Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, ‘Jesus Revolution’ is a Christian film developed from the autobiographical book of the same name co-written by Greg Laurie. When the story begins, South Californian pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) is worried about the rapidly decreasing number of parishioners. His daughter introduces him to Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), an enigmatic evangelist, who changes his view on the hippie counterculture. In the ensuing months, the men become pivotal figures in the Jesus movement. The film is inspired by an incredible true story and most of the characters who appear in it are based on real-life people, including Lonnie. Being a faith-based movie, ‘Jesus Revolution’ largely navigates around controversial issues such as speculations about Lonnie’s sexuality. Here is everything you might need to know about it.
Was Lonnie Gay?
There were reportedly speculations about his sexuality. In the book ‘Not By Might Nor By Power: The Jesus Revolution,’ Lonnie mentioned that a man attending one of his revival meetings raped him. According to Lonnie, the man then informed people, including the church leaders, that he and Lonnie were in a sexual relationship. This apparently damaged his reputation, and he couldn’t preach for years. Lonnie claimed that the man sexually assaulted him at knifepoint.
In the book, Lonnie mentioned that his life spiraled out of control after that, and he gave in to “drugs and sexual temptation. I had become deceived and overpowered.” According to Lonnie, he blamed everyone, including the church.
It’s important to note here that Lonnie, at least later in life, didn’t consider himself gay, though he admitted that he sexually experimented as part of the “free love generation” and mentioned that he went through “disappointing backsliding days in the mid-eighties.”
Before ‘Jesus Revolution,’ Lonnie’s life was covered in the 2005 documentary ‘Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.’ David Di Sabatino, its director, seemed to consider homosexuality as a flaw and mentioned in a 2005 interview with Christianity Today that Lonnie’s brother told him that he (Lonnie) was raped when he was eight, adding that “it fragments your identity, and now I can’t say that I’m surprised at all.”
The sexual assault part was corroborated by Lonnie’s own writing and the interview his former wife, Connie, gave following the release of ‘Jesus Revolution.’ Lonnie was raped by his male babysitter from when he was six to eight years old. “Lonnie told me before we got married, that he got saved out of the gay lifestyle and people back then didn’t even really understand gay,” Connie told God Reports. “I just thought, ‘That’s the old person and this is a new person.’ I wasn’t concerned about it.”
Di Sabatino offered a different view, stating that Lonnie was not “a poster child for gay Christianity,” but “neither is he this kind of Damascus-Road, I-once-was-gay-and-turned-away-from-this-lifestyle guy. He struggled.”
Did He Have AIDS?
Lonnie died on March 12, 1993, in Orange County, California, at age 43. Initially, it was stated that a brain tumor was the cause of death, but later reports claimed he died of AIDS-related complications. He was told that he was HIV positive in the 1980s, and that transformed into AIDS.
Connie seemed to confirm part of this in her interview with God Reports. “The power of this (story) is that we were so damaged when God used us so that we couldn’t take any of the glory,” she said. “Did Lonnie want the glory? Oh gosh, he did. He really did fall for the adulation of the crowd that he was so needing. Had Chuck Smith taken Lonnie under his wing like Paul would have taken Timothy or Titus a young brother in the Lord and done what the Bible said, Lonnie and I very well may have stayed married, and Lonnie might not have died of AIDS.”