John Modern

John Modern

John Lardas Modern is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College. His research interests broadly encompass American religious history, literature, technology, and aesthetics. Modern is the author of two books, Secularism in Antebellum America (University of Chicago Press 2011) and The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (University of Illinois Press 2001). Modern has written across many venues and owns an impressive collection of evangelical vinyl. He is contributing editor for The Immanent Frame and co-curator of Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality. He tweets at @JohnModern.

Posts by John Modern

November 19, 2013

The Highway QC’s, “Pray” (1968)

In 1945, Lee Richardson, Gus Treadwell, Creedell Copeland, Marvin Jones, and Charles “Jake” Richardson formed The Teenage Highway QC’s, named after Quincy College High School of Chicago.

November 19, 2013

The Sufi Choir, “23rd Psalm” (1973)

Born of privilege (a Rothschild pedigree and a father who was a vice president of Levi Strauss manufacturing), Samuel L. Lewis was one of the more colorful American mystics, who, at the end of his life, shifted from preparing himself for enlightenment to ushering in a new age of enlightenment.

November 19, 2013

Sisters and Brothers, “Spirit in the Sky” (1974)

In this cover version of Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 original, salvation becomes a social occasion, perhaps even a bureaucratic process. “Spirit in the Sky” is performed, here, by the hastily assembled Sisters and Brothers, who sing it as part of a “rock mass”—a concept made popular by the Australian nun Sister Janet Mead, in the early 1970s.

November 19, 2013

It’s Time to Pray, America! (1976)

Words are a pale substitute for the live feed. But here we have a culmination of sorts. Here we have the power and expanse of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

November 19, 2013

Malcolm Boyd, “It's a Jazz Spot, Jesus” (1965)

Malcolm Boyd is, perhaps, best known for being an early supporter of gay rights within the Episcopal Church (publicizing his homosexuality in 1977).  Boyd had become an Episcopal priest some twenty-five years earlier, having had a successful career in advertising and television.

November 19, 2013

Re-Creation, “I Believe in Music” (n.d.)

Re-Creation is a non-profit organization founded in 1976 by Hugh Brooks in State College, Pennsylvania. As Re-Creation’s website exclaims, its “main service is to America’s Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and State Veterans Homes.

November 19, 2013

Vinyl Prayers: A Curatorial Introduction

Prayer may be an act of gratitude after the fact. It may be a weapon, a request to heal the body or boost the brain, an epistemic cry, a meditation, a mediation, a quip, a plea, a means of passive resistance, a wonderful gift from God. Or any manner of combination.

Whatever prayer is or has been it seems, often, to be bound up in the play of transgression and transcendence. Within the move across there are the moves against and the moves beyond. Against and beyond simultaneously, continuously, even as a prayer is conceived and uttered, even after it is ignored or answered.

September 5, 2013

Cognition and Culture Addendum

And we pick up where the conversation about cognition and culture has seemingly reached an impasse . . .

Mr. Romantic Poet: This is madness, I say! Apples and oranges! Science is not a singular thing. A science of life should be neither instrumental nor disembodied. Whatever prayer is it is much more than cognitive mechanics. And it is much more than a cultural conceit. And science worth its name accounts for what lies between the observer and the prayers under observation.

March 6, 2013

Are you Interested in Prayer?

Within the frame of secular modernity, religion has become something in need of measured explanation, something that is either at odds or consistent with the natural state of humanity. Prayer, as a fortifier of belief, has come to mark the religiosity of a shared human experience, for better or for worse.

February 26, 2013

Prayer Machines: Case Studies in a Secular Age

My project examines the profound effect that technological forms (material, conceptual, linguistic, epistemic) have had, and continue to have, on the practice and study of prayer. My project addresses: 1) social and technological contexts in and through which prayer has been represented, 2) the relationship between these contexts, these representations, and the dynamics of the secular age, and 3) the use of machines to measure one’s prayers and the prayers of others.