Top Ten Books of 2013 - #6
God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America, by Larry Eskridge
There were times, in the reading of this book, that I was brought to laughter, and times where I nearly wept. Those of you who are old enough to remember the Jesus People movement may have a different response, but mine is one of both gratitude and joy. Keep reading...
God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America, by Larry Eskridge (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 386 pp.
There were times, in the reading of this book, that I was brought to laughter, and times where I nearly wept. Those of you who are old enough to remember the Jesus People movement may have a different response, but mine is one of both gratitude and joy.
I was 19 years old in the summer of 1970. Two friends and I drove cross-country from Norman, Oklahoma, to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, to participate in a summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ. These were volatile times, in more than one way. Politically, President Richard Nixon was midway through his first term and the war in Viet Nam was escalating. Culturally, the 60’s had taken their toll on the country, especially on its conservative and more traditional folk. Spiritually, though, it was a revolution! Most experts date the full-blown explosion of the Jesus movement to the summer of 1970. Only divine providence could have arranged for this ultra-conservative, Southern Baptist, nineteen-year-old-soon-to-be-sophomore at the University of Oklahoma to be present when it happened.
During my time in Tahoe, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove by myself to Berkeley, California, the center of the anti-war protests and the home of the Christian World Liberation Front, the brainchild of former Campus Crusade for Christ staff member, Jack Sparks. I spent two days and nights with the men and women of the CWLF, eating rice and drinking water and sleeping on a concrete floor and singing the songs of the burgeoning spiritual revival. It was an odd experience, to say the least.
Two years later, Ann and I were married (May 26, 1972), followed by a short, three-day honeymoon in Dallas, Texas. We never expected that three weeks after the wedding, in June, we would be back in Dallas for Explo ’72, or as most people called it, “Godstock”! But there we were, together with nearly 200,000 others, listening to Larry Norman sing “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” with a hand raised, index finger pointed toward heaven, chanting in unison: “One way, Jesus! One way Jesus!”
Larry Eskridge has written what is undoubtedly the definitive history of this time in American spiritual culture. Spanning from 1968 through 1975, he traces the people, places, songs, beliefs, troubles, triumphs, and the many tragedies of the Jesus movement. This book is a sheer delight to read. It is a serious work of scholarship, complete with an insightful survey of those who participated in the movement. Part nostalgia, part news reporting, part cultural analysis, it is a wonderful walk through a remarkable period in our country’s, and the church’s, history. I loved reading it. I trust you will as well.