Monday, February 20, 2023

Signs of the Times

 This is the 7th part of my remembrances of the spiritual awakening that happened in the US in the late 1960's and early '70's.  My memories come from the years '71-'73 as a high school student in Orange, CA, just about ten miles from the epicenter at Costa Mesa's Calvary Chapel.


It seems it was in the early 70's (maybe a few years earlier) that bumper stickers became a thing in America.  Of course, they weren't caused by an avalanche of Christianity upon the country, but soon bumper stickers, posters and new art were proclaiming Jesus. Here are some I recall.


 The Ubiquitous Fish
The one pictured was very cool for a couple reasons. First, who knew what those Greek letters meant? Then, there was history behind the usage of the fish symbol by 1st century Roman Christians during persecution. Third, it looked like chrome and had an adhesive backing, allowing it to be affixed to your car.  Better ask Dad first.

The fish sometimes had "JESUS" instead of the Greek "ichthus" inside, sometimes just the outline of the fish.  But it quickly became the hot Jesus people symbol.  You could find it on t-shirts and bumper stickers.  It seemed to be everywhere.  In fact, it is still being used a great deal by the Christian community as an identifier.  The Greek letters, by the way, stand for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior".


Bumper Stickers

While I'm thinking of it, there were lots of them proclaiming faith in Jesus.  "Hooked on Jesus" - for those coming out of drugs that was a natural.  That one particularly rubbed my mom the wrong way.  "Smile, Jesus Loves You" and "Honk if you love Jesus".  There was lots of honking in Orange County, but it was different than I've experienced on the streets of Manhattan!


One Way 

My first encounter with the index finger pointed upward is told in part one of this series.  To me, it was my first inkling of something happening among the youth culture in my new home. It was contrasted to the hippie/war protest "peace symbol" of the two-fingered V...which had also been Winston Churchill's symbol for Victory in the waning days of WWII.  The "one way" sign was seen in large gatherings, like worship and concerts, and in passing greetings on the streets.  It was derived from Jesus' words to Thomas in John 14:6, where He declared "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  Always an orthodox Christian belief that there is no other means to eternal life, it was elevated in the Jesus' people's evangelistic efforts.  It's why they were called "Jesus people".  It was all about Jesus.

The Cross

I could always remember ladies and girls wearing dainty gold crosses on gold chains.  But with the advent of the movement the cross became more than a piece of jewelry barely visible.  It was being worn larger and shown on the bumper stickers and posters.  I had one - wooden and on leather it hung around my neck.   In my senior year of high school I attended a Bible study in a home, and the young son of the hosts admired my cross so much that I gave it to him.  Wearing it was another way of saying, "I'm not ashamed to be a Christian."

The Way version of The Living Bible



The Living Bible came out in 1971 and was quickly accepted by the Jesus people due to it's simplicity in language.  No "thee's or thou's", it was actually a paraphrase (meaning not a translation from the original Hebrew and Greek) written by Ken Taylor for his children.  Soon after, Zondervan publishers put the LB in a different soft-cover, making it more appealing and affordable to young people.  For me, it was the Bible I carried with my books in my senior year of high school.  


The name "The Way" was appealing to the Jesus people because it was one of the first names attached to the earliest Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 9:2).

New Jesus Art

Suddenly it seemed that new renderings of what Jesus looked like were appearing everywhere.  And instead of looking sad and gaunt, He was looking happy, welcoming and friendly.  It was a reflection of how this new generation saw their Savior.  He was like them.

(This photo is from Explo '72, sometimes called "the Christian Woodstock".)


Two that I recall floating around the campus at Orange High were the "Living Water" tract, written and drawn by teenage Jesus freak Greg Laurie and the "underground" Hollywood Free Paper, (short video you should watch) produced by Duane Pederson, who by the way is credited with coining the terms "Jesus people" and "Jesus movement". Pictured below are Pat Boone (a friend of the Jesus people) and Pederson with a copy of THFP.

In my next post I'd like to talk about the Jesus' movement's reception or lack of it by the churches and the college I attended.  Not every Bible banger was happy with what was going on.

More to come, including the Jesus Movement's impact on me personally and a review of the movie "The Jesus Revolution" (after I've seen it a second time).

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