“Christian Science” in An Encyclopedia of Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity and Popular Expression
Fraser, Caroline. “Christian Science.” Pages 267–69 in vol. 1 of An Encyclopedia of Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity and Popular Expression. Edited by Gary Laderman and Luis Leon. 4 vols. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. 2014.
Fraser, a harsh critic of Christian Science, focuses on the history of its health practices in relation to the development of Western medicine. Early in its history, Christian Science “attracted those afflicted with chronic complaints or serious illnesses in an age when medical science had little to offer” (267a). She notes that the Christian Science Church has made a name for itself as publisher of a well-respected newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, and has become a politically powerful institution in its own right. But Mary Baker Eddy and her movement have been debated since its inception. She was criticized by Twain, hounded by Pulitzer’s reporters, and praised by Clara Barton. Eddy “left a movement that American society found simultaneously appealing (in its emphasis on Emersonian self-reliance) and troubling (for its wholesale rejection of medicine)” (267b). Fraser criticizes the Church for its evolution of health practices since Eddy’s death. “Although radical reliance [relying on prayer to the exclusion of medical help] was never an official requirement of Christian Scientists …, the position became a part of the culture of the movement” (267b). Although this encyclopedia was published in 2014, Fraser announces the opening of the new Mary Baker Eddy Library that had taken place in 2002.