The Ultimate Trip
NBC First Tuesday/1971
Note: This transcript is a preliminary uncorrected version and may contain errors. Corrections and suggestions for its improvement are welcome. Please see: Contributing Information
Crowd: For Jesus!
Unidentified Man: Praise the Lord!
Leader: Power to the Lord!
Crowd: Power to the Lord!
Leader: For Jesus!
Crowd: For Jesus!
Leader: Power to the Lord!
Crowd: Power to the Lord!
Unidentified Man 1: After I joined the team I haven’t had an urge for drugs or anything. You know, I just, I don’t even think about them. I don’t need them. I got Jesus.
Leader: For Jesus!
Unidentified Woman 1: It's the first time I have ever been happy. A real happiness. The happiness that Jesus has given me. The love that Jesus has given me.
Leader: Holy Ghost!
Leader: Power to the Lord!
Crowd: Power to the Lord!
Unidentified man: Praise the Lord!
[Clapping and singing]
Robert Rogers: These are some of the revolutionary Christians. Their contemporaries in the hip scene call them “Jesus freaks”. They call themselves the “Children of God” They are one of the most organized and active of the new Christian groups. In less than two years, their membership has grown from less then 6 people to over 400.
[Clapping and singing]
Leader: Lift up your hands and sing to him. Praise the Lord!
Robert Rogers: Their headquarters and boot camp for new converts is this formerly abandoned Bible camp near Thurber, Texas. In a way, they are the latest incarnation of that ancient Christian phenomenon: wandering, passionate bearers of the Word. Preaching the Kingdom of God among the discontented of the Earth. Their rock music, hymns, and dress style reflect their hippie heritage. Most were heavy drug users. No longer.
Unidentified Man 2: My biggest ambition was just to get enough drugs I used to stay stoned all the time. Now I'm stoned all the time on God.
Robert Rogers: For the Children of God, acid, speed and heroin have been replaced by belief in Jesus Christ as the ultimate eternal trip.
Roger Roberts: Their rules also specifically forbid alcohol, cigarettes, dating, and “smooching”. Marriages is permitted but only within the group and with permission of the group elders. They call their camp “Texas Soul Clinic”. Life there is hard.
Roger Roberts: Besides a full schedule of Bible study and prayer, each member has assigned work periods. Among them are ex-Catholics and Jews, millionaire’s sons, ghetto kids, former militants, radicals, and free love advocates.
Group of women: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Robert Rogers There is no women's liberation movement at the Soul Clinic. The girls handle the cooking and serving of meals. They also wash the men’s clothes.
Group of women: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That who…
Robert Rodgers: Many of them had refused even to wash dishes at home. Here they labor without complaint and most seem grateful for the opportunity.
Group of women: He that…
Unidentified Woman 2:' Before I was one of the team I had speed sores and I had hepatitis and gonorrhea and trichinosis and I was really sick. I was really like my mind wasn’t even there and I would wander around, hitchhiking around, and I wouldn’t even know what town I was in or who I was or where I was from or…And I met the team and I saw Jesus. You know, I saw him. I could see just the joy of the Lord just shining through these people. People were lifting up their hands and praising God and they were just crying out to him and just love him. I’ve never never seen anything like that. I knew that is what I wanted. I knew it. Hallelujah.
Unidentified Man 1: I have been to hospitals for overdoses of heroin. It was eating up my insides and they treated me with different medicines and stuff but it just didn’t even phase me. When I got out I had the same desires just to start using again. And I've been in jails for heroin and different things, armed robbery and stuff. I went through this one thing, this special program to try to get guys like me on the right road. But I was in there so long they just told me that, “You’re hopeless man. You ain’t doing nothing.” They just came and told me that way, “We would keep you longer but, we know man, you haven’t changed nothin g and all.". So they told me just to leave. And so I left to start using again. But what changed me is that I got Jesus in my heart.
