“Shadows of Perfection: Illness, Disability, and Sin in American Religious Healing”
Hines, Taylor Spight. “Shadows of Perfection: Illness, Disability, and Sin in American Religious Healing.” PhD Dissertation, University of California Santa Barbara, 2013.
Hines’s study on the relationship between illness, disability, and sin in the healing theologies of three American-born religions—evangelical divine healing, Christian Science, and the New Thought movement—highlights the 19th-century context from which they came. They all reacted against the prevalent Calvinist notion that illness and disability offered salvific powers, with the conviction that everyone had a right to a perfect mind and body. Following these generalizations, Hines studies the theology and practice of each group separately. For Christian Science, she finds that its teaching on the human selfhood results in a paradoxical tension. Whereas it offers the possibility of a “deeply empowered self,” it can also cause “a deep fear of the sinful self” (27). It is impossible in Christian Science to believe that God would make any of God’s children less than healthy. Therefore, people who are disabled and suffer long-term illness become symbols of error—whatever is not God-made. Although Mary Baker Eddy affirms that sick people are not more sinful that all others, sick people still hold the blame for their sickness, because they have not grasped their own spiritual nature. Hines also notes that the Christian Science exaltation of the spiritual can lead to a “backdoor glorification of the healthy body” (159).