“Seekers of the Light”: Christian Scientists in the United States, 1890-1910
Swensen, Rolf. The “Seekers of the Light”: Christian Scientists in the United States, 1890-1910. The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society: Vol. 1, No. 3, 2011: 115-44.
Focusing on the period 1890-1910, Swensen examines 800 Christian Science healing testimonies to find a majority of testifiers (70%) coming into Christian Science for healing, with 16% on a spiritual quest. The bulk of the article is an analysis of 32 branch church membership records to create a demographic history of their occupations and social classes. The earliest churches in New York City, Chicago, Georgia, the mid-West and Pacific Coast, revealed a broad range of social classes: approximately 45.6% from lower middle and working classes, with 54.4% in the middle, upper middle, and upper echelons. 68% were women— “the highest of any denomination in the United States” (141). Compared to the 1910 census, Swensen found five times more professionals in the branch churches and almost four times more managers/proprietors, but only one fifth the number of unskilled workers and farmers. And although some early churches would establish dispensaries staffed by practitioners “who made au gratis forays into slums … the new faith was not to make its greatest mark among the downtrodden … as efforts increasingly shifted to more receptive educated and affluent people” (122). Lastly, Swensen appeals to today’s members to move beyond old boundaries to regain their “once dynamic faith” (143).
Print ISSN: 2154-8633