“The Christian Scientists” in America: Religions and Religion
Albanese, Catherine L. “The Christian Scientists,” Pages 166–69 in America: Religions and Religion. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2012.
Albanese’s undergraduate textbook explains Christian Science in the context of the evolution of religions and the meaning of religion in America. Christian Science was one of the 19th-century new religions that made considerable demands on its members, as new sects often did. Mary Baker Eddy’s leadership role evolved from her personal experience with physical difficulties and hardship. From years of outward wandering and inward thinking, the first edition of Eddy’s book, Science and Health emerged. It was “the book that for later Christian Scientists ranked beside the Bible and explained it” (166). Four years later, the Church was formally chartered, “and the story after that became on the whole one of growing wealth, influence, and prestige” (166). However, the original group turned inward and sharpened their identity following a series of defections. Albanese’s theological explanations of Christian Science are based on her thorough knowledge of the American metaphysical movement. She describes the meaning of Jesus, the practice of healing, the worldview of ‘material error,’ and salvation in the context of this metaphysical foundation. “In Christian Science,” she writes, “theology met American corporate talent and linked it to a religious quest for healing. Nineteenth-century Christian Science was in some ways a sign of the religious future” (169).