Writing in The New York Times a half-century ago, the great historian of American religion Perry Miller marveled at the “diametrically opposite conclusions” of two published studies on Christian Science. Both studies were by serious scholars, one a Christian Scientist. The “one basic concern” in which the books agreed, Miller noted, was “to elevate the discussion to a level of humane scholarship.”
The Marlène F. Johnson Fund shares this basic concern. The Fund provides financial support for serious scholarly studies on Christian Science and the Church of Christ, Scientist. Its purpose is to contribute to a climate of honest scholarship in regard to the Church and its mission.
Scholarship has been described as including “all of the activities and attitudes encompassed in the sincere search for truth” (Oxford English Dictionary). As an independent source of support for scholarly work, the Fund takes this ideal seriously from both a religious and an academic perspective. Profound respect for truth is indispensable to the life of religion, as prophets through the ages have pointed out.
The Fund is not an arm of the Church of Christ, Scientist, although its mission is rooted in the same deep moral and spiritual commitments. The Fund’s assistance is modest in scale, but similar in purpose to that offered to scholars in other religious traditions by, for example, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Lilly Foundation, which have broadly supported scholarly work in American religious history and denominational culture over the years.