Unidentified Woman 3:' When I saw was today’s quote unquote “free love” was the biggest bondage I've ever seen because, you know, everybody gets on this thing where they have to go out with everybody they see. You know, you have to go to bed with everybody you go out with. And if you don’t… Everyone has completely forgotten the person, the soul. It 's all body. It's all flesh. It got to the point in my life where I was just thinking one more pill or one more night with a guy would be the answer. You know, like I'd find the answer and I'd find the love. And no matter how many pills I took, no matter how many guys I slept with, I didn’t find it. It wasn’t there either. And now by God’s grace I am going to serve him with my whole heart for my whole life. And wow! I am just so happy.
Male 4: When I accepted Jesus into my heart I remember thinking "Wow! Man!" Sex or.. There was just nothing to compare with it. It was like, it came in, I was in utter pure bliss. I knew the way. I knew the purpose in life. I just knew what was happening. It's like Jesus came in and he just told me where everything was.
Unidentified Woman 4: I was trying to love before but I was so full of hatred and everything for society that I just didn’t know what real love was and ow that I 've got real love and now that I know I can help people. I just don’t need to go down and burn down buildings anymore or hang around with freaks or I don’t need to run through crowds and kiss black people to make society see what they are doing.. I don’t need to ride motorcycles just for the feeling of freedom and power anymore.
Robert Rogers: The Children of God depend on Him to provide all their earthly needs. There is no private property. New members must sign over all goods and income to the group. Most of their food comes from special teams which canvas the restaurants and markets of nearby cities for edible cast-offs. They are beginning to raise their own poultry and livestock but they totally reject the notion of working for money as un-Christian and un-revolutionary.
Robert Rogers: You call yourselves revolutionary Christians. What is it you are revolting against?
Unidentified Man 6: We are revolting against a society that is built on artificial principles, whether it's drugs to heal you or cigarettes to help nervous conditions. A society that is not based around a life of service for Christ. And the young people in their search for spiritual truth and reality in life are using the wealth that they have at their hands to promote their search. And this is why at young ages you will find kids 12, 13, 14, who are chain smokers, who have taken drugs at great lengths.
Unidentified Man 7: By the time I was seventeen I had already shot up LSD in heavy doses, seven or eight tablets at a time crushed up in a spoon. I shot methedrine, heroin, Seconal, Tuinal, cocaine... and I just.. I had done everything you could do with LSD and hallucinogenic drugs and I'd gotten to the point with heroin where all it did was make me go to sleep and I didn’t dig that anymore, so…When it came down to it I didn’t really have anything but big lumps on my arms and poor circulation. So I just went home one day and I saw my mom and she asked me what I was doing and I told her I really didn’t know. I went into my room and I took out 30 Seconal capsules and I had forties and I took them all at once right in front of her. “You see these? I am going to die now because there is nothing else worth living for. And you are not living for anything worth anything either.” So I just took them and I dropped on the floor. I came to in an emergency ward with a psychiatrist next to me wanted to know why I had done it. And I told him because there wasn’t a God, there wasn’t anything. So he asked me if I would like to submit myself for two weeks in a mental institution for observation. Somehow I got in there for three months. And when I was in there I got put in charge of the drug dispensary for some reason, to keep it clean and so I ended up selling drugs for cigarettes and candy and stuff, in the mental institution. And I had a conscience against taking drugs. I knew it was wrong. I was really guilty about it. I would just flip out because I knew I was doing something something wrong with taking LSD. But they were telling me that anything is OK as long as you are not doing it in excess. People were coming to me... too hung up on one thing. . So in other words homosexuality was OK.. You could be a bisexual, drugs were OK, the whole thing. And I had two nurses bringing me marijuana on the weekends because I couldn't.. because I got tired of pharmaceutical drugs. They made your mouth taste bad and I mean I was into drugs that heavy... Like morphine I made a contact with when I got out. I was getting pharmaceutical drugs from him and giving the two girl technicians what they couldn’t get in the hospital to them so they turned me on to grass from Mexico. They told me that I was sexually frustrated. They.. therapy... and they tried that for two weeks when I got out. I just didn’t dig jumping in a closet with a guy in a... with threes chicks stoned on acid and just things like that.
