The Alternative Jesus: Psychedelic Christ

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The Jesus Revolution

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Foundation for Mind Research in New York City, finds that while "the Jesus trip gives them rich expectations and more rigid values, they also suffer a narrowing of conceptual vision. They become obsessed." She cites the case of one girl who turned to the Jesus movement after a severe family crisis. "She escaped her guilt and horror, but it had the effect of a psychological and social lobotomy. Where once she had been superbly inquisitive, she now could relate things only in terms of her religion —but she had a focal point for all her energy." Sociologist Andrew Greeley calls Catholic Pentecostalism the "most vital movement in Catholicism right now," but warns that it could become "just pure emotion, even a form of hysteria." The Rev. George Peters of the United Presbyterian Church says of the Jesus People: "I see dangers. This biblical literalism. The kids quote verses without understanding them to prove a point. I thought we'd outgrown that. I'd like to see some kind of form."

The established churches may not have the luxury of choosing the youngsters' style. Whatever the excesses or shortcomings of the Jesus revolution, organized religion cannot afford to lose the young in numbers or enthusiasm. In parts of the movement, of course, the churches are not losing them; indeed, they are gaining zealots. Catholic Pentecostals and straight evangelicals are already having an effect; if organized religion embraced the Jesus People as well, the greening effect on the churches could be considerable. Theologian Martin Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School feels that the Jesus People, frustrated by a complex society that will not yield to their single-minded devotion, may well disband in disarray. But even Marty says: "Five years from now you may have some better Presbyterians because of their participation in the Jesus movement." And the Rev. Robert Terwilliger of New York City's Trinity Institute says longingly: "There is a revival of religion everywhere—except in the church."

Sometimes the church is not at fault. When young people began to come into the smoothly running, upper-middle-class congregation at La Jolla (Calif.) Lutheran Church, Pastor Charles Donhowe started evening meetings for them. Soon Donhowe had two congregations, the regular Sunday-at-11 variety and the new Christians in the evening. A minister for nine years, Donhowe was in effect converted by the youngsters to unstructured Christianity. He resigned and took his evening congregation with him. Some of his older parishioners joined the secession. Now known simply as "Bird Rock," they meet in Bird Rock Elementary School in La Jolla. If Bird Rock is an omen, it would be an ironic one: the dove, after all, is the ancient symbol of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus built his own church upon a rock.

The Fact of Faith

There are better omens in the actions of clergymen like Houston's John Bisagno, even when they are uncertain of the full meaning and the life span of the Jesus revolution. Says Bisagno: "All I know is that kids are turning on to Jesus. My concern is that the staid, traditional churches will reject these kids and miss the most genuine revival of our lifetime." Canon Edward N. West of Manhattan's Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine has also made his church a

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