Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Synopsis

Spirits of Protestantism reveals how liberal Protestants went from being early-twentieth-century medical missionaries seeking to convert others through science and scripture, to becoming vocal critics of missionary arrogance who experimented with non-western healing modes such as Yoga and Reiki. Drawing on archival and ethnographic sources, Pamela E. Klassen shows how and why the very notion of healing within North America has been infused with a Protestant "supernatural liberalism." In the course of coming to their changing vision of healing, liberal Protestants became pioneers three times over: in the struggle against the cultural and medical pathologizing of homosexuality; in the critique of Christian missionary triumphalism; and in the diffusion of an ever-more ubiquitous anthropology of "body, mind, and spirit." At a time when the political and anthropological significance of Christianity is being hotly debated, Spirits of Protestantism forcefully argues for a reconsideration of the historical legacies and cultural effects of liberal Protestantism, even for the anthropology of religion itself.

Excerpt

The promise of healing is everywhere. Biomedical researchers and charitable foundations race for the cure, self-help books assure their readers that the answer lies within, and a host of alternative therapies channel the energies of the universe to reconcile the traumas of the modern self. The balm of healing is also liberally applied to the wounds of history—be they genocide, apartheid, or racism—when invoked in processes of “truth and reconciliation.” It is, in fact, the ubiquity of healing that makes it carry such heavy burdens—mending the body, psyche, and spirit, fending off ever-changing viral and bacterial threats to life, and restoring justice and right relations. A potent tonic of futility and necessity, the promise of healing—whether of mortal bodies or tragic histories—always seems just out of reach.

Nevertheless, hopeful people of all sorts continue to invoke the possibility (or providence) of healing, whether through medical or metaphorical means. The subjects of this book proclaimed healing as the solution to more than one ill: as doctors and nurses they performed the art and science of mending the sick body; as Christian citizens they supported a therapeutic politics in which biomedical care was a public good open to all; and as believers in the spirit they insisted that the science behind biomedicine was itself a gift of divine wisdom. At the heart of early movements for public health care in North America, liberal Protestants became agents of medicalization. They sought to modernize the call of Jesus to his disciples: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.