Unidentified Man 7: I have been in this work for a year and a half. And it’s something that I can get it into it I can see people’s lives changed. Not a tradition. Not something they're taught. But a real chance in our life the chance to do something for the creator of the universe. And you see it every day, man, everyday. I want to get up in the morning now. It's a joy. I want to because I am serving God. I am serving Jesus. I get up in the morning for the Lord.
Robert Rogers: When they are not studying the Bible, the Children of God are often traveling. They liken themselves to the early apostles, spreading the truth in a hostile world.
Robert Rogers: In their dilapidated buses they have logged 70,000 miles preaching the gospel and making converts. They ignore the established churches and concentrate on the beaches, campuses and rock festivals where the young congregate. For the most part they find the kids willing to listen and an increasing number of them ready to believe.
Male 8: I figured well, the first thing I gotta do when I go to the beach was find somebody to buy some dope from and the first person that I ran up to sent me inside and made me ask him and I asked him and and he said no, he didn't have any dope but he had Jesus. And I figured... another one of them street preachers and I usually thought of the Bible as some book that old ladies cry in or something. But he really showed me where it was at and told me a lot of the end time prophecy and showed me that the Bible was the truth and that it was really something that you could stand on and something to believe in.
Robert Rogers: The arrival of each bus with its cargo of veteran disciples and new converts becomes a major occasion at the Soul Clinic.
[Singing and Clapping]
[large group of COG members running up to bus to greet new recruits]
Robert Rogers: In joining the Children of God, the new recruit not only surrenders his personal property but most of his personal freedom. The convert must agree to permit his maie to be censored by the elders and to obey all orders without question. There is no democracy. The group is run by so called “officers of the Lord” who believe themselves divinely selected. But despite the strict rules the drop out rate is only about 15% and most of them leave within the first two weeks. Recruits under 18 must have written permission from their parents. Some parents favor the group but most do not.
Unidentified Man 6: Many of the parents hate us. They'd rather see their young people dead or they’d rather see them secret drug users and drug pushers or involved in sex or even in mental institutions before they'd rather see their children live a life of glory and service to God.
Unidentified Man 9: The reaction of my parents when I turned to Jesus was really quite different than what it was before when I was on drugs. The times I was thrown in jail, about three times, my mother just seemed to just shrug it off and a lot of times she would laugh, “Oh I know where he got those” and another time she just come down, fished me out, act like it was nothing. But later on, after I turned to the Lord, her reaction was totally different. One time I was witnessing to my little sister, she told be that I was poisoning my little sister with the Bible. She then beat me up and tried to tear up my Bible. And I think it was just about a half a week later that she first started taking me to a psychiatrist.
[Clapping and singing]
[Shots of children in nursery]
Robert Rogers: Life in the Soul Clinic is patterned after an Israeli kibbutz. To allow parents to devote full time to their assigned duties, younger children are cared for in a communal nursery. Most of the babies were born at the camp without a doctor’s help. The girls who care for them are called metatellic [sp], Hebrew for nanny. As on most Israeli kibbutzim there is a twenty-four hour security guard to keep out unfriendly visitors. Eventually, the Children of God hope to establish a commune in Israel and they are fervent admirers of the Jewish state.
Unidentified Man 6: We are the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ who is the son of Abraham. We are the spiritual seed. The children of Israel are the physical seed.. And God loves Israel and any true Christian who really loves the Lord, loves Israel and its people because the love of God through him loves the Israelis. And therefore we have a tremendous admiration for their courage and how God is using them to be a testimony to the world of his power.
Leader: OK. Read Isaiah 11:11 and 12.
Crowd: And there shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to…the remnant of his people..
Robert Rogers: Bible study is the major activity of the Soul Clinic. There are a minimum of 6 hours of formal classes each day. And in all of them there is a strong emphasis on the group’s belief that the end of the world is drawing near.
Leader: OK. Notice how it says, the second time, God will return the Jews to Israel. Now we know this happened in 1948 when God returned the Jews to Israel from all over the world. OK. Now quote Psalm 102:16 to show how these events proved this to be the time of the end.
