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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Comiskey

Beachhead: Review of Jesus Revolution

Something sweet and true runs through this film about hippies ‘getting saved’ in Woodstock-era Southern California. (I caught the tail-end of this revolution but our pastor, Kenn Gulliksen, started his career with Chuck and Lonnie at its onset.)

Its premise is simple: white middle-class kids overexposed to the sun (Newport Beach never looked better), drugs, and each other discover unhappiness in their quest for truth. Jesus discovers them. Ah, youth! This community revolutionized ‘church’ by mobilizing folky music, simple preaching, and young charismatic players to reach a generation aching for meaning.

Any Christian today who entered or renewed faith through a melodic, accessible invitation to ‘know Jesus’ owes this revolution a debt of gratitude.

I loved Kelsey Grammar’s poignant yet underplayed portrayal of a pastor (Church Smith) who himself ‘gets saved’ by the Spirit gifting him with compassion for kids he had scorned as lazy druggies. Chuck’s conversion into a pretty good father of a tough-to-father bunch challenges aging ‘Jesus-people’ like me to weep for a new generation that confuses ‘trans-rights’ with righteousness.

Still, my familiarity with the material, combined with a slight allergy for ‘Jesus’ media, gave me pause about:

Greg Laurie as the epicenter of the Revolution. Great guy and ministry, but just one of many sons and daughters who established the beachhead. I realize Greg wrote the book on which the film is based, but he edits history a bit by becoming the revolution’s shimmering star. At one point he says something like: ‘I just want people to remember my name.’ We will.

Lonnie Frisbee. This ‘John-the-Baptist’ of the revolution, played amusingly by Jonathan Roumie (Jesus in ‘The Chosen’) with an almost fey Jack Nicholson-twang, is one complicated guy. Forerunner Lonnie initiated this revolution with Smith. Both prodigal and prophet, Lonnie possessed a disarming evangelistic candor plus an anointing of the Spirit to heal that was breathtaking. Annette and I witnessed him serving people we pastored and marveled at his precision.

I was more floored by Lonnie’s lifelong addiction to same-sex relationships (he died of HIV in ’93). Though Lonnie refused to get help from me, I helped restore a few young men whom Lonnie had seduced. Hear me: the problem is and was never Lonnie’s tendencies--it was his refusal to get the help he needed. No immoral proclivity needs to drive the saints. We take the wheel, wholly surrendered. Lonnie never learned to drive.

His unchecked weakness combined with his magnetism as a minister made him a danger to himself and vulnerable guys. And Lonnie’s gifts incited a revolution. Revolutions are complicated.

Lastly, Jesus Revolution started as a potent fusion of solid preaching and Spirited signs and wonders; it ends with Bible teaching and altar calls, a yawning revival. Laurie associates Frisbee’s spiritual gifting (moving in power to prophesy and heal) with him being a diva—paired with the peculiar Kathryn Kuhlman and unwilling to be checked by pastor Smith. Maybe so, but Frisbee’s frailties can’t be blamed for the faith that fanned into flame a messy revolution that continues to restore messier people. John Wimber, for example, who took over the Vineyard movement from founder Gulliksen, committed his entire life and a global movement to keep the Word/Spirit fullness alive and well.

No revolution without the fire. Maybe we can learn something from the failure of a few. No need for divas and posers and abusers: just fan into flame the gift He gives.


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