When Hatred Becomes Yesterday’s News

Any politician who plans to use marriage equality as her or his main focus will need to find another issue because – haleleujah, brothers and sisters! – marriage equality is now officially old news. I look forward to that happy day when bigotry of EVERY type is old news. We’re seeing the signs – the flags that symbolize racial bigotry are quietly being removed from their poles ( http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/surprise-move-alabama-confederate-battle-flag-comes-down ) – and people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and non-religion are coming together to speak out for equality and peace.

“What is going to happen, Dave?”
“Something wonderful.”
2001: A Space Odyssey

The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.
Mary Baker Eddy

marriage equality


We Shall Overcome, performed by Joan Baez –


Visit with the Comedic Optometrist

I had a visit with my optometrist today, and, as usual, I left feeling like I’d just participated in a stand-up comedy act. My optometrist and my dentist are two of the funniest folks I know. If I wasn’t paying for their health care services, I think I might pay them just to make me laugh.

Today’s fun started when the assistant asked me if I’d be willing to have my eyes dilated. I do not like having my eyes dilated, but if it’d help the doctor see in my eyes… “Okay,” I said. As she was putting the drops in I asked, “So why don’t they dilate the eyes of pregnant women?” The assistant said she wasn’t sure, but they didn’t put the eye drops in the eyes of pregnant women, nursing women, or people with one kidney.

That last bit sort of caught me up short. The assistant left to find out more, and came back a few moments later to say that apparently the chemicals in the eye drops could interact with the medicines that a person with kidney problems might be taking, and cause kidney failure. But otherwise the eye drops were alright.

This was reassuring.

Enter the doctor. He asks me how I’m doing, and I say something like, “Well, other than possible kidney failure, I’m doing alright, I guess.” He starts laughing and brings me back into his examination room. He puts on this helmet thing with weird tubes and gizmos sticking out of it. “You look very dapper in that,” I observe. He grins and wonders aloud if he should take it out of the clinic and strut down the street in it.

I tell him that I didn’t bring my sunglasses with me, and that – since my eyes have been dilated – I’m really looking forward to getting a pair of their special dorky sunglasses for my drive home – I always look so good in those things. He smiles and promises that a pair of dorky sunglasses will be mine.

He has grown a rather substantial beard since I last saw him – it’s about a foot long and nicely rounded at the bottom. I tell him he looks sort of like Santa Claus. He says being Santa Claus would be alright as long as random strangers didn’t try to sit on his lap or ask him for candy. I tell him about my friend who grew a beard down to his waist. “He said food would get stuck in there – he sometimes found whole sandwiches in that thing.” My optometrist notes you wouldn’t need a lunchbox with a beard like that.

All this time he’s examining my eyes, looking into them with his little flashlight dealie. He says they look pretty good in there. No signs of macular degeneration or anything. I mention that in a recent photo it looked like one of my eyes was sort of looking off to the side while my other eye was looking straight ahead, and he asks me to look at him while he shines his light on my eyes. “No,” he says, “everything looks good. Ah… yes, I see.” I ask him what he sees. He tells me that one of my eyelids is more saggy than the other, which makes it look like I have one eye that’s looking off to the side.

“Oh! Is that all?! Heck… I lost my vanity long ago. A saggy eyelid is no big deal.” He laughs and says that at our age we have more important things to worry about… like, say, breathing.

I remind him of the time when he saw a melanoma on my eyelid. I tell him that totally freaked me out. Of course, the more freaked out I get, the more I start cracking jokes. I reminded him that I went out to his receptionist and started making her laugh and then when they called the eye surgeon’s office for me, I started making THAT receptionist laugh – and then he had walked in, heard me joking about my impending death and had said, “Don’t start ordering caskets just yet” – and that had totally had me in stitches.

“That broke the fear for me, ” I tell him. “And then I went home and prayed and two weeks later when I went to the eye surgeon the melanoma was gone!” He checks his records and sees that my story rings true, and he likes that.

