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Did Someone Say “Evangelical Surge”?

  • John Lardas Modern

Let me start by thanking Professor Mark Noll, and while the topic of non-human agents is in the air, I would like to declare my thanks to America's God for inciting me and inspiring me to narrate my own version of events. Talk about objective conditions! I would also like to thank Sonia Hazard, Dana Logan, Caleb Maskell, and Alex Kaloyanides for their meticulous attention to America's God and Secularism in Antebellum America and their place within larger debates. There is an incredible rush that happens—excitement mixed with dread—in those moments that you realize that somebody else might know your book better than you do.

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1 Noll, America's God, 192.

2 Ibid., 209.

3 Ibid., 210.

4 See Modern, “Confessions of a Genealogist,” Religion in American History (blog), November 19, 2012,

5 Tracy Fessenden, Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 2007), 135.

6 See The Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee, Giving An Account of Her Call to Preach the Gospel, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, 1849).

7 Reverend Edward Stevens, “Maulmain.—Journal of Rev. Mr. Stevens. Tour to Yay—Amherst,” Baptist Missionary Magazine, November 1849.

8 On the complexity of dissent/assent in the missionary encounter, see Modern, Secularism in Antebellum America, 99n150, 103–104.

9 I am reminded here of Cathy Albanese's provocative point in her presidential address to the AAR over two decades ago—the problem with historians, she suggested, and I paraphrase, is that they have not confronted their own mortality in any meaningful fashion—and so they attempt to secure an image of the past as a substitute for securing their identity in the present. See Catherine L. Albanese, “Refusing the Wild Pomegranate Seed: America, Religious History, and the Life of the Academy,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 63, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 205–229.

10 Modern, Secularism in Antebellum America, 104.

11 On the viscerality of words, see Karen Fields's brilliant and lush translation of Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. Karen Fields (New York: The Free Press, 1995); on the virality of words, see Burroughs, William S., “By Far The Most Efficient and Precise Language We Possess is the Common Cold,” The Burroughs Academy Bulletin 6, Mayfair 3, no. 3 (March 1968): 5456.

12 Douglas, Mary, “The Effects of Modernization on Religious Change,” Daedalus 111, no. 3 (Winter 1982): 119.

13 John Murray Spear, The Educator: Being Suggestions, Theoretical and Practical, Designed to Promote Man-Culture and Integral Reform with a View to the Ultimate Establishment of a Divine Social State on Earth, ed. A. E. Newton (Boston: Office of Practical Spiritualists, 1857).

14 My book begins with a footnote on Derrida's specific understanding of mediation and ends in the blurred space of struggle—representative of a world in which the agentive and cognitive dimensions of technological systems are such that whatever creativity that we express, whatever techniques of self-production that we initiate, those processes are intimately bound to the unknowability of those systems that surround.

15 See Modern, “My Evangelical Conviction,” Religion 42, no. 3 (July 2102): 439–457.

16 On the archive as a contingent site of vast mediation, listen to Hayden White's “Foucault Historian?,” (lecture, University of California, Santa Cruz, March 2008),

17 Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Rockville, Md.: Wildside Press, 2008), 15.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
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