God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism

God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism

God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism

God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism

Synopsis

At his death on the eve of the 20th century, D.L. Moody was widely recognized as one of the most beloved and important of men in 19th-century America. A Chicago shoe salesman with a fourth grade education, Moody rose from obscurity to become God's man for the Gilded Age. He was the Billy Graham of his day--indeed it could be said that Moody invented the system of evangelism that Graham inherited and perfected. Bruce J. Evensen focuses on the pivotal years during which Moody established his reputation on both sides of the Atlantic through a series of highly popular and publicized campaigns. In four short years Moody forged the bond between revivalism and the mass media that persists to this day. Beginning in Britain in 1873 and extending across America's urban landscape, first in Brooklyn and then in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Boston, Moody used the power of prayer and publicity to stage citywide crusades that became civic spectacles. Modern newspapers, in the grip of economic depression, needed a story to stimulate circulation and found it in Moody's momentous mission. The evangelist and the press used one another in creating a sense of civic excitement that manufactured the largest crowds in municipal history. Critics claimed this machinery of revival was man-made. Moody's view was that he'd rather advertise than preach to empty pews. He brought a businessman's common sense to revival work and became, much against his will, a celebrity evangelist. The press in city after city made him the star of the show and helped transform his religious stage into a communal entertainment of unprecedented proportions. In chronicling Moody's use of the press and their use of him, Evensen sheds new light on a crucial chapter in the history of evangelicalism and demonstrates how popular religion helped form our modern media culture.

Excerpt

The end was apocalyptic and variously reported. “The world is receding and heaven opening,” the dying man was supposed to have said, although accounts differed. “I see earth receding; Heaven is opening; God is calling me,” other newspapers reported to their readers. D. L. Moody had always been greatly annoyed whenever he was misquoted. Perhaps that was why he wrote his own epitaph before the press in his sixty-second year wrote one for him. “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead,” he had long been famous for saying. “Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.” His son would use the statement on the eve of a new century to begin his biography of one of the most beloved men of the previous century. “I shall have gone up higher,” Moody wanted his readers to know, “that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.” Moody spoke to an estimated one hundred million souls in little more than a quarter century's ministry on both sides of the Atlantic, reportedly reducing the population of hell by a million in doing so. At his death, he was one of the best-known and most widely quoted men of the Gilded Age. He had fashioned a news release he gave to all the papers in all the cities where he went to work. It amounted to this: “I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the . . .

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