"God is My First Aid Kit": The Negotiation of Health Care Choices among Christian Scientists




Steckler, Rebecca

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Christian Scientists' rejection of many conventional medical practices has generated controversy, particularly in recent decades as the United States has become more medicalized. Using subcultural identity theory, I analyze elite discourse and adherent narratives from twenty Christian Scientists to examine their distinctive understandings of health and illness. Findings from this study indicate that Christian Scientists view metaphysical prayer as a subculturally distinctive and self-sufficient form of health care that, when applied correctly, needs no outside intervention (e.g., medical treatment). In spite of this subcultural distinction between Christian Science and mainstream views of medicine, Christian Scientists recognize that they must also make practical adjustments to their health care routines in order to be law-abiding citizens. Furthermore, because Christian Science as a religious organization has no anti-medical doctrine or mandates for appropriate versus inappropriate uses of medical or alternative care, members of the religion have considerable latitude to handle health problems as they see fit. Interviewees indicated that each health challenge requires careful consideration of three main factors: guidance received from praying to God, one's own metaphysical competency as a healer, and the medicalized norms and laws that govern the society or state in which one lives. I conclude that while the health-related tenants of Christian Science are distinctive and even strict, the practice of health care among adherents is considerably more fluid and flexible than commonly believed.


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Christian Science, Lived Religion, Mary Baker Eddy, Religion and Health, Spiritual Health Care