39. Religious Performances
What Would Jesus Do?
The novel, In His Steps has sold 30 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books in history. It tells the story of a town that tries to live by asking, “What would Jesus do?” Within a few years of its publication a large lantern slide set based on the book became available.
The book and its lantern set have a melodramatic tone, and some rather implausible outcomes. Nonetheless, they draw a stark contrast between the message of Jesus and middle-class society of the 1890s Gilded Age, particularly regarding the distribution of wealth. That contrast resonated in the Victorian period, and resonates still.
Most of the slides for In His Steps, like the praying scene shown, were “life model” slides, created by posing live actors. For crowd scenes and others that would have been difficult to photograph with live models, In His Steps used illustrations like this one of a tent revival meeting
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