American evangelical missionaries had a stirring effect on the Middle East in the nineteenth century, particularly on the indigenous Christian communities of the region. In an attempt to revive an ancient church of Aramaic-speaking Christians who were imagined to be declining into satanic Catholicism, American evangelicals established the Mission to the Nestorians, which was led by Justin Perkins in Urmia, Iran for over thirty five years. This lecture will juxtapose Perkins’s 1834 arrival with a trip he made back to the United States in 1842 accompanied by Mar Yohannan, the Nestorian bishop of Urmia. A comparison of these two episodes illuminates how evangelical media culture corresponded with the idea that religion should be distinct from social and economic relations and how the cultivation of gratitude and a sense of wonder could resonate with an emergent secular culture.
Adam Becker, Associate Professor of Classics and Religious Studies, New York University