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Jesus Revolution Review

The lives of a pastor, a former hippie, and a love-struck teenager converge in Jesus Revolution, a film about the American Christian church in the 1960’s. The film pulls off the heartfelt, if not honest, story about faith, that other Christian movies sidestep, portraying believers not as pure and prayerful but as frail, rigid, self-righteous, ego-centric, and haunted by childhood pain. After all, it’s Jesus Christ who is good, the true light behind which we the broken people all must choose to follow.

The film, directed by Brent McCorckil and Jon Erwin, rises above the cringe and preachiness that faith-based movies are known for. Kelsey Grammar (Fraiser) plays Chuck Smith, the pastor of a small southern California congregation; though he is a shepherd with a loyal flock to lead, he is not the hero. Next to Grammar is rising star Jonathan Roumie from The Chosen, who plays former hippie Lonnie Frisbee. God has chosen Lonnie to jumpstart the stiff and composed church, transforming it into the infectious, musical rhythms of the Jesus Movement. Lonnie’s genuine demeanor gives everyone a glimpse into the welcoming love of Jesus, but true to the film’s message, Lonnie is also not the hero.

Central to the story, Greg is seeking liberation from military uniformity and cultural conservativism. Drugs and the affections of a girl who, like other hippies, hopes to connect with the divine, become the avenues by which he hopes to experience that liberation. Greg stumbles into Chuck Smith’s church, which has already been transformed by Lonnie’s presence, and he becomes close friends with the Holy Spirit-led, long-haired evangelist. Caring for his wallowing, co-dependent mother, however, Greg struggles to see where he belongs, and consistent with the others, Greg is not the hero either.

Through these characters in this late 1960’s setting, the film remembers a spiritual movement that shifted the American church in a way that’s felt even today. Orchestrated not by charismatic human minds but by the Holy Spirit, the Jesus Revolution sparked faith in the hearts of countless youth across the country. As portrayed in the movie, the movement shook the rigid, traditionist foundation of the American church, making an impact appropriately scaled to the hand of God. However, when the movement gained its historic momentum, its leader, Lonnie Frisbee, forgot God as the source of his influence, and began looking inward. This cautionary side to the tale of Lonnie Frisbee saw no development in this film. While the film omitted the deeper flaws of its historical figures, Jesus Revolution still exceeds expectations with enough truth to rise above stigma of Christian entertainment. What’s more, it also sheds light on the Christian desire for righteousness that happens to be laced with enough conditions to prevent it from exceeding that of the Pharisees. It’s not easy to be humble. God’s biblical standard silently challenges our propensity to value image over faith so dim it’s barely noticeable to those looking for a lighthouse amidst rough seas.

The hero of Jesus Revolution is intimately involved off-screen. As the title suggests, the one to whom the revolution points ascended to his rightful place over 2,023 years ago, and over 20 centuries later, through the Holy Spirit, his ministry and ultimate act on the cross captured the hearts of an entire generation on a scale unseen anywhere else in American history. This film, succeeding on the shoulders of Kelsey Grammar and Jonathan Roumie, does what only a few Christian movies and one show nails with anointed care and authenticity. It visually captures what happens in the heart during a baptism, a touch of the divine that jumpstarts a lifelong connection with the Savior who knows our pain and shapes our hearts to look more like his – more precious than gold, more precious than rubies.

Published inFilm