Jesus Revolution – The Movie

I met Chuck Smith once. Back in the summer of 1980 it never occurred to me they would one day make a movie of his life

Chuck was a pastor of a small, somewhat uptight, church in southern California back in the late sixties when the hippies arrived. His is one of the stories in the film Jesus Revolution, which opened in theatres on the weekend

Jesus Revolution is not so much about a clash of cultures but of the birth of a new one. Or the reimagining of an old one. When you pour new wine into old wineskins it is going to be messy. That little country church that Chuck Smith pastored became one of the focal points of a world -wide movement. Turns out the uptight folks weren’t has uptight as it seemed. At least not all of them. They understood what being the Church was all about.

When I read the book Jesus Revolution five years ago I was struck by how much the story of Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie and Lonnie Frisbee was my story. I’ve never been to California but youthful alienation knows no borders.

As a Christian attending a small traditional church, I knew just how out of touch with the real world the church could at times be. It was as if the adults had circled the wagons, hunkered down and wanted to keep out anyone who didn’t look and sound “Christian.” Or what they thought was a Christian. Which was tough for someone like me who had a love for rock and roll, which was considered the Devil’s music.

Jesus Revolution took me back to those times and left me emotionally wrung out. Having read the book, I knew how the story would end, which perhaps had me concentrating not so much on the plot but on the feelings and emotions of the characters. I will admit, I cried a lot during this film, mostly tears of joy that this story is now being told in this way.

The Jesus revolution exploded out of southern California and swept the world. It changed the way we “do church,” especially the music of worship. When I grew up “new” church music would be a hymn written in the 19th century and played on an organ. I like organs – but I like an electric guitar better. And bass and drums. Turns out it isn’t the Devil’s music after all.

Despite our many similarities, Canada is vastly different culturally from our southern neighbor. When it comes to matters of religion, most prefer not to discuss it. Which left me wondering how non-believers will view this film. Or will they not enter the theatre, as they also avoid our churches? How can they relate to the exuberance of these hippie Christians?

Then again, maybe the exuberance is part of the appeal. After trying sex drugs and rock and roll, a generation in search of truth found it with a capital T in Jesus. That sort of thing isn’t woke. Back then it wasn’t cool. But in a world where nothing else is working, Jesus is the answer, even if you haven’t yet completely formulated the question.

The movie is a love story on several different levels. Not just between young people and Jesus, but between two specific young people, Greg and Cathy. (Spoiler alert – 50 years later that love is still going strong.) Despite a dysfunctional family and parental disapproval, love wins out

When I saw the trailer for the film a couple of weeks back, I thought the choice of Kelsey Grammer as Chuck Smith was a good one. Not only is he a competent actor, but there’s a certain physical resemblance to the Chuck Smith I remember.

Given that uplifting films rarely have a long run in Ottawa, I made sure to see it. If it is playing in your local theatre as you read this, you should check it out.

It is late as I am typing this, and I have more to say about this movie, but I think it will have to wait for tomorrow.



  1. Great points. Looking forward to it. Now, as for what’s been happening at Asbury?

    1. I thought about commenting on what has been happening at Asbury University, but all I know is what I read online – I have no connection there. And I’m not sure whether more online attention helps or hurts. Social media can be soul sucking.

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