Crowd: “When the Lord shall build up Zion he shall appear in his glory.”
Leader: OK. Now that this has happened all that we have to look forward to is a covenant between the soon coming one man one world government and the Jews to rebuild their temple. Now Daniel said that 7 years after that Jesus would appear in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Hallelujah?
Crowd: Hallelujah. Praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus.
Robert Rogers: The classes usually end with a spontaneous outburst of prayer.
[Crowd is praying individual prayers of praise out loud all at once.]
Robert Rogers: In the ram shackle buses and former barns which the Children of God have turned into dormitories, Bible recitation is also a favorite form of recreation.
Female Group Leader: Mathew 4:19
Group of women: “And he saith unto them, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Male Group Leader: Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore brethren…
Robert Rogers: At the end of five months at the camp converts are supposed to have a thorough knowledge of the scripture, including at leas 400 verses committed to memory.
Male Group Leader: That is like Jesus said in Luke 14:33 “Forsaking all your material wealth and goods here on earth” and the second verse…
Unidentified man 2: Wow, that's just...
Robert Rogers: To keep contact with their mobile recruiting groups and their far flung out posts, the Children of God maintain a sophisticated ham radio network.
Ham Radio Operator 1: Hello Cincinnati. Good morning. Praise the Lord. God bless you brethren. How is everything going back there? Are you getting...
Robert Rogers: The Children of God now have six permanent out posts like this one in Cincinnati.
Robert Rogers: Here, those who have “grown strong in the faith”, as they would put it, begin what they believe to be their God given mission of turning of American youth to the new Christianity.
Simon: I got to the point where the only thing I could see was to burn it down. That was the only thing that I could see and that's what I was getting into. That’s what I was into. You see? Before I really got behind serving the Lord, you know, I guess I was crazy. I really want to, I don't want to.. but here was a society I was trying to get away from. A society that was forcing me, by so many things, you know, forcing me to to want to just hate and kill.
Robert Rogers: Simon, a former black militant, is now one of the most dedicated of the Children of God. Along with his fellow believers, he haunts the youth hangouts along Cincinnati’s Calhoun Street preaching to whoever will listen. Their prime targets are the would be revolutionaries of the New Left. Their message is that earthly violence and revolution are useless, that only Jesus can change the world. Part of their appeal to the kids is their interpretation of the Bible as a handbook for revolutionizing society and their outright rejection of organized religion.
Simon: I hate religion. I don’t believe these pictures you see of Jesus Christ with the white skin, the big baby blue eyes, and the Breck shampooed blonde hair. That's not Jesus, you see. Jesus, as I heard one brother put it, was a dirty, funky degenerate hippie out of the slums of Galilee and the cat was for real. You understand? He didn’t put up with church buildings. If he came back today they would string him up for the mere fact of what he laid down in here. He laid down things so heavy in the scriptures that your top revolutionaries that have ever been, Lenin, Karl Marx, they all got it from right here, the scriptures. Because what Jesus laid down was a revolution, a spiritual revolution you see. All the different people you can think of, Che Guevara, Castro, Lenin, Marx, they went at it for years. You know, they went at it for years. Rubin, Hoffman, the Chicago Seven, God help them. They got no answers. What they are trying to do is to form another system. You see? They are trying to blow this one up and form their own system which they think is cool. What they think is going to be righteous. You understand? But another system we don’t need.
Simon: What this country needs is love. But Jesus has given me a love for people, you know? He's changed my heart to where I don’t have to hate anymore. I can see that hating is ridiculous. Love. And I am not talking about this stuff that came out in Haight-Ashbury the peace peace firepower. I'm talking about a love, the way you sit down and tell a person what is wrong with them and try to help them, you know? And stay with that person and love them, really love them. Not just pat them on the back and appease their flesh or make friends with them, to love them. True love never runs smooth and it’s heavy. And like in the past two years, when I first came to the group, I tried and tested these cats, man, because you see I didn’t trust white people. I tried to say I did, but I didn’t. And like for about four or five months I would say, hey.... One of the leaders he really got sick, brother Hosea, and Lord, I tell ya, honest to God forgive me for that because I was testing their love and after four or five months I saw that they really loved me. It took that long for me to really realize that these people love me. They love me, not my flesh, they love me. You see.
