Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness

Article excerpt

Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness. By Heather H. Vacek. (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2015, Pp. xii, 271. $39.95.)

Heather Vacek presents an illuminating history of Protestant responses to mental illness from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries through five figures: Cotton Mather, Benjamin Rush, Dorothea Dix, Anton Boisen, and Karl Menningen "Though Christian inattention to mental illness formed the general pattern, [these] five exceptions to the rule of benign neglect exemplify Protestant involvement and form the basis for theological reflection about ongoing Christian practice" (3). Vacek's final chapter concentrates on the theological and pastoral dimensions of the church's on-going attempts to minister to the mentally ill.

Mather (1663-1728) revealed his interest in medicine in The Angel of Bethesda published posthumously and "the only comprehensive medical volume in the colonial period" (9). He covered a variety of maladies that included chapters on "Madness" and "Melancholy." Writing from a pre-Enlightenment theological perspective, Mather found sin, the original sin of Adam and the transgressions of individuals, the cause of sickness. Yet he "offered no condemnation of those afflicted with mental illness" (19). Mather "hoped to serve like the biblical angel at the pool of Bethesda in bringing healing, especially those afflicted with mental distress" (26).

Rush (1746-1813) sought to reform medicine by reconciling medically trained professionals with a role for Christian faith, in a combination of Enlightenment elements and traditional Protestant belief. Increasingly medical science saw madness as a sickness rather than impiety. Rush sought a "blend of moral treatment and medical care" (49). Thanks to his efforts the Pennsylvania Hospital included a ward for the insane. From 1783 until his death in 1813 he served as an attending physician, including care for the "maniacal patients" (51). …

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.