We talk about prayer then. I’ve been going to him for more than twenty years, but for the first time I confide to him that I am a Christian Scientist, and – to his credit – he doesn’t freak out or anything. He nods his head and waits to hear more. I tell him that when I pray I’m not, like, pleading with some guy who looks like him – with a long beard – sitting in the clouds. But that I’m just trying to bring myself close to the power of Love. And he nods and says he believes there’s a Higher Power, too, and he believes that there’s more beyond the life that we’re experiencing here.

We start talking about other religious beliefs then – and those who try to bring their religious beliefs into politics and government – not just in America, but elsewhere. The conversation about religious extremism ends with him saying, “I don’t want 70 virgins if I have to feed them and buy them bling and stuff. Can I pass on the virgins, and killing other people, and just be a kind and humane person instead?”

He walks me out to the receptionist’s desk, and tells her that I’ll need some of the special sunglasses they give out to patients. Then he turns to me, and tells me my eyes are looking really good – very nice and healthy. I tell him that’s probably the best compliment I’ll get all day. He smiles, and says, “Not with those sunglasses!”

He shakes my hand and tells me how much he always enjoys my visits. And I tell him how much I enjoy my visits with him.

And in another couple weeks I’ll be going to the dentist! I’m so looking forward to that… 🙂

It is not everyone can look as cool as me. :)

Karen in her special sunglasses.

When the Future Enters the Past

Sitting in the shade of
my parents’ dogwood trees
I go back in time thirty years –
and remember sitting
under these same trees
with a glass of lemonade
and Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave.
And now I’m there again –
in the body of the me I was –
young and with my whole future
ahead of me –
unaware of what waits
for me in the years ahead.
I look to the left
and two young men enter the scene,
laughing, and tossing a football
back and forth between them –
and I recognize my grown sons – my future
has entered my past.


I accidentally snapped this picture as I was bringing my camera around.

accidental picture of dogwood trees by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Dad’s Backpack

Tomorrow will not only be Father’s Day, it will be my dad’s 97th birthday. My dad, Dee Molenaar, has lived a most amazing 97 years. He was born at the end of World War I, was alive when women got the right to vote, lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, saw men walk on the moon, and teared-up with pride for his country the night the first African-American was elected President. He has traveled on six of the seven continents (the only continent he somehow missed was Africa),  climbed on the highest mountains in the world (and, with his climbing team, almost made the first summit of the second tallest one), painted paintings, written books, created maps, had his photos published in National Geographic, and hobnobbed with presidential candidates.

He and Mom are currently in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years. This has involved some down-sizing. Last weekend when I was at their place to help them pack up, Dad gave me the little backpack he’d bought in 1973 for his journey to Europe to climb in the Alps. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be able to bring that familiar little pack home with me. I always knew I was safe when I was climbing with the man who wore this pack. This is the pack Dad wore to the summit of Rainier when we’d climbed it together in 1977, and the same pack I’d followed up to the top of Mount Baker ten years later. This is the pack Dad wore when he’d taken hikes with my young sons and myself. There are a lot of fond memories attached to that pack.

For now, it is hanging from a hook in our family room. I know it doesn’t have any special magical powers or anything, but somehow just looking at it makes me feel safe.

Dee Molenaar's pack

Dad’s pack

“Love alone is life…”

Years ago, when I was a teenager maybe, I remember seeing a Star Trek episode that showed a man who was half-black and half-white in a struggle with another man who was half-black and half-white – they were enemies because of their color – and I remember looking at them, thinking, “But… they’re BOTH half-black and half-white… what’s the issue here?” And at the end of the episode we finally see that the reason they’re enemies is because one of them is white on the right side of his body, and the other is white on the left side of his body, and… yeah… I remember thinking how absolutely ridiculous it all was for them to hate each other just because they were colored differently on different sides. But it’s absolutely no more ridiculous than hating someone just because they’re all ONE color, and that color is different than mine.

The summer after I graduated from high school – which was about ten years after the Watts Riots –  I traveled with my dad to California. Dad had grown up in Los Angeles, and he wanted to revisit his old neighborhood and see his childhood home once again. As we drove the streets to his old home, I noticed that we were the only white faces in a several-mile radius.

