Jesus Freak


Jesus Freak: Coined in the late 60s to refer to those involved in the Jesus Movement. Revived in the evangelical culture in the late 90s when a leading Christian rock band, DC Talk released their popular album “Jesus Freak.”

My high school reunion is coming up. Ten years. There is a room rented and website to buy tickets and a flurry of Facebook activity around it. The whole thing has me thinking a lot about the old days, about that big, brick building where I spent so much of my youth feeling alone and misunderstood.

Here is what I remember most about those days: the overwhelming sense I got from the evangelical youth culture that we were at war. Don’t let your guard down – people will hate you for what you believe.

I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, DC Talk sang at sold out concerts across the country. There is no denying the Truth.

We were singing along at the top of our lungs, convinced by the surge of voices that to be a Christian is to be despised. You turn your cheek to the insults you will definitely receive. You pray for those who will inevitably treat you with cruelty.

Here is what happens when you approach the world from this standpoint: you become hard as steel, cold as metal. You understand somewhere in your deepest heart that to enter into the culture is to be rejected, and so you never try.

You stand instead at the sidelines in a t-shirt bearing a Jesus fish logo. You hand out a lot of fliers for the school Bible study. You feel the weight of the Good News, but you understand that the world is unwilling to listen, so you shout louder.

Your classmates walk by you not hating you, but not really liking you either. You are a nonentity, a disembodied voice. You are cold as metal, barring yourself from the world.

I know that none of us made it out of high school without a few regrets. Mine is this: I was so afraid. I memorized only the verses that told me that to be a follower of Christ was to become Different. I read in those words: unlikeable, unwanted, uncool.

But here is Jesus. There is something about him. He is magnetic. He speaks, and people sit on a hill all day long to hear. He moves, and they are drawn to where he is. They are straining through the crowd to touch his robes. Eating meals with him, drinking wine. Sitting side-by-side at the well, amazed.

To be sure there were those that didn’t understand him. Those that detested him. But as far as I can tell, it was largely the religious elite who found him the most threatening. Who wanted him gone.

The reunion will come and go. It will be anticlimactic, nostalgic, strange. There will be a lot of drinking, a lot of assessing each other across the room. Lots of talk about work and family.

I am not going so much for this. I am going so I can do what I wish I’d done all those years ago: love them.

I want a do-over. I want a chance to be brave. I want to sit down next to someone I was afraid to talk to back then, and I’d like to listen. I want to show up not as a self-declared Jesus Freak, but just as myself. A woman. A person. Someone who has struggled and laughed and dreamed. One who has encountered Jesus and been changed.

I’d like to extend a warm hand. I’d like to say hello.

16 thoughts on “Jesus Freak

  1. Self-righteous. That’s what comes to mind, even over all the standing alone, brave stuff. What’s fascinating (ironic?) is that those Jesus confronted most actually most resembled the hard core Jesus Freak set…self-righteous. As we thought we were standing up for Jesus, they also thought they were standing up for God. Neither were standing for anything genuinely eternal. Both, ready for this, will be standing in the “goat line,” I have a feeling (“…I never knew you…”). But who am I to judge?

  2. Addie, you’re touching on something that, at times, drives me crazy during commencement at NWC. Someone speaking from the platform will talk about how hostile and dangerous the world is that the grads are entering. Militaristic terms will sometimes be used–it’s a battle, a fight. And, sure, that can be true in certain situations. Sadly, I’ve never heard non-Christians spoken of in that setting as beautiful people, loved by God, folks you might enjoy knowing and sharing your life with. Like Jesus, maybe we need to join the human race.

  3. First of all, Addie I’d like to say that I find this blog very interesting on many levels. I have only limited experience with the Evangelical movement. And the experience that I do have, I hope wasn’t too representative.

    It is fascinating to get this inside glimpse into a world I’ve never really seen. I should probably confess that I’m probably 180 degrees from you theologically speaking.

    What I’ll say next, I’m saying as an outsider. So, you can feel free to dismiss it as you like. All that I request is that you don’t punch me on the shoulder (again).

    From what I’ve seen, the Evangelical movement sets itself up in conflict with other Christian movements, not just secular society. I used to listen in to a program on KKMS called “Talk The Walk” on a semi-regular basis for about a year. I remember frequent calls from listeners who were concerned about their “unsaved” friends and relatives. Said friends and relatives were classified as “unsaved” because they were practicing Catholics, Lutherans, etc.

    The whole program just reeked of this we’re better Christians than the other people who call themselves Christians mentality. I found the whole program very distasteful for a variety of reasons not just theological ones. I found the host particularly arrogant especially when he would point out how humble he was. But, like a train wreck I was unable to look away…

    I understand where the whole apart from the world comes from. I’ve heard the verses. Still, actions speak louder than words. The actions of the man known now as Jesus wasn’t apart from his world.

    As you pointed out Addie, he was mixing it up with the people. Getting dirt under his fingernails, and mud (and worse) on his sandals. He didn’t walk around in pure white robes with a glowing force field surrounding him as many paintings would have you believe.

    Which brings up a weird tangent from my memory…

    I’ve read of theological debates in antiquity where the central argument was silly things about Jesus not behaving like a person. Did he leave footprints, did he use the bathroom, etc? Laughable, yes. But you can see where things might be taken to such an extreme if you take the image of the pristine Christ figure and really run with it. And if history tells us anything, someone somewhere will always run with it.

    I think my point there is if you’re going to believe in the God made flesh story, you’ve got to hold on to the mix between the two. If you factor out the human too much, I think you loose the point and the power of the metaphor entirely. And the next thing you know you’re having one of those silly debates.

    (You can skip over the terms you don’t like the previous paragraph. Like I said, I’m operating from a different theological basis.)

    Keep up the good work Addie. I’m enjoying your thought process.

    1. If we’re 180 different theologically, I wouldn’t know it from this comment. I agree with you 100%. Thanks for reading and for your smart (funny) insights.

  4. I am curious. How did the reunion go. Did you get to talk with people on a different level than than when you were in high school? I hope it went well.

    1. It was good. Loud. (Someone had the bad idea to host it in the upper level of an extremely loud bar downtown). The loud made it hard to have really good conversations, but I had CONVERSATIONS, which for me was the point. I never even talked to anyone in high school. I was so busy being a “Jesus Freak.”

      I wrote a little bit about it in the post “Wordly.” (Use the Glossary of Terms tab to find that one easily.)

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