Re: Jesus Freaks (2 responses)

Sat, 14 Mar 1998 10:51:25 EST

david di sabatino asks two interesting questions:

>First, I am interested in hearing whether any on this board that were
>participants during the Sixties ever thought that the Jesus freaks
>constituted a significant portion of the counterculture.

My take on this is that the Jesus freak phenomenon was more a spin-off of the
counterculture, in its later years when it had been in many ways shaped by the
media culture (attracting new "waves" of dropouts, etc.), than a significant
portion of the counterculture --but that's because I see the counterculture,
prior to cooptation & subversion by media, as something
authentically expressive and at least implicitly political. Drugs were a real
part of this early phase, as were spiritual quests of varying kinds (Eastern,
Native American, and probably some Christian). But that strikes me as
somewhat different from the kinds of "answers" younger, more alienated, and
arguably more narcissistic seekers got at the end of the 60s and early 70s.
I'd check in Tipton, which I haven't read in quite a while.

>Second, part of the reason I think that historians of the Sixties
>overlook the Jesus freaks is perhaps they might be viewed as having
>been co-opted by the right wing and the longstanding Protestant
>tradition in North America. But yet, on the other hand, there were
>many who didn't make any distinction between hippies selling LSD or
>doling out tracts. I guess my question is. . . why aren't the Jesus
>freaks included in the discussion of Sixties counterculture???

Again, I think it comes to whether or not one can make a distinction between
an authentic, experimental, expressive counterculture growing up in
communities in 65-67 (which, of course, persisted in varying forms,
back-to-the-land, etc.) and the wave of runaways, for example, who flocked to
the Haight for the media hyped "summer of love" without any else going on
than the idea of doing something "far out." I'm largely (not completely --cf.
Jackson Lears' review of "Conquest of Cool" in the Nation) in agreement with
Tom Frank's critical take on much of the counterculture as being at least
inherently co-optable by the consumer culture, so that probably colors my
reading. David's comment about being co-opted by the right wing and
Protestantism touches on this to a degree --in the sense, if some Jesus Freaks
abandoned their at-least-implicitly political consciousness, then I think they
followed the inherently co-optable path of the counterculture; I suspect,
however, that most of those who drifted in this direction didn't have that
consciousness to begin with. There are so many facets to this "post-60s"
phenomenon --the human potential movement, New Age, Rennie Davis'
"conversion," Jesus Freaks, etc. A fascinating phenomenon. I'd toss out,
though, that this "expressive" side of the 60s held in it the danger of being
completely co-opted into a manipulative, unjust corporate order, thus losing
or abandoning the initial oppositional force of 60s democracy. In a phrase,
"sold out" or co-opted. On the other hand, this "side" of the 60s is part of
what gave 60s movements so much of their vitality, energy, promise -- so by
the same token, I'd argue that abandoning this to a purely "instrumental
politics" means following a path once tread by the "old left" or still tread
by any number of liberal Democrats, etc. that doesn't promise liberation and
full empowerment at all. It's gotta be both.

Ted Morgan