Coming Out in the Jesus Movement
Larry Norman, whom I wrote about last month, could aptly be called the Bad Boy of Christian Rock, Marsha Stevens might be deemed the Problem Child—even “evangelical Christianity’s worst nightmare.” Yet it would be hard to find a figure who better reflects the continuities and contradictions of the Jesus Movement. Stevens cut her born-again teeth at age sixteen on the beaches of Orange County just when Calvary Chapel was attracting hordes of young people (and more than a few reporters). Like thousands of teenagers from across Southern California she was baptized in the Pacific at Corona del Mar.
Marsha, her sister Wendy, and their significant others formed Children of the Day, a classic Jesus music group that played gentle, folksy songs of faith. One of her songs, “For Those Tears I Died,” became a movement classic. Children of the Day created perhaps the first albums of what’s come to be called praise music, those easy-to-sing, sometimes-maligned anthems that have crowded traditional hymns out of a majority of American evangelical churches, mega- or otherwise.
Over the course of the Seventies, Marsha went from an icon of the Jesus Movement to a pariah. The constant demands of touring and recording took a toll on the Stevens’s marriage. Then she announced she was in love – with a woman. Divorce carried enough stigma in evangelical circles, but leaving one’s husband to take up with another woman—a different order of scandal altogether.
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