LIFE magazine cover story on the “Christian Woodstock,” Explo ’72, a music festival organized by the conservative group Campus Crusade for Christ. Fair Use.

The third installment of my sprawlingly epic essay on the subterranean connections between the “conservative counterculture” of the ’70s Jesus Freaks, the bong-fueled youth culture of the day, and a Bowie fandom so fervent it approached cult mania, is live at Religion Dispatches. In response to reader clamor for longer excerpts, this latest post weighs in at a little under 2,000 words. (Now, with 50 percent more Jesus!)


The Jesus Freaks’ ad-hoc theology could be summed up in two words: solus Jesus (“Jesus alone”), a “radically Jesus-centric” Christianity (to borrow a phrase from the religious historian Stephen Prothero) that privileged a soul-joltingly emotional relationship with the Son of God. The Jesus movement took the tendency, in American Christianity, to conceive of Jesus in down-to-earth, warmly human terms to new extremes.


Richard Hook, portrait of Jesus. Copyright Richard Hook, all rights reserved.

Unsurprisingly, the Jesus Freaks imagined Christ as one of their own—a hippie, like Ted Neeley’s sad-eyed Prince of Peaceniks in the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar, or a surfer dude like Richard Hook’s popular Head of Christ (1964), whose stoned gaze makes him look like the kind of party-on messiah who peppered his conversation with words like “gnarly” and “bogus.” The Jesus People moved the sandaled, longhaired Son of God center stage and banished his hard-assed, disciplinarian Dad—Yaweh, assistant principal of the Old Testament—to the wings. (Yet more proof of Feuerbach’s postulate that man creates God in his own image.)

Read it HERE.

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