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Faith in the Great Physician

, 288 pages

19 b&w photos

October 2007



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Faith in the Great Physician

Suffering and Divine Healing in American Culture, 1860–1900

Recipient of the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History for 2007

Open Access Edition Available at Project MUSE

Faith in the Great Physician tells the story of how participants in the evangelical divine healing movement of the late nineteenth century transformed the ways Americans coped with physical affliction and pursued bodily health. Examining the politics of sickness, health, and healing during this period, Heather D. Curtis encourages critical reflection on the theological, cultural, and social forces that come into play when one questions the purpose of suffering and the possibility of healing.

Curtis finds that advocates of divine healing worked to revise a deep-seated Christian ethic that linked physical suffering with spiritual holiness. By engaging in devotional disciplines and participating in social reform efforts, proponents of faith cure embraced a model of spiritual experience that endorsed active service, rather than passive endurance, as the proper Christian response to illness and pain.

Emphasizing the centrality of religious practices to the enterprise of divine healing, Curtis sheds light on the relationship among Christian faith, medical science, and the changing meanings of suffering and healing in American culture.

Heather D. Curtis is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity and American religion at Tufts University.

"Heather Curtis has done both the historical guild and the church a great favor in so elegantly narrating the history of a movement that challenged long-standing assumptions about the spiritual utility of corporal pain—and, in so doing, remapped our imaginations and transformed our understanding of suffering."

"Students of American religious history and American culture will find this work worthy of attention."

"An illuminating and exceedingly careful examination of a historical terrain chock-full of landmines... Its careful attention to the experiences of both laity and elites is as strong as its evenhanded interpretation."

"Fascinating story told by Heather D. Curtis."

"Thoughtfully rendered study."

"Faith in the Great Physician: Suffering and Divine Healing in American Culture, 1860–1900 is an engaging and informative analysis of the divine healing movement, grounded in a wide-ranging view of its social and cultural, medical and religious milieu... Heather Curtis is to be commended for this splendid contribution to the scholarship of the era."

"Lyrical and convincing."

"Careful historical research that scholars of American religion and American history will find indispensable."

"A fascinating account."

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