Radicalized Youth Gone Wild?

 Chapter 49

Youth are more easily radicalized than mature adults; that is, if adults do, in fact, mature. 

It is largely, but not totally, accurate, that the JPM was youth-oriented. The hippies on the streets and the kids in high schools and colleges were most often under age thirty, and the slogan was not to trust anyone over that age. In the Bay Area, the rebellious baby boomers, those born around the ending of WWII and further, broke loose and followed their hearts, or another organ, and did everything their parents warned them against. Does this also explain the Jesus People Movement?

In the Bay Area it didn’t take a sociologist or demographer to see that large numbers of young people were out on the streets agitating for and against one thing or another. It was in the midst of all this that the JPM began. A detractor might easily conclude that there was no real spiritual component to the JPM, that is was merely the drugs, sex, and rock ’n roll culture gone wild in a different direction. And I will concede that the JPM was likewise tarnished, which should not be unexpected.

The first three national American awakenings, according to my reading of them, cut across the board age-wise. Whole families were impacted in these revival events, not merely the young. In the third awakening of 1857 to 1859, the main venue was the businessmen’s noon prayer meeting, so there were probably not many disaffected youth in the bunch. Young people were obviously involved in the first three awakenings, but they were not the primary participants.

My experience in the San Francisco Bay Area was that adults, parents mostly, including many mature adults, were also involved in the JPM. During the early days when the Bible studies in the schools were going on, I also conducted studies in the homes of actual church going folks of all ages. It did not take long before a variety of people, even some grey-headed types like I am now, were a big part of the awakening. And I can say from what I saw across the country in the late 1960s, that the same thing was occurring elsewhere. It may be that the young made more headlines than others or were more visible, but my observation and experience is that the JPM was not strictly for the young. 

Because the JPM was a “movement” and received a growing amount of media coverage, there were some involved who were not genuinely born again of the Spirit of God; after all, anyone can walk through the front door. False conversion was and always is a big issue; as my ministerial work has evolved, I have become more and more aware of this phenomenon. This interest led to the writing of my first book in the second stage of my “literary career” titled, Are You Really Born Again? published by Evangelical Press in 1995. My working title had been, The Mystery of Conversion, and it was a discussion of the nature of both true and false conversion.1 

1 Earthen Vessel Publishing published a third edition of the book under the title, A Matter of Life and Death: Understanding True and False Conversion. As in any awakening, the Holy Spirit works powerfully to save, but the enemy of God is active as well. 

Hearing Now from other JPMers 

Fast forward now to the present day. There are starting to be conferences and gatherings of Jesus freaks converted during the JPM. Locally, Scott McCarrel has taken the lead to organize such gatherings. Scott organized one small event already and others are planned.2 

2 Scott’s email address is: Scott McCarrel (MCCARRELS6@aol.com)

Let me summarize what I have been seeing and hearing from grey-headed ex-JPMers: Some of the Jesus freaks held on faithfully over the long haul; some made “ship wreck” of their faith for a period of time and have come back strong; others went their way and, in my view, gave evidence to the fact that their “conversion” was not genuine. I would like to be more generous than this, but those are my observations. 

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