AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan
In a film industry almost entirely dominated by cultural wokeism and progressive orthodoxies, religious Americans have had an increasingly difficult time finding films that align with their values and the precepts of their faith. One recent film, however, is courageously bucking the trend of Hollywood leftism and ushering in a resurgence of Christian and Christ-centered values at the box office.
Jesus Revolution, which first hit theatres in February, examines the ways in which Christian pastor Chuck Smith navigated his southern California church through the “hippie” countercultural movement of the 1960s. The film is based on a true story.
Upon encountering Lonnie Frisbee, a stereotypical hippie and emerging youth minister, at the beginning of the film, Smith at first reluctantly opens his church to dozens of young Christian hippies—but ultimately embraces them as part of his mission to evangelize the world around him.
The hippies of the 1960s, as Frisbee’s character cautions, should not simply be cast aside as troubled, drug-afflicted youths. Rather, as he says in the film, they are “sheep without a shepherd, chasing hard after lies.”
Shortly after opening the doors of his church to Frisbee and other likeminded young Americans searching for meaning, Smith expands his parish, which eventually becomes nationally famous, drawing visitors from coast to coast and sparking a national spiritual awakening and renaissance of the Christian faith.
In the words of Smith’s character, “God has a long history of working through flawed people.”
The film also follows the faith journey of Greg Laurie, who abandons his Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps class to join the hippie movement before later encountering Smith and Frisbee, who convert him to the Christian faith. Thanks to Smith’s spiritual guidance and support, Laurie later realizes his dream of leading his own church and goes onto become a famous pastor.
Even in spite of Hollywood’s hostility towards the Christian faith, Jesus Revolution massively outperformed expectations at the box office—grossing more than $52 million, including $7 million on its first day. As of March, the film has more than quadrupled its original earning expectations.
Additionally, just several weeks after its initial release, the film remarkably became Lionsgate’s highest-grossing film since 2019. The website CinemaScore, which evaluates films based on audience reviews, gave Jesus Revolution an “A+.” In 2022, only two films—Top Gun: Maverick and action film The Woman King—earned that high mark.
Despite the militant secularism of the film industry, the success of Jesus Revolution should not surprise us. In fact, given the many overlaps in cultural turmoil between now and the 1960s, the opportunity for Christians to evangelize our broken world is as strong as ever.
As Lonnie Frisbee’s character says upon meeting Chuck Smith near the beginning of the film, “There is an entire generation right now searching for God. I know we must seem a little strange. But if you look a little deeper, if you look with love, you’ll see a bunch of kids that are searching for all the right things, just in all the wrong places.”
Could there possibly be a better description of America’s cultural chaos in 2023?
Just as pastors and other Christian leaders saw in the left-wing cultural tides of the 1960s and ’70s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to evangelize young people “searching for all the right things” in “all the wrong places,” the social conditions of today present a similar moment.
Where some of America’s youth of 50 years ago was swept up by drugs and the false promises of the sexual revolution, today’s young people are vulnerable to the menacing forces of gender ideology, identity politics, and other progressive toxins seeking to remake the human person in a godless, secular image.
But as easy as it may be to lament the state of America’s fallen culture and retreat into despair, today’s Christian leaders—much like Chuck Smith—have a unique window to repair an afflicted culture, heal a hurting generation, and bring countless hearts, minds, and souls to God.
With these opportunities for evangelization in mind, the release of Jesus Revolution could not have come at a more opportune time. In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, a December 2022 study found that nearly one in three 18-to-25-year-olds believe in God or some form a higher power, which is up from approximately a quarter of the age group that said the same in 2021.
“We are seeing an openness to transcendence among young people that we haven’t seen for some time,” a Christian pastor recently remarked. Believing in God “gives you a reason for living and some hope,” said an 18-year-old college student in Iowa.
Though Christians still have a long way to go in sanctifying the culture and restoring the value of faith in the public square, these numbers—as well as the unprecedented success of Jesus Revolution—show that our broken world is yearning to be fixed.
“That’s the essence of it,” Chuck Smith’s character said of the Christian faith. “An invitation to the broken.”
In a world as broken as our own, the conditions for another Jesus Revolution are as strong as ever.
Jesus Revolution is now available for online streaming and can be viewed here.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.