“Understanding Mary Baker Eddy”
Johnsen, Thomas C. “Understanding Mary Baker Eddy.” Paper presented at American Studies Conference. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, 2002.
Johnsen lays out the problematic history of how the public, the press and the Christian Science Church have depicted Mary Baker Eddy in the past century. He laments the usual one-dimensional portraits of Eddy either eulogizing her (Church’s sycophantic authorized literature), or demonizing her (attacks from ministers, physicians, press, disaffected students). Both the adoring and the reviling of Eddy were prone “to report gossip as gospel” (13); and due to the heavily guarded Church archives, “the perceptions of scholars were ruled not by a tyranny of facts but by a tyranny of preconceptions” (14). It was Robert Peel, a loyal Christian Scientist, who was finally given full access to the Church’s historical files, allowing the evidence to “talk back” (21). Peel’s three-volume biography of Eddy could then “face squarely, fairly, and explicitly the serious questions raised in critical works,” something “the authorized biographies … fail[ed] miserably to answer” (5). Johnsen, like Peel, highlights the nature of Eddy’s hard-fought discipleship fueled by her profound spirituality as well as her humanity—”the full range of her contradictions as well as strengths, her capacity for change and growth, her anguish, and yes, her authentic religious experience, without which there is no possibility of understanding her and little reason to try” (3,4).
See also annotation (polemic response):
Annotations related by category:
- Availability: Online - Free
- Official Christian Science Publication: No
- Organizations: Mary Baker Eddy Library
- People: Eddy, Mary Baker
- Publication Date: 2001-2010
- Resource Types: Conference Papers, Reports, and Manuscripts
- Resource Types: Web Resources
- Subjects: Biographies and Chronologies
- Subjects: Church Growth and Change