Dad pulled up in front of a little house, and his face lit up – “This was my home!” he said, getting out of the car. I followed him to the front door, where an African-American woman wearing a house-dress and a really surprised look on her face, appeared. Dad explained that he’d grown up in this house and asked if he could come in and take a look around and go out into the backyard where he’d played as a child. The woman smiled graciously and opened her door for us and allowed us into her home. I followed Dad through the house and out into the backyard where there was still the avocado tree he remembered from his childhood. He looked around, said it seemed smaller than he’d remembered it, and started talking about the happy years he’d spent in this yard as a child. He went back through the house, shook the woman’s hand and thanked her for letting him re-visit his old home. Still looking kind of surprised to find these friendly white people traipsing through her house, she smiled back at dad, and told him he was welcome and it was no problem at all.

A block or so later Dad pulled into a gas station to fill the tank up, and a black attendant came out to help us (this was in the days before people filled up their own cars with gas). He had that same surprised look on his face as the woman in Dad’s old house. He smiled, and filled up our tank for us, and, as we were ready to leave, said in a friendly way, a big smile on his face, “Come back again!”

Every time I think of this trip through that neighborhood in Los Angeles I start grinning. I’m pretty sure we were the only white people in years who’d come nonchalantly driving through that section of Los Angeles. I remember the surprised hospitality of the gas station attendant and the woman living in Dad’s old house, and it fills me up with a kind of joy. I remember my dad – totally oblivious to the fact that he was in a part of Los Angeles that most white people might find threatening – happily traveling down “Memory Lane”, shaking hands with the woman in his old house, greeting the gas station attendant with an open, natural smile – and it makes me really proud to be his daughter.

I am, likewise, proud to be my mother’s daughter. When I was a little girl – maybe eight or so – Mom took my little brothers and me shopping at the local mall. As we were looking at clothes a young African-American family walked by, also shopping. A large middle-aged white man standing near us turned to Mom and said something like, “Those people should stay in their own part of town.” My mom looked up at him, puzzled – she didn’t know what he was talking about at first. He pointed to the African-American family and repeated what he’d said. When my mom finally understood what he was talking about her face turned red with indignation. She looked up at him from her height of 5’2″ and, her voice shaking with emotion, said, “That family has as much right to be here as you or me! We are all God’s children!” The white man realized then that he’d picked the wrong person to share his racism with, and sort of stepped back and disappeared from the store.

I’m really grateful to have been raised by parents for whom  the color of peoples’ skin was a  non-issue, and kindness towards everyone was considered natural and normal.

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
speaks kindly when we meet and part.
– Mary Baker Eddy

The Robin Family in the Hanging Fuschia

My husband bought me a fuschia for Mother’s Day and hung it, for me, from the front porch. And look what happened! Magic! We now have a robin family growing on our front porch – it’s like our own robin family starter kit!

Brood o’er us with They sheltering wing,
‘Neath which our spirits blend
Like brother birds, that soar and sing,
And on the same branch bend.
The arrow that doth wound the dove
Darts not from those who watch and love.

If thou the bending reed wouldst break
By thought or word unkind,
Pray that his spirit you partake,
Who loved and healed mankind:
Seek holy thoughts and heavenly strain,
That make men one in love remain…

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
speaks kindly when we meet and part.
– Mary Baker Eddy


The Secret Garden 2015

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”

However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her  garden began to grow.

And the Secret Garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.

– from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Fourteen years ago, my Secret Garden started with a lilac bush, a couple knee-high azaleas, a stubby mock orange, some wild roses, and twin flowers. And look at it today – it is a haven for birds and bunnies, and me. I walk through a portal of climbing clematis, and sit underneath a canopy of Cecile Brunner climbing roses which have been in my family for more than 50 years, and watch the birds splash around in the birdbath I set out for them, and eat from the feeders I hung from the ash tree branches. There is something very satisfying about watching the garden evolve, and watching the wild creatures visit and enjoy its peace…

Birdsong and Crepes

Eat well, sleep well, and do everything well.
– Bicknell Young (from The Collected Writings of Bicknell Young)

And I now bring you a moment from my perfect morning… 🙂

Crepes made with eggs from our little hens and raspberries from the garden…

Karen's Crepes

Karen’s Crepes

Sitting with my crepes on the back deck, listening to the morning birdsong…

Response to a Response to My Almost-Interview with NPR

My friend, Kat, a thought-provoking ex-Christian Scientist of intelligence and interesting insight, posted a comment on my last blog post that I thought was worth responding to in a whole ‘nother post. Here’s Kat’s comment:

“Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?”

