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Spirits of Protestantism

Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity

Pamela E. Klassen (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 348 pages
ISBN: 9780520270992
July 2011
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
Spirits of Protestantism reveals 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 Protestantism forcefully argues for a reconsideration of the historical legacies and cultural effects of liberal Protestantism, even for the anthropology of religion itself.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Healing Christians
1. Anthropologies of the Spiritual Body
2. The Gospel of Health and the Scientific Spirit
3. Protestant Experimentalists and the Energy of Love
4. Evil Spirits and the Queer Psyche in an Age of Anxiety
5. Ritual Proximity and the Healing of History
Conclusion: Critical Condition
Archives Consulted
Selected Bibliography
Pamela E. Klassen is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in America.
“Klassen has taken the first of what will hopefully be several medical anthropological forays into the complex relationship between Christianity and western medicine in North America. In so doing, she has offered a courageous and balanced treatise that is not a plea for the reënchantment of anthropology (or medicine) but a nuanced call for the careful analysis of the seemingly familiar.”—Willson Wills Somatosphere
“Spirits of Protestantism engages with many of the most important historical and theoretical debates in the field of religious studies. . . . A rich portrait of 20th century Protestant liberalism in (and beyond) Canada. The result is a book that is methodologically astute, wide-ranging in its source materials and cast of characters, theoretically informed and historiographically significant.”—Heather D. Curtis Religion
"An exceptionally detailed, historically grounded and comprehensive account."—Toomas Gross Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society
“Klassen’s book is much more than a first-rate study of how two churches in Canada positioned themselves within the ostensibly parallel worlds of biomedicine and spiritual healing. It is, at its core, an insightful meditation on the relationship between liberal Protestantism and the project of modernity. A must read not only for students of Christianity, but all those interested in the legacies of secularism and enchantment." —Matthew Engelke, London School of Economics

Awards for Excellence, American Academy of Religion

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