“‘Standing Porter at the Door of Thought’: The Social Order of the Christian Science Church”
Swanson, Douglas J. “‘Standing Porter at the Door of Thought’: The Social Order of the Christian Science Church.” Paper presented at American Studies section of the Western Social Science Association Conference. Reno, Nevada, April 20, 2001.
Swanson’s paper applies a social science lens to the social and power structure of the Christian Science Church, seeing the existing organizational structure as not succeeding in 1) generating member trust and solidarity; 2) communicating its beliefs; 3) negotiating power through its rules; and 4) legitimizing a Church belief system so antithetical to the traditional worldview. Without the wider range of sources found in today’s Mary Baker Eddy Library, his conclusions uncover Church weaknesses but miss out on the blessings of membership. Swanson sees a history of membership being too much defined by loyalty to the Christian Science Board of Directors and Church Manual requirements. He notes that the Church’s theology is strictly monitored by authorized literature and copyright policies, constricting the horizon of its members. He highlights Christian Science theology as less about its practical spirituality than about fostering “a constant state of denial … [of] the material elements of the world” (13)—the traditional worldview. He incorrectly states that the Church Manual—rather than Church culture—prohibits any “traditional Protestant church life” (weddings, youth activities, serving food) (15). In summary, in addition to today’s medical and technological advances, “the future of The Church … seems tremendously limited by its theological and organizational structure” based on a “society which no longer exists” (17).
Annotations related by category:
- Availability: Online - Free
- Official Christian Science Publication: No
- Organizations: The First Church of Christ, Scientist
- Publication Date: 2001-2010
- Resource Types: Conference Papers, Reports, and Manuscripts
- Resource Types: Web Resources
- Subjects: Church Manual, Governance, Leadership
- Subjects: Church Practices
- Subjects: Social and Cultural Studies