Arthur Blessitt quickly became one of the more recognizable figures of the “Jesus Movement” (hippie Christians) of the late ’60s and early ’70. He helped to make Christianity cool for young people of that era — like me.
We put his little round “Smile, God loves you!” stickers on our cloth-covered “Good News for Modern Man” New Testaments. Along with “One Way” T-shirts and Ichthus medallions around our necks, we were styling for Jesus.
Of course, Blessitt is best known for walking around with a large cross … and walking, and walking, and walking, and walking…
My only personal encounter was brief and by accident. In an oddly fitting event, the Southern Baptist Convention held its 1989 annual meeting in Las Vegas.
Blessitt was invited to address a pre-convention evangelism conference. At the conclusion, Blessitt took up his cross and headed down the Vega Strip with hundreds of preachers in tow — handing out New Testaments and Gospel tracts to suspects like me in non-preacher attire.
I was headed from my hotel pool to the mall at that time in search of air conditioning and a Schlotsky’s original sandwich. Getting there was nearly impossible due to Blessitt’s followers attempting to gang-save me several times.
While Blessitt has received his share of praise and criticism (some well deserved) over the decades, I’m not standing in judgment. He may be odd, but such could be said of most Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist. Undeniably, however, he is persistent.
From Christmas 1969 through June 2008, he walked over 38,000 miles with his familiar large wooden cross. For those interested in the details, he has written a book about his journeys titled “The Cross.”
“One of the privileges of carrying a cross around the world is meeting all kinds of beautiful people,” said Blessitt in an interview related to the release of his book. Then he added the following explanation:
“Just as Jesus related to all people, I have tried to do that myself as I carry his cross. In our world today, it seems few of us desire or are able to relate to various kinds of people. I’ve had encounters with world-famous people like Pope John Paul II, Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat. I’ve also shared meals with the poorest of the poor, the homeless. I’ve slept in remote villages where mine was the first white face any of the people had seen. And always, I have been awed by the beauty and joy of the children. In God’s view (and in mine), all of these people are equally valued and equally loved.”
Good point, Arthur. Makes our “normal” lives seem quite boring in contrast. Walk on.