Continuing my look at the phenomenon of the dramatic rise of the evangelical megachurch, I’m going to t ell you about a Harper magazine essay Blinded by the Right? that had an interesting take on how the big shift started. According to T. M. Luhrmann, who spent ten years researching American evangelism, Christian hippies “begat evangelical conservatives.”
American evangelism goes way back before hippies ever arrived on the scene, he says, “but the hippies changed what it meant to be Christian in America.”
As I attend Atlanta’s Mt. Paran services, I can observe the hippie effect. The rock concert light shows that accompany rock and jazz Christian music all are remenicient of the hippie era. What has changed is the drug culture that went with the hippie music. The drug high has been replaced with the “Pentecostal spiritual high.”
You would never think that hippies would embrace the politics of the political right. But, it seems most of those who joined the Jesus People movement in the 1970s did, and they, and their progeny, still do.
I believe it is safe to assume that not all hippies became Christian evangelical conservatives. But, Luhrmann makes a good case that a lot of them did and had a huge effect on the movement. Churches who adapted to that effect have grown impressively. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for other organizations, organizations like symphony orchestras. More on that in a future post.