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Christian Science on Trial

Hardback
, 320 pages

8 halftones

ISBN:
9780801870576
November 2002
$50.00

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Christian Science on Trial

Religious Healing in America

In Christian Science on Trial, historian Rennie B. Schoepflin shows how Christian Science healing became a viable alternative to medicine at the end of the nineteenth century. Christian Scientists did not simply evangelize for their religious beliefs; they engaged in a healing business that offered a therapeutic alternative to many patients for whom medicine had proven unsatisfactory. Tracing the evolution of Christian Science during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Christian Science on Trial illuminates the movement's struggle for existence against the efforts of organized American medicine to curtail its activities.

Physicians exhibited an anxiety and tenacity to trivialize and control Christian Scientists which indicates a lack of confidence among the turn-of-the-century medical profession about who controlled American health care. The limited authority of the medical community becomes even clearer through Schoepflin's examination of the pitched battles fought by physicians and Christian Scientists in America's courtrooms and legislative halls over the legality of Christian Science healing. While the issues of medical licensing, the meaning of medical practice, and the supposed right of Americans to therapeutic choice dominated early debates, later confrontations saw the legal issues shift to matters of contagious disease, public safety, and children's rights. Throughout, Christian Scientists revealed their ambiguous status as medical practitioners and religious healers.

The 1920s witnessed an unsteady truce between American medicine and Christian Science. The ambivalence of many Americans about the practice of religious healing persisted, however. In Christian Science on Trial we gain a helpful historical context for understanding late–twentieth-century public debates over children's rights, parental responsibility, and the authority of modern medicine.

Rennie B. Schoepflin, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

"This well-documented volume, with its extremely well-written chronicle of the dialigue between Christian Science and modern medicine, makes the very interesting point that Christian Science's emphasis on spirituality as relevant for the cure of disease has finally 'come of age'."

"A densely researched narrative of how this unusual, but enduring, form of medicine and religion developed. Through detailed accounts of testimony given in various legal proceedings, Schoepflin captures—often in their own words—the flavor of exchanges between Christian Scientists and those in the emerging establishment of allopathic medicine."

"This work is a significant contribution to our understanding of Christian Science. Where it breaks new ground is in its careful and dispassionate examination of the activities and challenges posed to ordinary Christian Science practitioners either during the lifetime of Mary Baker Eddy or thereafter."

"Provides a remarkably readable and balanced account of Christian Science healing, from the evolving theories of Mary Baker Eddy to the bedside and dispensary practices of her followers. Drawing on fresh sources, including courtroom testimony, Schoepflin for the first time opens the door to the workaday world of Christian Science practitioners."

"Clearly written and well argued, Schoepflin's excellent study moves beyond the prescriptive literature-focused and Eddy-centered scholarship to show what practitioners and their patients did and thought near the turn of the century."