“Building a New Religion”
Ivey, Paul Eli. “Building a New Religion.” Chicago History: The Magazine of the Chicago Historical Society XXIII (Spring 1994): 16–31.
Ivey documents the growing secularization and diminishing Protestant authority and influence of late 19th-century cities. This triggered an abandonment of traditional church architectural forms, such as Romanesque or Gothic Revival styles, to be replaced by the classical style often adapted by secular government buildings. In the midst of this cultural and architectural transition, the new, rapidly growing Christian Science denomination was establishing itself in Chicago. “How were churches to integrate into cityscapes increasingly defined by secular institutions, yet retain their theological sensibilities” (18)? The Christian Science urban church “dressed itself successfully” (23) in the “rational” (29, 30) authority and permanence of the imposing Greek classical architecture, reflecting the movement’s metaphysical theology, exponential growth and confident aspirations of meeting the healing needs of the urban population. By “erecting commodious temples that showed a degree of wealth not shared by many of the mainstream denominations” (21), Christian Scientists in Chicago and other cities also sought respectability in the face of governmental, medical and religious resistance. The first Chicago Christian Science Church was completed in 1897 modeled after an Athenian temple. Fifteen other Chicago churches were built in the next two decades, plus a few in the suburbs, all of them classically styled.