EDITORIAL -- The Bakersfield "Jesus People"
A few weeks ago, someone sent me a copy of a paper named Maranatha, which stated that it was published by "Bakersfield Jesus People." I paid little attention to it, inasmuch as I thought it was the product of denominationalism. But I now find that Maranatha is published and edited by members of the church. Hence, it perhaps deserves a little attention.
Several months ago, I wrote a little squib in this paper which I entitled "Hippy Christians." I had in mind people like these "Bakersfield Jesus People" who sometime refer to themselves as "Jesus freaks." However, some brother in one of the foreign countries wrote me, wanting to know what on earth is a "Hippy Christian." Perhaps some even in the church in this country are unaware of some of the shenanigans being pulled by some of our brethren who pretend to be doing the will of the Lord, and to be acting "by the authority of" Christ.
The arrangers for Maranatha are a group of families in Bakersfield, California, which is about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Dudley Lynch, the recently ousted, very liberal former editor of the Christian Chronicle, wrote an article entitled "Turning On To Jesus," which appeared in the November, 1971 Mission magazine. Lynch conducted an extensive interview with Marty Hooper, editor of Maranatha. Lynch states of Hooper's cohorts "Most are members of Churches of Christ." They felt themseves rebuffed by one church, but they have found an "openness" in another congregation in North Bakersfield.
Marty Hooper "has wholeheartedly embraced the Jesus movement . . .," says Lynch. Hooper is "a graduate in Bible and English of Abilene Christian College, a former admissions counselor for Pepperdine College and a former program director for Camp Shiloh, Mendham, New Jersey." Camp Shiloh was the pet-development of Clinton Davidson of New York City. Hooper certainly has the right background to be well steeped in looseness and liberalism. However, Lynch and Hooper have digressed so far that they think of Abilene and Pepperdine as bastions of dogmatic conservatism.
Maranatha now has a circulation of ten thousand copies. Hooper contends that "the theology of the Movement borders on biblical fundamentalism... These deluded brethren, as well as the thousands of denominationalists who join with them to form the Jesus Movement, are rebelling against organized religion. Sara Davidson, writing in Harper's, depicts these people as anti-authoritarian. They are antiestablishment. They prefer private meetings called "cells" to churches. Lynch states, "The organized church, as a direct instrument, is virtually powerless against the arrogant intellectual nihilism of the counterculture."
Within the past decade or two, we have seen the development of a youthful, idealistic segment in our society which has come to be called "Hippies." They usually do not work, but prefer to live off the welfare checks provided by the "establishment" to which they are so strongly opposed. In a few instances, they are the children of well-to-do parents who keep up these deadbeats while they march in the streets in protest against a wide variety of causes. A sizable percentage of these "Hippies" seem to be scared to death of a bar of soap, or of a barber shop. Some of this sub-culture pretend to be followers of our Lord. Some even suppose that Jesus was the first "Hippy."
Our brother Hooper is described by Lynch like this: "He sports a full beard, dresses in tie-dyed hand-me-downs and drives a 1971 Chevy Jesus Wagon, the words 'fill up with Jesus' painted over its gas cap." It is strange that a fellow would wear hand-me-down clothes, which must be a part of his protest-costume, while he drives a "1971 Chevy Jesus Wagon," isn't it. Hooper and his cohorts sometime go marching through the streets dressed in gunny sacks, with their faces smeared with ashes.
Brother Hooper and his "Jesus People" crowd are close associates of Pat and Shirley Boone. They believe, "in a very personal relationship with the Holy Spirit . . ." According to Lynch, Hooper has done considerable work "with experimental modes of worship." I presume that this means worshipping God as one sees fit, rather than as He commands. Brother Hooper and his musical group called "The Forerunners" "perform regularly at Bakersfield's Teen Challenge headquarters, affiliated with the New York (denominational-CW) evangelist Dave Wilkerson," who helped to lead Pat Boone astray.
Lynch states that Hooper has "a personal Mafia among Bakersfield businessmen." You would think that while they march in protest to the "establishment," they would not want to draw their operational funds from the "establishment." Hooper draws much of his support for his projects from Harold Moore who is a Presbyterian businessman, from Bill Wright who belongs to the Assemblies of God, and from Frank Gifford, an electrical contractor who "used to be a typical legalist in the Churches of Christ," says Lynch. In the "Jesus Movement," one has a good opportunity to see what a motley mess the ecumenical spirit of our age will make.
Hooper and his "Jesus People" take to the streets in protest to various things. Many of the things to which they object would be things to which any faithful Christian would be forced to object. However, they sometimes use rather unorthodox and perhaps even bizarre means of protesting. When some movies were being shown to which Hooper and his folks objected, the protested in the following way: "The Bakersfield Five cut holes so they could see through their gunny sacks, smeared ashes on their forehead and arms, copied Scriptural Jeremiads on their placards and picketed the movie house. Smitten by their own outspokenness, they decided next to picket the business district and the Kern County administrative offices, just on general principles." It sounds as though they got such a "kick" out of street marching, they decided to enjoy themselves further, by going downtown to picket "just on general principles."
Hooper states, "We have these songs, these chants, like football chants, and it really freaks people out." According to Lynch, "To Hooper, such outings are in obedience to Romans 10:9, 10, which commands confession unto salvation." Did you know before now that Romans 10: 9, 10 referred to putting on a gunny sack, smearing your face with ashes, and marching through town shouting "these chants, like football chants"? The Gospel Advocate commented on such behavior: "What a low view of Christianity! Christianity is not giving fifteen rah-rahs for Christ. It is not give me a J, give me an E." Lynch states that Hooper and his helpers joined a "March for Jesus" on the capitol of California, and he quotes them as shouting, "Give me a J! Give me an E!"
Hooper says of his musical group called "The Forerunners," "We have an eschatalogical. thrust, I guess you would call it. We are really heavy into this thing of sharing the coming of Jesus." The night before Lynch interviewed Hooper, they had "played for an hour and a half and gave our testimonies" at a "Christian coffeehouse ... called The Ark" in Porterville, California. Hooper has fitted his "affinity for' folk and rock music" into the programs conducted by "The Forerunners." This is partially what Lynch referred to when he spoke of Hooper's "work with experimental modes of worship." Can you imagine a member of the Lord's church thinking he can worship God by playing folk and rock music?
In one issue of Maranatha, they advertised "The Lost Coin" as "a Jesus Coffee House." They invited those whom they called the "Long Hairs" and said they would have "walking Guitars," "screaming flutes," "coffee pots," and "tamberines." At another session which they advertised, they announced that they would offer "Happy Jesus Music, by Christian rock groups. . ." They also announced that they would have "Bible rap sessions" and wanted everyone there "for the Grand Floating of the ARK!" Another ad says, "Got Somethin Goin For Jesus? Right On!!!!! Tell us for next Maranatha, P.O. Box 6232, Bakersfield, California 93306."
Dudley Lynch states that the "Jesus People" have been "portrayed . . . as pathogenic (in our ecclesiastical woods, by The Gospel Advocate, Truth Magazine, and other journals)..." Lynch says "the Jesus People seem to have little to fear from The Gospel Advocate (and) Truth Magazine. . . . He states that "the religious traditionalist can potshot all he wants .... but that the Jesus People will be unmoved by it all. Of course, we knew all along that we bad no means to coerce people to do the will of God, and to cease experimentation with new "modes of worship." Lynch, himself also a liberal, states, "that monotonous conformity, such as that enforced by power-wielders within the Churches of Christ the past four or five decades, is increasingly left obsolete by the many factors that present the individual with a plethora of choice." Mission magazine can glowingly present the Jesus People, who are but masquerading as Christians, and yet they are the ones who complain so much when some of us speak of Mission as being a liberal magazine.
Lynch states that the "Jesus People" are the only ones with anything to offer to the 66 now generation." He said, "If Jesus is to be present as an 'on the scenes' alternative to the anti-historical, anti-theistic rip current now pressing on youthful America, it may be that the Jesus People will have to serve as Christendom's primary operatives among those 'walking around with acid-freaked heads, skag skin, Mary Jan Moguls, astro aches, far eastern flak-outs, yoga yesterdays and phony Christianity.' "
Lynch says that those of us whom he terms "instant religious editorialists" who attack the Jesus People must decide, "how far dare I press my pride and prejudices at the expense of a nation's, perhaps a civilization's, progeny?" He says that the "Jesus People" may be all the saving influence within our nation; indeed they may be the only hope of extending and propagating civilization! Lynch's question does not bother me much. If the "Jesus People" are the only hope of the continuance of the Gospel, its already a lost cause. They are not preaching the Gospel anyway. They are preaching a watered-down, inter-denominational "gospel" that consists only of the most superficial forms of the person and preaching of Christ. They hold their own form of godliness, but they have denied the power of a truly transformed life in Christ. They ignore or oppose the Body which cost His blood. If the Jesus People are the hope of the world, civilization's future is bleak indeed.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 10, pp. 3-6