“Man’s Redemption of Man”: Medical Authority and Faith Healers in North America, 1850 - 1930

Title: “Man’s Redemption of Man”: Medical Authority and Faith Healers in North America, 1850 - 1930
Authors: McIntyre, Heather
Date: 2020-08-20
Abstract: This thesis discusses the various rhetorical, logical, and legal methods the medical profession used to regulate faith healing in North America. In so doing, it illuminates larger questions about the place of religion and authority over the body in modernity. It uses a source base of medical journals, legal documents, and church records to illustrate how doctors positioned themselves as the rational and godly choice for sick people. While faith healing was originally one of many “cures” and kinds of medicine available to North Americans during the 19th century, the medical field rapidly professionalized and supported laws requiring anyone claiming to practice medicine to adhere to one form of scientifically-based medicine. To support this change, physicians used the category of “quackery,” which implies backwardness and superstition, to illustrate the hazards of faith healing and other alternative medicines. Later, the rise of psychology in the 1890s reshaped physicians’ view of faith healing, and they came to explain its claims of success by arguing that “suggestion,” or messages to a person’s unconscious beliefs, can cure particular (gendered) kinds of mental illnesses. Doctors and clergy became curious about the safe use of suggestion, and embarked on experiments like the Emmanuel Movement. In showing this trajectory, this thesis demonstrates the co-operation between the clergy and the medical profession to delineate what they believed was a “rational” form of Protestantism, in opposition to the perceived excesses of faith healers. The possibility of a rational Protestantism led clergy and physicians to co-operate in several investigations into faith healers’ activities. Both professions lent their voices in support of the psychologized view of faith healing. Finally, this thesis examines legal documents and court cases involving faith healing, demonstrating the concrete application of medical authority in jurisdictions across North America. Through this examination, this thesis will suggest that medical culture and mainstream Protestantism deeply influenced each other in this period, complicating a conventional picture of them as completely separate modes of knowledge.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/40863
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -