Jesus People USA (JPUSA)

A Christian communal movement known for its urban ministry and commitment to social justice.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Jesus People
Founded: 1972
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Size: Approximately 350-500 members

Jesus People USA (JPUSA), rooted in the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, is a distinctive Christian intentional community located in Uptown Chicago. It represents a unique blend of evangelical Christianity with a commitment to social justice, communal living, and artistic expression. The community, which began in 1972, emerged as one of the largest single-site communes in the United States, housing a diverse mix of individuals from various subcultures including hippies, punks, and crusties. JPUSA is not only known for its sizable continuing community but also for its significant contributions to Christian rock through the Resurrection Band, Cornerstone Festival, and Cornerstone magazine, which explored faith and culture​​.

Located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, JPUSA is an inner-city commune that has notably aligned itself with evangelical leftism, distinguishing itself through a commitment to social activism reminiscent of the New Left. This orientation situates JPUSA within a broader narrative of evangelical progressivism, challenging conventional boundaries between evangelicalism, theological liberalism, and secular activism​​.

The commune’s origins trace back to 1971, born out of Jesus People Milwaukee and the broader currents of American radicalism. With a focus on social justice and Christian evangelism, founders Glenn Kaiser and John Herrin Jr., alongside a group of about thirty, initially ventured from Milwaukee to Gainesville, Florida, before ultimately settling in Chicago in 1973. This move marked the beginning of JPUSA’s journey as a mobile community hosting “Jesus concerts” throughout the Midwest. By 1974, facing internal challenges and leadership changes, JPUSA embraced a plural leadership model, setting the stage for its evolution into a thriving contemporary commune​​.

In the late 1980s, amidst a housing crisis in Chicago, JPUSA solidified its mission towards the homeless by launching Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO). This initiative, coupled with the acquisition of a hotel to serve as a base of operations, enabled the community to offer extensive support to various vulnerable groups, including single women, men, mothers, and abused women. To sustain its operations and outreach, JPUSA ventured into a range of mission businesses, including carpentry, roofing, and record production, which provided the financial backbone for their extensive social ministry efforts​​.

Culturally, JPUSA made significant contributions through Cornerstone magazine and the Cornerstone Festival. The magazine offered countercultural Christian perspectives on a wide array of topics, while the festival became a hub for alternative Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) from 1984-2012, drawing comparisons to secular events like Woodstock.

Theological perspectives within JPUSA have evolved over time. Initially influenced by millenarian beliefs common among the Jesus Movement, the community’s focus has shifted more towards the practical application of social justice, aligning more closely with left-leaning political ideologies while maintaining core evangelical beliefs. This includes a belief in the second coming of Christ, albeit with a greater emphasis on living out Christian principles in the here and now​​.

In recent years, JPUSA has faced challenges, including declining membership and internal conflicts, but remains committed to its social justice mission, particularly in its outreach to Chicago’s homeless population. Despite these hurdles, the community’s enduring legacy and ongoing efforts continue to shape its role as a unique fixture within the landscape of American evangelicalism and communal living​​​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *