My wife and I recently watched Lonnie Frisbee: The Life And Death Of A Hippie Preacher a few days ago and I highly recommend it! Netflix has it here.
Maybe because I live in southern California, maybe because I spent some time in the Calvary Chapel movement, or maybe because I saw the early church in Frisbee, whatever the reason I was drawn to the film.
As I continue to reflect on this film, I realize there are some themes and issues that the church today desperately needs to wrestle with.
First, and probably most related to this blog, I found it surprising how fast and how fatally religion can quell the work of the Spirit in the church. Frisbee was definitely a charismatic man who was very much in tune with the Spirit of God. Yet, his story is all too familiar. As I interpreted the film, organized churches sought to “tap into” Frisbee’s life and gifting for their benefit, only to throw him by the wayside when they were finished with him. I hope Frisbee saw that for what it was and ultimately perceived a deeper connection with Jesus in his rejection and condemnation among his own people – a bittersweet union.
Second, how fast we can either forget our history or how easily it can get spun to the benefit of another. For years, I heard that Chuck Smith embraced the hippies and brought them into the church. Yet, this film reveals that Pastor Smith never did so until after he met Frisbee and it was Frisbee’s ministry that brought the hippies to the meetings in Costa Mesa. Indeed, Calvary Chapel pastors and historians will tell of Chuck Smith baptizing hundreds in Corona Del Mar, yet original video footage shows Frisbee doing so. So, the question must be asked,
“Why re-write history?”
Well, as the opening lines of another of my favorite movies (Braveheart) state:
“History is written by those who have hanged heroes.”
Those who are left standing tell the tale, and in this case it can be identified as organized religion. That enticing call that says, “The show must go on.” In this case, the churches involved essentially excommunicated Frisbee when he needed them most. I have to ask, “Is there anything too embarrasing or too uncouth that cannot be touched by the love of Christ? But it seems, these churchmen sought to tame Frisbee and in the end put him out. As you can probably tell, this deeply saddens and angers me. But that matters not, “the show must go on.”
Third, it is about time that the church accept people as they are changed by Christ and not change people to be accepted by Christ. We have misrepresented the gospel in the name of Christ by manipulating and controlling people to fit into preconceived molds that are quite simply not scriptural. In fact, they reveal our struggle with the gospel – as if to say, “It can’t really be that good!”
This film raises several issues that fit into this category. Culturally it engages hippies, drugs and homosexuality in the church. Theologically it engages ministry, the role of the Spirit, and the gospel. In short, perhaps it is time to realize that the answers to these questions need to be reevaluated in light of scripture.
Essentially, this film is about an all too familiar topic. That of the church shooting it’s wounded.
I believe that if we take our eyes off of the religious system long enough, we will once again see that what Jesus was all about was bringing people to the Father.
It is, truly, much more simple than we make it out to be.
So, get the movie and let me know what you think!