Parallel Developments of Christian Science and Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo and Christian Science are both faith healing religions founded by women in the late 19th century on the basis of direct revelation from God. Both lived in an age where the powerful concept of faith healing was being crowded out or suppressed by more controllable, institutional behaviors, these being “Churchianity” in America and “non-religious Shinto” in Japan. Both attracted highly intelligent individuals from outside the mainstream, who eventually gave both groups unexpected relevance in 20th century society. Here is a brief sketch of their development from someone who is only somewhat acquainted with the church histories.

Splinter groups

It was expected that Tenrikyo Shrine of God and foundress Oyasama would live to 115 years per her own prediction. When this did not happen there was confusion in the movement. Many believed in the 天啓待望論 (tenkei taibou-ron), the doctrine that a new Shrine of God would be appointed at the end of Oyasama’s 115-year era. At least two splinter groups formed when the 115 years were up in 1913: Oonishi Ajirou’s Honmichi, and a group called 茨木一派 (Ippa Daidou). I think there were others, but this is not clear to me. Individual Tenrikyoists, dissatisfied with the direction of the church, also founded basically unrelated groups like Moralogy.

Christian Science also splintered after its founder’s death. The Christian Science Parent Church was founded in England in 1912, two years after Mary Baker Eddy’s death, and gained a small following in America as well. Like Honmichi, the Parent Church emphasized its leader’s position as the next inheritor of revelation. In this case, leader Annie C. Bill wrote a book called Science, Evolution, and Immortality which supplemented Science and Health. Unlike Honmichi, this group is now completely extinct. This information comes from a fascinating 1926 encyclopedia of religious bodies issued by the U.S. Census, which also includes an early official recognition of non-Christian “religious groups”.

Making faith healing relevant

The paths taken by both organizations in the 20th century are fascinating as stories of how marginal spiritual groups plant themselves in their home societies. Christian Science, of course, is known through the United States for two things: its reading rooms, which dot main streets throughout the country, and the Pulitzer-winning Christian Science Monitor, propped up entirely on Christian Scientist donations for many years with scarcely a mention of religion in the paper itself. Tenrikyo has worked the same way: in Japan they are known throughout the country for Tenri University, which has a famous judo team, and on a lesser scale for the excellent Tenri Hospital and Tenri City in which both organizations are located. If you ask an American about a Christian Science Reading Room, they will often be familiar with its existence as a neighborhood staple even if they don’t know exactly what it means; Tenri University has the same associations in Japan.

More to come as I research more.

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Secular-Religious 1 Comment »

One Comment on “Parallel Developments of Christian Science and Tenrikyo”

  1. 1 George said at 5:55 pm on October 11th, 2010:

    Don’t know anything about Tenrikyo. E-mail me if you would like some help researching Christian Science, and be sure to explore this website: