“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pragmatist: Christian Science and Responsible Optimism”
Ruetenik, Tadd. “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pragmatist: Christian Science and Responsible Optimism.” Journal of Religion and Health 51, no. 4 (December 2012): 1397–1405.
Ruetenik’s unusual suggestion to “set up the Church of Christ, Pragmatist,” envisions an institution based on a pragmatic practice of Christian Science that does not need “to be protected or a doctrine that needs to be defended but as a melioristic practice that can be modified” (1405). He defines ‘meliorism’ as a midway point between optimism (“healing always occurs”) and pessimism (“healing never occurs”). Ruetenik relies on William James’s pragmatic argument to explain how meliorism best describes the value of Christian Science. An outsider’s pessimism attacks Christian Science with an attempt to eradicate it with claims such as “a child’s case can go on ‘untreated for months’” (1402). However even if one can argue that Christian Science practitioners are ineffective, this is different from arguing that they are inattentive to suffering and unwilling to treat a child. Conversely, overly optimistic views are also pointless. Neither attempting to shield Christian Science against attacks as strict adherents do, nor trying to attack as its harshest critics do, the insider critic merely wishes “for Christian Science’s success in the way that one wishes for the success of any attempt to alleviate suffering…” (1404). This same melioristic view also serves as a critique to a medical culture of over-diagnosis or over-medication.
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