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‘Jesus Revolution’ Movie Superbly Captures a Critical Time in Church History .

Justin Malonson

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Jesus Revolution,” the new film about the late 1960s to early 1970s Southern California-based revival centered around Pastor Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, demolishes the cliches about movies made by and for Christians being rank amateur productions. It superbly captures the people and the movement that shook the church and served as a starting point for ministries still thriving today.

The movie expertly weaves multiple threads and characters, both in their interactions and individually. Smith pastored a small, stifled church until he encountered Lonnie Frisbee, a complex itinerant hippie preacher who, despite often being his own worst enemy, was a powerful evangelist. Greg Laurie was a teenager with an unhappy home life courtesy of an absent father and an alcoholic mother. As the film progresses, the travels of these three main characters often run parallel, not always happily.

To a degree, “Jesus Revolution” takes a Chronicles over Kings view of historical events. As I once heard a wise Bible teacher explain, in the Old Testament, the books of Kings reflect Israel’s history from man’s viewpoint, while the books of Chronicles showcase Israel’s history from God’s viewpoint. For example, compare the portrayal of King David’s life in each. In Kings, we get complete details of David’s sordid shortcomings, including his sin with Bathsheba and, later on, his parenting failure with Absalom. In Chronicles, the only failure mentioned is when David decided to take a census of Israel, something prohibited explicitly under Mosaic law. Not that God ignored David’s failures, but He also forgave them.

Throughout the film, the acting is strong. Joel Courtney is particularly noticeable as Laurie, capturing both aggravated teen angst and youthful zeal tempered by past personal letdowns. Jonathan Roumie brings Frisbee to life as a man so consumed with his ministry that he ofttimes forgets to separate himself from God’s working through him. Kelsey Grammer’s portrayal of Smith captures the delicate balancing act necessitated by transforming from a traditional preacher to one far more attuned to addressing youth. Kimberly Williams-Paisley, as Smith’s daughter, and Anna Grace Barlow, as Laurie’s love interest Cathy also turn in excellent performances.

Although “Jesus Revolution” will naturally have the strongest appeal for those who were a part of the time it depicts, it stands on its own as a film capturing recent history. Of course, there are happy endings to most of the plot lines. However, the movie does not sugarcoat the people or the movement it portrays. These were flawed people for whom faith in Christ did not serve as an immediate panacea for all that went on before or transpired after their salvation. Aside from accurately documenting what it was like during the revival, “Jesus Revolution” also serves as a dual reminder of both nudging those who were there toward recalling the joy of new-found faith and reminding us that, like it or not, life is messy. People do let themselves and each other down. Jesus, thankfully, doesn’t.

The movie opens in general release Friday, February 24th.

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Justin Malonson is an is an American internet entrepreneur, software developer, investor, author and technology executive. He is the founder of social-networking service Lyfeloop and CEO of international web-development agency Coastal Media Brand.

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