I admit to a morbid fascination with all things Jesus Freaky. As I dissect the belief system I clawed out of, I can't help but study the seemingly benign roots of a Jesus Movement that morphed into the present day Evangelical Fundamentalists, a malignancy that threatens to rule not only our country, but the world.
In the 1960s, many young-uns experimented with sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Many were not psychologically mature enough to deal with the fall-out of their own experimentation. All things esoteric and mystical got a big boost from boomers faced with a hypocritical society whose moral facade badly needed attention.**
Though I'm quite appreciative of the genuine practitioners of the Beatniks, Hippies, Punks, and Grunge, I'm ever more aware that many of the followers of these movements were merely in it for the cool clothes and groovy music. Often the core philosophies of these movements never went more than skin deep.
Can the same be said for the Original Jesus Freak?
Lonnie Frisbee: He not only channeled the appearance of the holiest of holy men for westerners, Jesus Christ, but he “glowed”, exuded charisma, walked and talked like a child of God, a flower child in awe of the amazing Yes-ness of the universe, an Awe that attracted people to bathe in his and the Holy Spirit's presence and be baptized by his hand.
Lonnie baptized and brought hundreds, if not thousands, of disenchanted flower children into the fold of evolving conservative christian churches... churches that were experimenting with non-denominational ideas: Baptists mixing with Catholics mixing with Mystics.
While Billy Graham found his stadium style revival stride and pride, all it took for Lonnie Frisbee to turn the Californians to Jesus was the Pacific Ocean.
Hollywood threatens a “based on a true story” film about the original Jesus Freak. In the meantime watch "FRISBEE: the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher” (2005). You won’t get an outside perspective, but you will get in-depth soul-searching by some key players of the Jesus Movement.
SPOILER ALERT: Lonnie’s story includes sexual abuse from the age of 8. He was a competitive artist. He found Jesus in the midst of an LSD trip when 17. He married. He mushroomed the ranks, and coffers, of the Jesus Movement. He spoke in tongues, baptized, preached, and healed. He divorced. He "struggled" with homosexuality. The church more or less kicked him out. The Vineyard corporation, and its ilk, would be nothing without him. They’ve all but written him out of their history. He died of AIDS in 1993.
Anyone who has spent more than Holidays in a church will know that churches are full of petty, insecure men and women, struggling to gain power and recognition within the ranks. The reasoning behind Lonnie’s fall from grace within the Vineyard community is debatable and complicated. Yet, I have no doubt that everyone who turned their back on him felt moved by God to do so.
With regards to homosexuality, the Evangelicals are truly blessed with a younger generation who are not AS afraid to out themselves. For every fundie child disowned for their GLBT tendencies, there is a fundie mom and dad of an LGBT child who refuses to believe that God does not accept and love their child AS IS. And so it goes.
Little by little we gouge away.
I’m not naïve to the straighten-them-out movement in the evangelical church. I know of people who have “proved” the Kinsey Scale wrong, and found Jesus with a side of heterosexual happiness. I know more people who have found utter acceptance within their faith and family, not afraid to damn the apostle Paul and laugh at Leviticus.
Better yet, I know people who were able to leave religion behind entirely based on their unapologetic pride in their sexuality. We HAVE matured psychologically since the 1960s. A little. Once again, I place my optimism and “faith” in the inevitable evolution of the evangelicals.
Hippies coming down from their highs needed Lonnie. The church on the verge of revival needed him. They both used and abused him. And if the born-again boomer hippies and beatniks helped birth the modern day evangelical church, which they did, hippies, beats, and church all did their share of spitting him OUT.
But then again, religions have had christs and scapegoats and Lonnie Frisbees to die for their sins from time immemorial. As the existential Preacher said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes1:9).
He also said, “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (Eccles. 1:15).
As many TC girls have asked, “Why do all the Good ones have to be gay?” I have no problem admitting that Lonnie Frisbee earns high hotness marks on my Hot-For-Jesus scorecard. Anybody would have been lucky to have him.
I recognize him for his obvious resemblance to Jesus, (what male Hippie didn’t resemble Jesus?).
Lonnie was there at the beginning of my indoctrination of Faith. I longed to emulate his vibe.
I spent hours and hours, a child of the born-again vinyl-'70s, studying the jacket to an early Contemporary Christian Music LP with Lonnie standing in the midst of a pyramid of worshipers, arms and eyes raised, praising god, hippie beatnik rainbow trippy love glowing all around him.
*First Photo from lonniefrisbee.com. Remainder of photos from Jesus People Movement site.
**my unscientific theory