Destructive myths about Jesus, number 3: Jesus was a hippie (aka the myth of white surfer Buddy Christ)
Seriously, I really do.
If you want to have an entertaining and enlightening conversation, sit down with an educated stoner and bring up religion. But I hope you have some spare time and patience, because these conversations will go on for hours and bounce across spiritual and historical lines so fast it will make your head spin. So you better make sure you are up to snuff on what you believe and who you are, because if you aren’t, a stoner will eat your lunch.
Literally and figuratively.
How do I know? I was a stoner for years. And while I DO NOT recommend it as a lifestyle choice, being that I have been clean since becoming a Kingdom-walking Christian, I have a soft spot in my heart for those that are involved with this particular drug. For myself, marijuana was a drug that curbed my terrible anger problem. A day without weed was a day that I was incredibly irritable, caustic and hateful. A day with weed was a day that I was pleasant to be around. It was my Xanax. My Klonopan. My crutch. I was friendly, sociable, witty. I was productive. I worked well with others.
And most people had no idea that I was high.
Problem was, if I didn’t have weed, I didn’t think I was that really smart, eloquent, fun to be around guy. So I had to have it. It was my medicine. I was dependent.
And that wasn’t good.
Lucky for me, my desire for marijuana was eventually countered with my desire for God, and He took the need of depending on foreign substances away from me by removing the giant chip on my shoulder. The Lord healed me from the inside out. One day I woke up not angry. And then I had another day where I wasn’t angry. Then another. Then another. And just like that, the need for the drug was gone.
So why am I bringing all this up? I just wanted you to know I’m not blowing smoke up your butt about the subject we are about to discuss. It’s because many of the stoners I’ve met over the years are some of the smartest and deepest thinkers I’ve ever known. And it’s because some of the best conversations I‘ve had about Jesus have been in the presence of marijuana users.
If you ever have the pleasure of sitting down with a stoner and you bring up Jesus, 9 times out of 10 said stoner will smile wide, lean back in their chair and nod, usually following with “Man, I love Jesus. Jesus was the Man! You know Jesus…man, He was the first hippie. Man I would love to sit down and smoke a J with that guy. He knew what it was all about. Wandered place to place with His people, taught like a guru, wanted to change the world. Peace and love, man, peace and love.”
You see, amongst the general public in America, stoners have actually affected how Jesus is portrayed in the media, and thus, in our collective subconscious.
And while Jesus was indeed about peace and love, I’m sorry stoners…
Jesus was not a hippie.
The myth of hippie Jesus (aka, the myth of white surfer Buddy Christ)
The myth of hippie Jesus started due to the popularity of the Jesus Movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Jesus Movement was born on the west coast, where the hippie movement began. In many ways it was a counter-cultural response to the counter-cultural hippie movement, a movement that many hippies believed had gone a little too far with its focus on alternative religions and free love…so they became the Jesus People, aka Jesus Freaks (yes, this is where the term actually came from) after encountering the Holy Spirit.
The problem was, at first anyway, most of these Jesus Freaks didn’t quit the psychedelics and weed, so their encounters with the Holy Spirit were often mocked by outside observers and led to little acceptance with the fundamental Christians in America.
But as time went on, the drug use fell away (by most accounts) and American youth poured into the movement. Jeans in church? Acoustic guitars instead of choirs? Long hair? Bare feet? A Gospel that preached freedom instead of institutionalism? The movement grew like wildfire. Revival blossomed. Members of the Jesus Movement called for a return to the simplicity of Acts, communal living and endorsed signs and wonders and the gifts of the Spirit. Proponents of the Jesus Movement also believed that the church in America at large had become apostate and was perverting the simplicity of the Gospel with its focus on tradition, money and power.
How big was the Jesus People Movement? Think about this. In the days before the internet, satellite and cable TV, the movement hit its peak with a five day concert/revival in Dallas, Texas called EXPLO ‘72, drawing an estimated 180,000 people on the final day with speakers that ranged from Johnny Cash to Billy Graham (yes, you read it right…Billy Graham).
And although the popularity of the movement eventually waned due to leadership issues and the slow-down of the hippie movement as a whole, the impact of the Jesus Movement has influenced much of today’s American evangelical thought, particularly in the Christian music industry.
