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     Christianity is the world's largest and most widespread religion. Within its fold are thousands of groups and denominations with myriad theological,  cultural, and social variations. However, all Christians unite around basic tenets. Chiefly, Christians are believers in, and followers of, Jesus. Known as  "the Christ," or "the anointed one," Jesus lived in the early 1st century C.E. All Christians concur that Jesus is the son of God, was incarnated as a human being, instituted a ministry in the modern day Middle East, was persecuted and crucified, and rose from the dead after three days. Due to this understanding, He thus plays a vital role in God's plan of salvation for the world. Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity takes the Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament) as authoritative scripture. In addition, Christians also profess that a New Testament came into existence through Jesus' time on earth. This scripture includes four gospels (accounts of Jesus life and works), a history of the early church (Acts of the Apostles), many letters authored by the apostle Paul, letters written by other prominent disciples, and a visionary book known as Revelation. When attempting to organize the many variations within this tradition, one can divide it into three primary strains: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism.
       Orthodox Christians are organized into independent national churches. As traditionalists, they practice a form of Christianity that developed in the Eastern Roman Empire during the first centuries of the Common Era. Like most Christians they emphasize a Trinity (or doctrine that states that there are three persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-within one God). In the Orthodox faith there are seven sacraments, or authoritative rituals that may occur throughout one's life. Orthodoxy emphasizes the possibility of salvation for the entire cosmos, including the natural world.  Catholic Christians are part of a worldwide church under the leadership of the pope, whose administrative center is the Vatican in Rome. Prior to the 16th century, all of Western Europe was united in a single Christian Church that is the predecessor to modern day Catholicism. Catholics also uphold seven sacraments although they are sometimes named differently than by their Orthodox counterparts. While abiding by the authority of scripture, Catholicism also looks to Tradition (teachings of the early Church Fathers, decrees from Church councils, and encyclicals issued by the pope) for religious guidance. As a corollary, Catholicism possesses a tradition of honoring saints. Many adherents offer prayers to those believed to be residing in heaven. Protestant Christianity arose during the Reformation of the 16th century as individuals such as Martin Luther and John Calvin broke from Catholicism.         Protestantism is organized into a vast system of denominations guided by bishops, regional or national governing boards, or only the local congregation.  Some Protestant groups (e.g. Anglicans or Episcopalians) retain the seven sacraments of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but many only practice two-baptism and the Lord's Supper. Others have no sacraments at all. Although there are sizeable differences between denominations (with the basic division oriented around a conservative and liberal/mainline split), most Protestant theology emphasizes justification by grace or faith alone (a doctrine that holds that salvation is a free and unmerited gift from God). Many Protestants believe that humanity cannot gain salvation by their own effort. Faith in Jesus as Messiah and the words of scripture is paramount.
       Although most Christian adherents fit within these aforementioned groups, some religious communities with roots in the Christian tradition are        nevertheless not easily classified as Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. Denominations such as the Church of Christ, Scientist, the Community of Christ, Mormonism, Unitarianism, the Unity School of Practical Christianity, and others situate themselves outside this taxonomy and are therefore classified as "Other Christian" in this collection of images. In some instances, these groups incorporate non-Christian teachings or scriptures that supplement the Bible into their systems of belief and thus make Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant nomenclature problematic (Due tothis complexity, see these individual subfolders  for more information).
       Jesus' ministry was one that involved many miraculous healings. (For an essay that offers more extensive coverage of health and healing in the New Testament, click here). Since his time on earth, Christianity has always maintained a focus upon issues of health and wellness. Within Orthodoxy and Catholicism, historical emphasis has been placed upon spiritual health as believers have held that there would be no worldly suffering if not for original sin and one's general sinfulness. However, physical and mental health have also always been primary objectives of these churches, with appeal to Jesus and the saints often used to achieve such ends. To facilitate bodily well-being, prominent Christians such as Vincent de Paul began establishing institutions to care for the sick in the 17th century. Such concerns have made contemporary Catholicism a leader in the arena of hospital care. Since the Middle Ages, Christians have also embraced issues  of social health by creating organizations to assist the impoverished and persecuted. These initiatives were furthered as missionaries traveled to North and South America, Africa, and Asia beginning in the 16th century to spread their faith. In the late 19th century, social justice became a primary concern of the Roman  Catholic Church, and in the modern day, there are thousands of Catholic-operated agencies that provide such assistance. (For an essay that offers more extensive coverage of Roman Catholic views of personal and social health, click here).
        It is difficult to generalize about Protestantism considering its hundreds of denominations, but a few underlying stances toward health can be gleaned. For example, the individualistic nature of the Reformation has led all mainline denominations to embrace notions of personal responsibility for physical and mental well-being. Additionally, the importance of pursuing God's grace within a believer community has led such Protestants to nurture healthy church structures in an attempt  to bring about spiritual wellness. Finally, social health concerns pervade all periods of mainline Protestant history. Originally spawned from a proselytizing impetus, believers reworked their perspective during the American Social Gospel Movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into one that sought to not only  convert but also to alleviate the ills of poverty, substance abuse, or dangerous working conditions. Thus, contemporary mainline Protestants actively implicate themselves in a holistic view of health shared by their predecessors. (For an essay that discusses United Methodist views of personal and social health, click here. For an essay that discusses other mainline Protestant views on this topic, click here).
         In this section of the Gallery, one finds images from a wide variety of Christian groups. The Orthodoxy subfolder includes a number of images from the Heartland Orthodox Christian Museum and Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Topeka, Kansas. Within the Catholicism subfolder are a selection of     photos of churches, shrines, and other holy sites in several countries. The Protestantism subfolder includes a brief sampling of pictures from the multiplicity of Protestant denominations. Included therein are images related to Lutheranism, Pentecostalism, United Methodism, and an assortment of other denominations.      The Other Christian subfolder includes photos representing the faith communities cited above that fit thiscategory. Finally, the Non-violent Resistance subfolder hearkens upon the social health emphases of Christianity by highlighting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.