The Summer of Love and the Christian Right


As historian Neil J. Young points out in this piece at VOX, the “Summer of Love” had a lot to do with the rise of conservative evangelical politics.

Here is a taste of his piece: “The Summer of Love ended 50 years ago. It reshaped American conservatism“:

Sex, drugs, and — Jesus? It’s not what the Summer of Love generally calls to mind. But of all the things that came out of San Francisco in 1967, perhaps none was more unexpected, or more consequential, than the Jesus Freaks or, as they were more commonly known, the Jesus People.

While they would give up their drugs and promiscuous sex, the Jesus People retained much of their countercultural ways, bringing their music, dress, and laid-back style into the churches they joined. Their influence would remake the Sunday worship experience for millions of Americans. As the historian Larry Eskridge has argued, today’s evangelical mega-churches with their rock bands blasting praise music and jeans-wearing pastors “are a direct result of the Jesus People movement.”

But aside from the praise anthems and the casual preaching styles that have come to characterize contemporary evangelicalism, the Jesus People also reshaped American politics. They helped to inspire the birth of the religious right. Many conservative evangelicals had long avoided politics, believing it would corrupt their spiritual lives, but the Jesus People contended that Christians couldn’t keep their spiritual and political lives separate. “I think everybody should be a full-time Christian,” the Jesus People rock singer Larry Norman once said.

Religious right leaders would use a similar line of argument to mobilize millions of evangelicals. Even more, conservative evangelicals drew directly from the Jesus People’s self-conception as marginal figures standing apart from a corrupt system. If you’ve ever wondered how the religious right came to dominate American politics while simultaneously presenting themselves as aggrieved outsiders, you can trace some of the answer to the Summer of Love.

Read the entire piece here.

2 thoughts on “The Summer of Love and the Christian Right

  1. wow, a news article that quotes Larry Norman. But I think it’s right, the hippie movement was a defining factor in many Christians’ attitude toward culture, and defines how they still view culture and politics today. Republicans for morality, Democrats for free love. That’s the cultural message that drives people to for grifters and policies that are opposed to their own interests, and it continues to work all these years later.


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