Jesus Christ Superstar, a "rock opera" written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and first staged in 1971, enjoyed a significant amount of popularity in the United States at the end of the "long sixties" era. However, American Christians were divided in their reactions to the fusion of religion and popular culture in Superstar: supporters hailed the piece as a means to reawaken interest in Christianity among a disillusioned youth generation, but detractors criticized the work as "sacrilegious" and "irreverent." At the same time Superstar entered the American public eye, the Jesus People Movement (ca 1967-1974), an unprecedented Christian revival among youth, was gaining momentum and spreading eastward from California. Like Superstar, the Jesus People blended Christian practice and narrative with vernacular culture in a manner that had a polarizing effect among contemporary Christians. This study contextualizes Superstar with the Jesus People Movement in order to examine how the moment in American religious history at the end of the long sixties created the conditions for Superstar to become both popular and controversial.
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