Where did this 19th-century movement lead? Although the Pentecostal embrace of divine healing in the 20th century is outside of the scope of Curtis’ study, she suggests some of the ways that Pentecostalism both borrowed from and reshaped the 19th-century tradition of faith healing. And Curtis also pokes, gently, at some of the subtle, and subtly pernicious, effects the faith healing movement might have had on the larger American cultural imagination. She suggests, intriguingly, that perhaps one of the more worrying fruits of the movement was the stigmatizing of invalids: in the context of a God who promised health, “chronic illness or infirmity became increasingly problematic.” Thus, likely unintentionally, the faith cure movement may have “helped foster disparaging attitudes toward the body in pain that have persisted” to the present. The faith healing movement, in other words, contributed to our culture’s assumption that God prefers the able-bodied to the infirm, the vigorous to the halt and the lame.
Heather Curtis has done both the historical guild and the church a great favor in so elegantly narrating the history of a movement that challenged long-standing assumptions about the spiritual utility of corporal pain””and, in so doing, remapped our imaginations and transformed our understanding of suffering.