hating the sin.)

Meanwhile, holding a Bible study in your home may now run afoul of local laws.

Risking brickbats and charges of heresy, the iMonk wonders if something is lost by being too God-centered. He also weighs in on the above San Diego Bible study issue.

CCM recording artist Shaun Groves postulates what the world would be like without the CCM business.

If you want to know how to write a compelling story, this serves as a perfect example of the craft.

Meanwhile, I watched 20 months of work on a novel I was writing, The Dying Day, go down the tubes thanks to J. J. Abrams.  Though I promised not to get dragged into an ongoing TV series again, having been a devoted follower of The X-Files for far too long, I got snared by the similar Fringe this year. To my horror, the final two episodes for the season mirrored the events in my novel’s plotline and the lives of my characters so thoroughly that the novel may be a complete loss. This is the second time this has happened, and this one is even worse than the first. A fellow writer tried to console me by saying that it shows that my ideas are marketable (online scuttlebutt was calling the Fringe finale “genius”), but that’s little comfort right now. Argh.

Did I mention that yesterday was just a stunningly perfect day?

An Old Guy Listens to Branded by Undercover


It says something about my taste in Christian rock/pop that I stopped buying most of that genre’s music sometime during the mid-90s.

As for the oldies, I get them out every once in a while.

The other day I had to take a little trip, so I went down into the musical vault and pulled out a helping of Undercover, the seminal Christian “punk pop” band of the 80s. Yes, 80s. (To show my advanced age, I actually still own a Living Epistles T-shirt emblazoned with “No Surfing in Hell,” which I was told was a riff on one of Undercover’s tunes. And yes, I’m a bit embarrassed now that I was once dying to own a T-shirt like that.)

Anyway, I used to really enjoy Undercover’s happy, surf-skater-punk sound. Then they got a new lead singer and moved the band in a harder, darker, more introspective direction.

That direction produced the 1986 album Branded (link to lyrics). If you were to ask me what the top three Christian rock albums of all time were, Branded would have to be on that list.

I got out the Undercover, Anthology 1 double-CD the other day. It contains all of Branded, plus the previous three albums by the band.

Wow. I still love Branded. A great collection of music. Not a bad track on the entire disc.

{Update: I removed the link to my favorite song off Branded, “Where Can I Go,” because of questions of the legality of the source on YouTube. I talked with a copyright expert who let me in on all the weirdness and exceptions regarding such things, but I felt that discretion won out here, so I took down the embedded video.}

What are your favorite Christian “oldies” from the 70s and 80s?