The Word and the Flesh: Religion, Medicine, and Protestant Faith Healing Narratives in North America, 1880-1910

James Opp


In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a veritable explosion of narratives
appeared detailing experiences of faith healing. Because these narratives were written
as first-person testimonials to faith healing and published in religious journals,
they have been neglected as a potential source for exploring late-Victorian perceptions
of medical culture, health, and the body. An examination of Protestant healing
testimonials and their relationship to the medical culture of North America between
1880 and 1910 indicates that faith healing was not isolated from broader social
trends, nor was it a backward reaction. While medicine attempted to distance itself
from religion, these personal narratives bridged the two realms, shaping a new
understanding of the body and creating a legitimate space for the expression of a
personal voice within the context of a transforming medical culture.

Full Text: