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Innocent Ecstasy, Updated EditionHow Christianity Gave America an Ethic of Sexual Pleasure$
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Peter Gardella

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190609405

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190609405.001.0001

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Medical Christianity

Medical Christianity

(p.37) 3 Medical Christianity
Innocent Ecstasy, Updated Edition

Peter Gardella

Oxford University Press

Colonial American Protestant theologians taught little about sex. Jonathan Edwards saw original sin as selfishness, not passion. Doctors changed the discourse when they moved from systematic to empirical medicine. As they stopped trying to correct imbalances with treatments like bleeding and began to look for specific causes of disease, sex came under suspicion. Health writer Sylvester Graham and surgeon Dr. John Harvey Kellogg prescribed graham flour and cereals, respectively, to turn people away from diets that stimulated passion. Theologians from the liberal Horace Bushnell to evangelical Charles Grandison Finney began to reduce original sin to sex. When Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859, theologians used it to define sin as the animal aspect of humanity. Doctors advised less sex, birth rates fell, and fashions for twin beds and clitoridectomies emerged. Catholics, Protestants, and new movements like Christian Science formed a repressive, perfectionist consensus.

Keywords:   colonial, American, Protestants, doctors, Sylvester Graham, John Harvey Kellogg, theologians, birth rates, clitoridectomies, Victorian

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