“Christian Scientists” in Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles
Schaefer, Richard T. and William W. Zellner. “Christian Scientists,” Pages 129-61 in Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles. 8th ed. New York: Worth Publishers, 2008.
The purpose of this book is to “illustrate a fascinating cultural diversity” from a sociological perspective (3). Christian Science is one of the eight religious communities studied in this 8th edition (2008). All were selected because of their illustration of major sociological principles. In particular, Eddy is noted for having operated “outside the norms of what sociologists call expected gender role behavior” (137). Gender role behavior was sharply defined in her lifetime, as clergy and medicine were entirely male dominated. Historians sometimes overlook the difficulties Eddy faced, in spite of her success as founder and head of her Church and serious competitor with medical practitioners. The chapter on Christian Science includes a clear documentation of Eddy’s life experiences that led to her Church leadership and the functioning of the Church since 1910. Two sociological topics are surveyed: whether Eddy would rightly be considered charismatic and whether Christian Science would rightly be considered a ‘cult’ or ‘sect’. As for charisma, the authors offer an indecisive judgment. And they explain why Christian Science is more accurately considered a denomination than a ‘cult’ or ‘sect’. Further contemporary considerations include the issue of healing (a problem from without) and the issue of finances and declining membership (problems from within).
See also annotations: