(THE CONVERSATION) This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love.” Popular culture remembers the tens of thousands of joyous young hippies that descended upon San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to celebrate personal expression, drug experimentation and easy sexuality.
What’s less known and what I discovered in my own research is that Haight-Ashbury also proved to be fertile ground for a startling new combination of the hippie style with conservative evangelical Christianity – the “Jesus People.”
How it started
The reasons behind the rise of the hippie movement were complex: A rejection of conformity and materialism in American culture and the emergence of a drug culture both played a part.
The 1960s counterculture also contained a decidedly spiritual dimension that attracted a great deal of hippie interest. The movement incorporated meditation, the occult, Native American spirituality and Eastern forms of religion such as Zen Buddhism and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (“the Hare Krishnas”).
However, as writer and observer Charles Perry pointed out in his book “The Haight-Ashbury: A History,” the Summer of Love brought with it a number of problems including overcrowding, crime, sexually transmitted diseases and bad drug trips. Every night thousands of penniless young people would “crash” in whatever space they could find or simply sleep on the streets.
The problems became so bad that the leading hippie paper, “The Oracle,” advised anyone interested in coming to San Francisco to forget (in the words of a hit record from that year) the “flowers in their hair” in favor of bringing along a sleeping…
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