But where the Jesus Movement made another substantial impact was in New York and Hollywood. Due to the popularity of the Jesus Movement and its astronomical growth amongst American youth, it didn’t take long for Jesus to begin showing up with hippie-type characteristics in musicals and movies such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Added into the mixture was the fact that much of America viewed Jesus as a thin, long-haired, bearded, white robed effeminate male due to the distortion and manipulation His image had received over the past 2000 years.
And viola. The hippie-archetype of white surfer Buddy Christ moved into the mainstream. It wouldn’t be long until His message would be watered down to “can’t we all just get along” and “its all about peace and love” mantras as well…which had nothing to do with the Jesus Movement at all. The media distortion had begun.
Sure, I get it. But wasn’t Jesus’ message all about peace and love, just like the hippie movement?
First, let’s take on the peace and love mantra.
Jesus’ message was indeed about peace and love. He is Peace. He is Love. But if you believe Jesus’ message of peace and love is the same as that of the free love hippie movement, you are misled indeed.
How about these words from Jesus Himself:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:34-39)
These words are at odds with the “do what makes you feel good,” “follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls” or the ever famous “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” mantras of the hippie movement.
So what gives?
The hippie movement was about individual freedom rising above that which regimented society dictated, with the hope that this recognized individual freedom would coalesce into a greater whole and bring restoration to society at large through a revolution of peace.
The Jesus Movement focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to the earth, thus destroying the kingdom of darkness and freeing us from the bondage of sin and death. As ambassadors of Jesus, we are to sacrifice and move past who society says we were, focus instead on who God says we are and who He is in us, and walk with the authority and power that Jesus gives us to destroy darkness.
These are two completely different concepts. One is a freedom focused on self. The other is a freedom granted by the sacrifice of perceived self enabled by the ultimate sacrifice of true Love.
Jesus wasn’t a hippie who simply wandered place to place. He would not go anywhere without being directed there by His Father’s word. He would not do anything He didn’t see His Father do. He would not speak anything His Father did not speak. Of Himself He could do nothing, as He could only do what His Father did.
You could say He was focused. He was zoned in. After all, Jesus was a Man on a mission to destroy the works of the devil.
Jesus came to bring about an invasion of the Kingdom of God into a fallen and broken world.
That doesn’t sound carefree and hippie-ish to me.
Also, the hippie “drop acid not bombs” movement was known for its drug culture, especially its use of psychedelics and marijuana. And whereas stoners love to say that Jesus would sit with them and smoke a J, I highly doubt that would be the case.
Why couldn’t Jesus be a pot-smoker, you ask?
The drug problem
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians (oh, those naughty Galatians) he tells them sorcery will prevent them from inheriting the Kingdom of God. The word sorcery was translated from the Greek word pharmakeia. Its where we get our word for pharmacy and pharmacist. At its root, pharmakeia means to use a foreign substance to achieve an altered or heightened state. And why was that word translated as sorcery? At that time it was common for medicines (smoke-able and ingestible) to be used to achieve altered states…especially in regards to magical and religious mystery rituals.
If Jesus was the original ambassador of the Kingdom of God…well…it stands to reason that He wouldn’t do something that is forbidden. Nor would He need to. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, He could see, hear and feel God without artificial means. And He gave that same ability to us, since we are seated in Christ in Heavenly places.
Jesus didn’t need drugs to have a deeper encounter. He walked in a deeper place than drugs could ever take Him.
Am I saying that you could never meet Jesus in an altered state? No. I’m not. He can, and will, meet you anywhere you are. I know plenty of people that have had incredible experiences of meeting the Lord in their broken states, sober or straight. But He meets you in that state of broken-ness to pull you out of it, never to plunge you further in. When Jesus lives in you, you don’t need something external to bring you into a deeper state of wonder.
And anyone or anything that says you do, is lying.
And before you say I am being condemning, realize I am not. You have to hear my heart in this. I am not saying if you smoke weed that you are going to hell. I’m not saying that at all. This is a judgment free blog. And what you do is between you and God. Jesus loves habitual users, addicts, fundamentalists and hippies just as much as He loves me. And that is awesome, because man, I sure know how much He loves me.