Leader: Jesus said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Paul said, “I am crucified as Christ.” In other words, I am dead. “Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ liveth in me”
Robert Rogers: The haircut is part of the Christian liturgy. In the hip subculture, long hair is more than a rejection of establishment values. In a way, it's a passport to the world of speed, acid, pot, and sex, an admission card to the crash pads of America. In clipping those long locks, the former hippie is burning that passport, rejecting the acid rock culture. Symbolically, a hippie dies and a revolutionary Christian is born. The convert in this case was born Jewish. His last formal religious experience was his own bar mitzvah. After the haircut came the baptism in Cincinnati’s Inwood Park. The temperature was near freezing.
Unidentified man 3: Lord, as John the Baptist baptized Jesus, I baptize David right now in Jesus' name. In the name of Jesus Christ.
[Crowd is cheering and praying]
Robert Rogers: The next step in becoming a full fledged child of God is receiving the Holy Ghost, which they believe bestows upon the true believer the mystical gift of speaking in strange and foreign tongues.
Group Leader: The gift of speaking in tongues causes you to be more free in the spirit, which allows you to have more boldness to witness. We are just going to pray for you to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Group of males: Hallelujah! Glory to God! Thank you Jesus! Glory to God! Praise the Lord!
[Unidentified COG members speaking in tongues/gibberish/glossalia]
[Sign: Ohio Youth Soul Clinic]
Robert Rogers: Entertainment is a big part of the children of God’s recruiting program. To attract the kids, their big city outposts hold open houses. This one in Cincinnati was called “The Feast of the Prophets”. The guests included Black Panthers, runaways, acid heads, curious college students, and speed freaks.
Robert Rogers: The music was loud and the food plentiful. Along with the food the word of God was available for those who would listen. No drugs were permitted on the premises but some guests had obviously fortified themselves in advance.
Robert Rogers:This is Austin, Texas, a stronghold of Middle American conformity, home of the nation’s top college football team, and traditionally a part of the Southern Bible Belt.
[COG members marching in sackcloth vigil, pounding staffs on ground]
Robert Rogers: And it came to pass in Austin at last month's Texas-Arkansas game that the Children of God turned out to confront straight America not with violence or even preaching but with utter silence.
Unidentified bystander: The wagon...
Robert Rogers: The silent vigil technique is based on the prophet Jeremiah's exhortation to dress in sackcloth and ashes and warn the wicked of the coming judgment of God.
Unidentified bystander 2: You've got to be stoned to do something like that.
Robert Rogers: The group has staged similar vigils across the country including New York and Washington DC.
Unidentified bystander 3: What are these clowns advertising anyway?
Robert Rogers: Strangely they have received their worst receptions in the South where fundamentalist Christianity is supposedly strongest.
Unidentified bystander 4: I bet they are a bunch of communists. .
Robert Rogers: This does not surprise them. The Children of God believe that religion as practiced by most Americans is hypocrisy.
Unidentified bystander 5: Is this another fraternity prank?
[Unidentified woman giggles]
Robert Rogers: That day in Austin there were very few converts.
Unidentified bystander 6: I think they are a bunch of fanatics.
Robert Rogers: I have heard people, including parents of some of your children, refer to you as Jesus freaks, religious fanatics. Do you consider yourselves fanatics?
Unidentified Man 6: No, we don’t. We are conservative Christians who believe the Bible word for word, page for page, cover for cover, and we literally stand upon the promises that God has given us here in his Word.
[Singing and dancing]
Unidentified Man 1: The highest I've ever been has been with Jesus. That's the highest I've ever been.
Written by Robert Rogers
Directed by Robert Rogers
Technical Director: Carl Casbin
Film Technical Director: Milt Kitchen