“The Rise and Fall of Christian Science”
Stark, Rodney. “The Rise and Fall of Christian Science.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 13, no. 2 (1998): 189–214.
The goal of Stark’s research is to analyze the causes of success and failure in religious movements. He focuses on Christian Science because of its dramatic rise and decline within short periods of time. Stark is more interested in where the ideas went and how they were embodied in a social movement than the meaning or merits of religious teachings. He finds that the behavior of Christian Scientists and their Church initially embodied his proposition for success in that it had a legitimate leader (Mary Baker Eddy) who effectively maintained her authority beyond her personal presence, thus preventing local members from exercising leadership roles (200). However, Stark sees the Church failing to “maintain a level of fertility sufficient to offset member mortality” (203)—fewer children are raised in Christian Science, perhaps because converts have overwhelmingly been older females. Also, Stark claims that infertility occurred due to a relatively negative attitude toward marriage and sex. He notes other factors contributing to the decline, such as the role of WWII, women’s growing opportunities for work and fulfillment, and the rapid improvement of modern medicine. The opening of the Mary Baker Eddy Library in 2002 would have helped Stark address the number of inaccuracies and his use of limited resources.
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