Cover image for 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
Evensen, Bruce J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
232 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1440 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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BV3785.M7 E94 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 BillyGraham 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. Beginningin 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 wasthat 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 entertainmentof 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.

Author Notes

Bruce J. Evensen is a Professor in the Department of Communication at DePaul University.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

More than 75 years before Billy Graham captured huge audiences in his worldwide crusades, a barely literate boot salesman named D. L. Moody pioneered the strategies essential to mass evangelism. Examining the four years (1873-77) when Moody first devised effective methods for staging huge urban revivals, Evensen illuminates the dynamics of a revolutionary fusion of religious fervor and media publicity. Evensen credits Moody with shrewd collaboration with Protestant clergy and for bold initiative in securing coverage from newspapers that amplified his powerful pulpit rhetoric. But Evensen also highlights the dubious transformation of the preacher into a media celebrity presiding over the packaging of religion as a commodity for mass advertising and consumption. In Moody's own correspondence and the reflective journals kept by his wife, Evensen traces Moody's recurrent personal anxieties about the process he had set loose: even as he grew more skilled at manipulating the media, he recognized that they were exploiting his public visibility to boost circulation for publications not generally favorable to his gospel message. An absorbing cross-disciplinary work of cultural history. --Bryce Christensen Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

When evangelist Moody died the day after Christmas in 1899, he was reported to have reduced the population of hell by one million people through his revival efforts. Drawing on numerous contemporary newspaper reports of Moody's activities, journalist Evenson traces the influence of the popular press on Moody's rise to fame between 1873 and 1877. He points out that Moody was little-known when he began his revivals in Britain in 1873, but rose to prominence when the British press started to report on his success. Evenson chronicles Moody's rise to evangelistic fame and his use of the press by focusing on urban revivals in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The former shoe salesman used all the tools of that trade to sell the work of Christ to the multitudes, though he always humbly gave credit to the Holy Spirit for accomplishing the task of saving souls. As Evenson points out, Moody and the newspapers used each other to accomplish their own purposes: the press gained many readers with reports on Moody and his work, just as Moody gained free advertising (though he was often upset with the media's focus on him and not on his message). Evenson contends that Moody's canny abilities to manipulate the press for the good of evangelism paved the way for 20th-century successors like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Although Moody is a fascinating character and subject, Evenson's academic tone and his extensive use of footnotes sometimes make for dry reading. (Oct. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

1 The End: Moody in Northfield, December 1899p. 3
2 "Expecting a Blessing of Unusual Magnitude," Moody in Britain, June 1873-August 1875p. 14
3 "Sidewalks and Rooftops Are Black for Blocks Around," Moody in Brooklyn, October-November 1875p. 48
4 "It's Harder Getting into the Depot than Heaven," Moody in Philadelphia, November 1875-January 1876p. 72
5 "The Greatest Show on Earth," Moody in New York City, February-April 1876p. 93
6 "From the Curbstone to the Ashpit, The Fix Is In," Moody in Chicago, October 1876-January 1877p. 123
7 "It Is a Marvel to many People," Moody in Boston, January-April 1877p. 164
8 The Beginning: Moody in Queenstown, June 1873p. 184
Notesp. 189
Indexp. 228