The Alternative Jesus: Psychedelic Christ

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The Jesus Revolution

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a hill in Imperial Beach, Calif. A drab shell, perhaps, but a pearl inside; as one 22-year-old girl put it, "the heaviest place I know to worship." Services include free-form "singing in the spirit," a mighty babble of moans, groans and cries against a background of organ music; "prophecies," in ersatz King James style; and long Cronquist sermons, complete with angels and demons.

Up the beach at Encinitas is a brand of Christianity that is pure California. Ed Wright, 26, owner of the Sunset Surf Shop and principal apostle of the Christian Surfers, tells how Jesus adds a special dimension to the sport. "It's so beautiful when you are with the Lord and catch a good ride. When you are piling out for the next one you just say 'Thank you Lord for being so good to us and for the good waves and the good vibes.'" Christ is the essential focus, though. Surfer Mike Wonder, a fellow convert, sought Christ after he found the perfect wave in Hawaii and it failed to bring him happiness.

Nothing except Christ makes waves at gatherings of Berkeley's Christian World Liberation Front, which was in the vanguard of the movement in the San Francisco Bay Area. CWLF Bible meetings are like an understanding embrace: the members sit naturally in a rough circle; a spaced-out speed freak crawls in, is casually accepted, kneels: a baby plays; the only black plucks a guitar, and the group swings easily into a dozen songs. The hat is passed with a new invitation: "If you have something to spare, give; if you need, take." Finally they rise, take one another's hands, and sing "We will walk with each other/ We will walk hand in hand/ And they'll know we are Christians by our love."

Spokane's Voice of Elijah spreads the spirit in large ways and small. When house members heard of a hungry old woman who had been cut from welfare, they took up a $42 collection at the I Am coffeehouse, left her groceries, cash and a message that read simply "from Jesus." The house reaches large groups through its hard-rock band, the Wilson McKinley, which recently helped draw 8,000 to a "Sweet Jesus Rock Concert" at Stanford University. The Jesus People almost lost the crowd when one evangelist told the collegians they should "abstain from sexual immorality, and that means abstain except in marriage. We're finding this is the last area people want to give up." There were no cheers but, astonishingly in the Age of Aquarius, no hoots either.

Music, the lingua franca of the young, has become the special medium of the Jesus movement. Godspell, a bright, moving musical written by students and based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, is a sellout hit off-Broadway. The rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, bound for Broadway next fall, is already a bestselling record album; at New York City's Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church recently, a minister smilingly baptized a baby "In the name of the Father, the Holy Ghost, and Jesus Christ Superstar." Amazing Grace, Put Your Hand in the Hand and My Sweet Lord are top-40 hits, and Jesus-rock groups, most of them converts, roam the country under such names as Hope, Dove and The Joyful Noise.

Go Tell About Jesus

The sounds produced by the rock groups are not always good nor the lyrics always effective evangelism, but the best of

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