But I know Jesus wouldn’t and didn’t need drugs to be in relationship with His Father.
So neither do I.
Yeah, well, Jesus at least looked like a hippie
At this point we’ve figured out Jesus didn’t speak nor act like a hippie. He didn’t do drugs, nor would He. So, um, I guess the only hippie comparison we have left is that He looked like one.
But, um, did He?
To figure this out, you have to figure out what an average hippie looks like. This is tough, since there is no real hippie uniform. But the picture to the left is what popped to mind when someone said hippie in the 60s and 70s. And I am pretty sure Jewish dress at the time of Jesus looked nothing like that.
So if its not the dress, how did Jesus look like a hippie? The hair? Many scholars argue that Jesus had shorter hair, which was the style at the time. Even Paul uttered that it was unnatural for men to have long hair in their culture, so one could make an assumption that Jesus did indeed have shorter hair (not shoulder length, but not shorn either). Some argue He had curly hair. Some say He had straight. But it is safe to assume He didn’t have the wavy locks of a California surfer.
That being said, I do find the subject of what Jesus looks like fascinating.
There are no physical descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels and there are no overt descriptions of Him anywhere in the Bible save for a prophecy uttered by Isaiah:
This means He looked pretty much like an average person in Judea at the time. The Gospels tell us that Jesus disappeared and blended into crowds numerous times after attracting too much attention. And if those crowds were made up of Hebrews who had dark hair, dark eyes and mid-eastern olive colored skin that had been darkened by the sun from walking place to place…what does that tell us?
It tells us that our Lord and Savior isn’t pale white and doesn’t look European. He’s of Hebraic descent. Otherwise He would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.
Judging by the genetic information we have of the average person in Israel at the time of Christ, Jesus did not look like the guy on the right. I’m sorry ladies (but you have to admit, it sure it didn’t hurt the Bible series ratings and the Son of God movie attendance).
Look, Jesus was Jewish. And not Euro-Jewish. Not Anglo-Saxon or Nordic Jewish.
He was Middle-Eastern Jewish.
Which means He probably looked more like the picture on the left.
That’s right. He ain’t white.
Get over it.
And why should you care so much that He isn’t? In reality, it doesn’t really matter what Jesus looked like while He walked the earth. If it did, the Gospels would’ve made a much bigger deal out of it. But it is a big deal when white people (yeah, I said it) freak out when they realize they are getting all this good stuff from a middle-easterner. I will never forget the time I was speaking before a church and I dropped a line about Jesus not being white. You would’ve thought I farted in some of the congregation members’ cereal.
C’mon people. We have to check our hearts. If Jesus being white or black or green or blue is a big deal to you, then I think you are missing the point of the Gospel. He could’ve been plaid. His skin color doesn’t matter and it doesn’t change who He was, and is and is to come. And it doesn’t change what He said or what He did. He was God walking the earth as a man. Who cares what His skin color was?
But it does matter when we attempt to twist who He was to fit Him into our little boxes so we can feel culturally elevated. It does matter when we use our twisted perceptions of who we think He is to force a false version of who He actually is down others’ throats. It does matter when we try to over-simplify the complexity of who He was so we can feel better about our life choices or who we think we are.
When you say something like Jesus was a hippie, it means that you are adopting Jesus to your cause, instead of adapting yourself to His.
Doesn’t the world deserve the real Jesus?
After all, the Father thought the world deserved the real Jesus.
Why don’t we?
Let’s stop trying to fit Jesus into our little paradigms and let’s shift into His. His paradigms are much more ambitious and awe-inspiring.
Let the myth of hippie Jesus and its evil twin, white surfer Buddy Christ, go. Dig into the Word and feed upon His truth. Trust me, it’ll be the most enlightening thing you have ever done.
And as always, I invite your comments below! And I love it when people share these entries on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Feel free to click on one of the share buttons below. And please add yourself to my new Facebook page and Twitter feed on the right hand side!
Coming soon we take on one of my most favorite topics…the myth of Jesus never claimed to be the messiah, aka, the Jesus was just a really awesome guy myth