Brian C. Wilson

American Religious History
Department of Comparative Religion

2011 Moore Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 387-4361



New Publication

          Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living
          Indiana University Press

Foreword Reviews' 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist in Biography
Purveyors of spiritualized medicine have been legion in American religious history, but few have achieved the superstar status of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his Battle Creek Sanitarium. In its heyday, the "San" was said to be a combination spa and Mayo Clinic. Founded in 1866 under the auspices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and presided over by the charismatic Dr. Kellogg, it catered to many well-heeled health seekers including Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Presidents Taft and Harding. It also supported a hospital, research facilities, a medical school, a nursing school, several health food companies, and a publishing house dedicated to producing materials on health and wellness. Rather than focusing on Kellogg as the eccentric creator of corn flakes or a megalomaniacal quack, Brian C. Wilson takes his role as a physician and a theological innovator seriously and places his religion of "Biologic Living" in an on-going tradition of sacred health and wellness. With the fascinating and unlikely story of the "San" as a backdrop, Wilson traces the development of this theology of physiology from its roots in antebellum health reform and Seventh-day Adventism to its ultimate accommodation of genetics and eugenics in the Progressive Era.

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Professor Wilson earned a B.S. in Medical Microbiology from Stanford University (1982), and, after a stint in the Peace Corps (Honduras, Dominican Republic [1982-1986]), went on to earn an M.A. in Hispanic Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (1990) and an M.A./Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1991/1996).


Professor Wilson routinely teaches REL 3015: Christianity in the United States and REL 3145: New Religious Movements for undergraduates (a course now available on-line). Beginning Spring 2014, Professor Wilson will also be offering REL 5000: Religion and Alternative Medicine as part of the new on-line Graduate Certificate in Spirituality, Culture, and Health.

Courses taught by Professor Wilson at WMU:

Religion 1000: Religions of the World
Religion 2000: Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion
Religion 3130: Religion in America
Religion 3145: New Religious Movements (now available on-line during SSII)
Religion 3150: Christianity in the United States
Religion 4500: Capstone Seminar in Religious Studies
Religion 5000: Alternative American Scriptures
Religion 5000: Religion and Alternative Medicine (on-line)
Religion 6000: Classics in Theory and Method
Religion 6100: Contemporary Theory and Method
Religion 6150: Pedagogy for Graduate Students
Religion 6200: Advanced Seminar in Comparative Religion (Topics taught: American Sacred Space; Western Esotericism; Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design; New England Theology; Mormonism and Adventism; Alternative American Scriptures)
Religion 7100: Independent Studies (ad hoc graduate courses. Topics taught: Introduction to Phenomenology; Ninian Smart's World Philosophies; Max Weber's Studies in Comparative Religion; Mircea Eliade's History of Religious Ideas (3 Volumes); Comparative Philosophy of Religion)

Current Research Projects

Professor Wilson's areas of interest include religion in American Religious History; New Religious Movements; Religion in the Midwest and in the Yankee Diaspora; and Theory and Method in the Academic Study of Religion. His latest book project is the spiritual biography of John E. Fetzer supported by a grant from the Fetzer Institute.

Some Recent Publications

• "Religious Studies in the Context of Liberal Education," Religious Studies News: Spotlight on Teaching (May 2012) 

• With Stephen G. Covell, "Graduate Student Pedagogical Training as a Key Component of Stand-Alone MA Programs in Religious Studies," Religious Studies News: Spotlight on Teaching (March 2012)

• "The Dawn of a New Denomination: Seventh-day Adventism Comes to Michigan," Michigan History 96:6 (November/December, 2012), pp. 43-49.

• "The Battle for Battle Creek: Sectarian Competition in the Yankee West," Quaker Theology 12:2 (Summer/Fall 2013): 72-991.