“Have you seen that Jesus Revolution movie?” I have heard this question asked at least 10 times over the past few days. Many of us are familiar with Christian movies. Usually full of B grade actors and cheesy one-liners, Christian media has become known for its below-average quality. The creators of “Jesus Revolution” seem to have made a Christian movie that has led to discourse not based on its production quality, but rather the morality of its characters.
“Jesus Revolution”, released on Feb. 23, 2023, follows the historic movement also known as the “Jesus Freak” movement that occurred in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The movement is known for its large acceptance and conversion of the “hippies” that populated the United States during this time period. The film follows three main characters—Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), and Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie)—as they navigate this newfound revival that started right here in Costa Mesa.
I was pleasantly surprised by the script, acting, cinematography, and soundtrack of the film. I had heard that “Jesus Revolution” was a good movie, but I still held the expectations that earlier Christian films had given me. As I left the theater, it was safe to say those expectations were vastly surpassed.
But, despite the surprisingly good production value of “Jesus Revolution,” the movie lacked something. There seemed to be no consistent conflict in the film. At the beginning, there is conflict that makes the audience wonder whether Greg Laurie will be saved, and if Chuck Smith will continue to allow hippies the Church despite the push-back from his congregation. But half-way through the film, those questions are answered, and a new conflict needed to arise. This role was filled by Lonnie Frisbee.
At the beginning of the film, Lonnie is the man who bridges the gap between the up-tight, legalistic church leader, Chuck Smith, and the hippies like Greg Laurie. Shortly after he is introduced, he becomes a leader of the Calvary Chapel Church. Lonnie can speak both languages, and—as an audience member—he was easy to love. But after the first conflict is resolved, Lonnie’s character goes through an unexplained shift in perspective. He is shown as a proud, spotlight-seeker, bragging about his works and interrupting messages to “show off” his ability to perform miracles. And after this change in character, there does not seem to be any redeeming actions of Lonnie; he simply moves to Florida to “work on things.”
Lonnie Frisbee is a Christian household name for many reasons. He clearly played a big part in one of the largest revivals of all time, but there are also a few well-known secrets that a quick search on Google would give you. It seems that the writers of “Jesus Revolution” may have found it easy to villainize Lonnie Frisbee because of these reasons. And in the process, they villainized many of the good things that he stood for—including prophesy and divine miraculous works.
So, while “Jesus Revolution” was made well and missing the common Christian corniness, it may have fallen short on a true, logical, characterization of one of the biggest names in recent Christian history.