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Spirits of Protestantism

Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Pamela E. Klassen
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    Spirits of Protestantism
    Book Description:

    Spirits of Protestantismreveals how liberal Protestants went from being early-twentieth-century medical missionaries seeking to convert others through science and scripture, to becoming vocal critics of missionary arrogance who experimented with non-western healing modes such as Yoga and Reiki. Drawing on archival and ethnographic sources, Pamela E. Klassen shows how and why the very notion of healing within North America has been infused with a Protestant "supernatural liberalism." In the course of coming to their changing vision of healing, liberal Protestants became pioneers three times over: in the struggle against the cultural and medical pathologizing of homosexuality; in the critique of Christian missionary triumphalism; and in the diffusion of an ever-more ubiquitous anthropology of "body, mind, and spirit." At a time when the political and anthropological significance of Christianity is being hotly debated,Spirits of Protestantismforcefully argues for a reconsideration of the historical legacies and cultural effects of liberal Protestantism, even for the anthropology of religion itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95044-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface Pathologies of Modernity
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  6. Introduction: Healing Christians
    (pp. 1-29)

    When she published her 1930 advice book on how to speak frankly to children about sex, the unmarried Dr. Belle Oliver joined a vanguard of women and men willing to risk censure and censorship in the service of “social hygiene.” Writing without the credibility drawn from motherly experience, Oliver nevertheless felt it was her duty to use her medical authority and expertise to bring Indian families both primary medical care and a Christian-inflected reverence for the body.Anandi’s Questionadvised mothers and fathers to speak frankly to their four-year-olds about where babies come from, using medically appropriate names for parts...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Anthropologies of the Spiritual Body
    (pp. 30-57)

    The most famous Canadian medical missionary, one might argue, was not ultimately filled with the spirit of Jesus, but was instead emboldened by the spirit of communism. Dr. Norman Bethune, the son of an Ontario Presbyterian minister, met with international renown for his frontline medical work in two twentieth-century revolutionary hotspots—the Spanish Civil War and the Chinese communist battle against the Japanese occupation. Bethune became truly legendary after his 1939 death on the front in war-torn China, when Mao Tse-Tung lionized him as a communist martyr, praising him for his selfless embodiment of “the spirit of internationalism, the spirit...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Gospel of Health and the Scientific Spirit
    (pp. 58-99)

    Anna Henry was a scientific woman who could pray. A doctor with the Canadian Methodist Women’s Missionary Society in China, Henry penned a short pamphlet in the early 1900s calledLife from the Dead, describing to her readers her experience with opium addicts: “As they go through the terrible throes of the unbearable craving for the cursed opium, they cling to you so, beseeching help, while their abject, pain-distorted features, attitudes and motions remind one of Dante’s Inferno.”¹ Although Henry’s readers may not have had Dante’s epic poem to hand, there is a better chance that they would have caught...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Protestant Experimentalists and the Energy of Love
    (pp. 100-136)

    German Protestant Rudolf Bultmann was a leading biblical scholar much beloved by North American liberal Protestants both for his early condemnation of Nazism and for his attempt to unearth the core Christian message, fit for a scientific age, from within the “mythologies” of the New Testament. In 1941 he put the matter starkly: to be modern was to leave behind the gospel promises of bodily healing through the spirit. Articulating a theological anthropology indebted both to his existentialist colleague Martin Heidegger and to his own deep knowledge of Hellenistic and biblical traditions, Bultmann sought a conception of “man” that could...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Evil Spirits and the Queer Psyche in an Age of Anxiety
    (pp. 137-168)

    On September 29, 1967, the front-page headline in the morning edition of theToronto Starproclaimed, “We Take Witchcraft Seriously but Don’t Practise It: Priest.” Later that day, the afternoon paper countered with: “Girl Spanked before Death to Cast out Devil—Ex-cultist.” By October 3, theStarannounced with restrained incredulity: “Witness Believes Evil Spirits Can ‘Inhabit’ Human Body.” For four days that autumn, the local papers became the site for a fierce dispute over the anthropology of the spiritual body, as journalists covered the coroner’s inquest into the death in June 1967 of a young woman, Katherine Globe, at...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Ritual Proximity and the Healing of History
    (pp. 169-208)

    In the last few decades of the twentieth century and on into the twentyfirst, the meanings and modes of Christian healing within Anglican and United Churches had proliferated in a dizzying array of directions. Transcendental meditation, yoga, traditional First Nations rituals, medieval-based labyrinth walks, energy healing such as Reiki and therapeutic touch, and healing services with anointing and laying on of hands could all be found in sanctuaries and parish halls across North America, not to mention in the health expos and bookstores of ecumenically “New Age” networks.² As well, parish nursing, a hybrid of biomedical expertise and pastoral care,...

  12. Conclusion: Critical Condition
    (pp. 209-218)

    Invoking healing as the way to achieve their goals both political and spiritual, liberal Protestants championed a metaphor hard to counter. Who could disagree with healing as a goal with wide, if not universal, resonance? Liberal Protestant anthropologies of the spiritual body drew from a wide array of sources—biomedicine, yoga, Reiki, Jesus’s healing miracles—to craft an ideal of healing as wholeness that would make space for a diversity of spirits. Arguing not that everyone could have a right to be physically healed, but that everyone should have a right to the process of healing, liberal Protestants sought to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 219-282)
  14. Archives Consulted
    (pp. 283-284)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 285-304)
  16. Index
    (pp. 305-317)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 318-318)