“The Jesus Music” movie was good, but I didn’t expect poignant memories to sweep over me.
At 29 years old, I attended my first church service (ever) at Calvary Chapel in Spokane, WA, at the invitation of my then-husband’s AA sponsor. When I expressed how nervous I was, our host assured me, “You know we are just a bunch of hippies, right?”
I didn’t really understand the accuracy of his comment, but the atmosphere was casual, comfortable, and inviting.
Over time I learned Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, was established and pastored by Chuck Smith and welcomed thousands of lost young people from that generation. Seeing the film’s footage of hundreds baptized in the Pacific Ocean offered a visual connection to the story. A full-circle moment, if you will.
Two years before my Calvary Chapel Spokane visit, I had emerged from the county jail (yet again) and then a drug and alcohol treatment center. I understood I would need to do life differently if I wanted a different life, but I never considered that would affect my love for music. I was 27 years old when my world went quiet. The silence was deafening.
My love of music began at my parents’ parties. The speakers were strewn from the stereo in the living room out into the backyard. I loved the beat, the electric guitars, and the vibe of the crowds. I attended my first concert at thirteen when Ted Nugent played the Spokane Coliseum. Countless shows and parties followed, all with their own soundtracks. I was listening to the fading echoes of Metallica and Nirvana as I was handcuffed and jailed for what would be my last time.
Fumbling my way forward in a newly sober world, my days were full of anxiety and fear. When I turned on the radio seeking the comfort of my old friends, an uneasiness followed, and the agitation worsened. The memories associated with my favorite songs created unrest. As I connected activities with the music, I experienced a “contact high,” which was dangerous to my sobriety. In those early days, I began to recognize music was a trigger for me. When I heard a familiar beat, my heart rate increased, and I reminisced on efforts to sneak drugs and alcohol past security for live shows. I could no longer listen to Eric Clapton sing about “Cocaine” or Alice in Chains suggesting we deny Jesus Christ (The Man in the Box). My posture stiffened, and my attitude worsened.
“Goodness,” I thought, “was this what the rest of my life was going to be like?” If sobriety required silence and no music, I wasn’t sure I wanted it. Then. Then, I bought a Christian compilation CD and heard Jars of Clay sing “Flood.” I heard an electric guitar and a vocalist singing, “My world is a flood. Slowly, I become one with the mud…”
As I watched “The Jesus Music” and its evolution in this film, I thought of the artists that saved my musical soul. Jennifer Knapp brought the electric guitar to “Into You.” DC Talk spoke to my soul as I pondered my lack of qualifications to share my Christian faith. “What if I stumble? What if I fall? What if I lose my step and make fools of us all?” In Contemporary Christian Music, I found the place where music and faith harmonized. As time went on, I latched on to Creed and P.O.D. in the “God-Rock” genre.
I am forever grateful to the group of hippies in Southern California who turned hearts and lives over to God and offered their musical gifts of songwriting, vocals, and instruments in service to Him. That music evolved into what we now call Contemporary Christian and h ministered deeply to this lost soul several decades later.
Is “The Jesus Music” a good movie? Absolutely. Beyond that, for me, its impact and subjects are directly linked to my timeline of maturing as a Christian and incorporating God and positive messages into the transformation I am today. It strikes a chord – and is well worth the view.