Yeah, that’s the elephant in the room CS is going to have to address head-on over and over and over again. Some CS have made REALLY BAD CHOICES and people have died.

Caroline Fraser’s book God’s Perfect Child talks about this at length. Another excellent example is Rita Swan’s son Matthew,https://thedublinreview.com/‘matthew-you-cannot-be-sick’/ (you may have heard of her, she founded C.H.I.L.D. http://childrenshealthcare.org)

I agree A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?” it no longer appeals to me, but for a while it did, and on some level, I still understand the appeal.

Hi, Kat –

The producer at NPR wanted a Christian Scientist on her show who could respond to Dr. Paul Offit’s assertion that religion is killing children – an assertion presented in his book, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine. I was not the right fit to respond to that assertion – seeing as how I did take my sons to doctors now and then when they were youngsters.

But if I were interviewing Offit, there are a couple questions I’d like to ask him, if I had the chance: We know that preventable errors in medical care are the third-leading cause of death in this country (according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, among other sources) and have been for several years now. Knowing that about 400,000 people a year die from preventable medical errors (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/deaths-by-medical-mistakes-hit-records ), I’d like to ask Dr. Offit –

  • How much of your time do you spend making medical treatment safer and better, as opposed to concerning yourself with other forms of treatment?
  • Do you think parents should be forced to bring their children into a system that is the third-leading cause of death in America?
  • And do you believe that when a child dies under medical treatment it is any less tragic than when a child dies under some other form of treatment?

I’ve lost friends who were under Christian Science treatment. I’ve also lost friends who died from the medical treatment they were under-going – not from the disease, but from the medical treatment itself. Neither type of death caused me less grief than the other. Humans die. I may even appear to die someday. (I know – it’s hard to believe, right? – but I think we need to consider the possibility that I may not ascend here.) And if I die while under Christian Science treatment, I really hope my loved ones don’t blame Christian Science for this. I hope they realize that Christian Science has helped make me the person they love – and that there was some part of me – maybe a part of me they love – that was drawn to this way of life.

Regarding Rita Swan: I’m not sure why Rita Swan made the choices she made when her baby became so ill. I’m not going to try to speak for someone else. But I imagine that if I’d been in her shoes I might have felt terrible guilt after my baby’s death and would have looked for someone else, or something else, to put the blame on for this tragedy – just to relieve the burden of self-condemnation a little. I wouldn’t judge anyone in Rita Swan’s position for taking the direction she took after Matthew’s death. I don’t blame her. But I’ve never been in the position she was in – as I wrote in my post, I took my sons to doctors now and then when I felt the need to do so. I’ve never felt any pressure from my church family to avoid medical treatment. And I’m pretty sure that if I ever did, it wouldn’t faze me at all. My responsibilities as a mother to keep my sons safe out-trumped any other considerations. (And sometimes that meant saying “no thank you” to drugs that doctors offered that had potentially adverse side effects and no guarantee of helping.)

Regarding Caroline Fraser: Years ago she wrote an article for Atlantic Monthly about Christian Science. Someone handed me the magazine, and I thought they were giving it to me because of the really well-written article on the environment that was in that issue. It wasn’t until a week later, when I was looking through the magazine again, that I saw Fraser’s article. What struck me about the article was the complete lack of objectivity, and the blatant bias. She wrote about Mary Baker Eddy with authority – as if she’d actually met the woman (which, of course, she had not – Eddy died long before either Fraser or I were born). Fraser acted as though she could get inside Eddy’s head and tell us all what was going on in there. I am always wary of people who set themselves up as experts on what’s going on inside someone else’s head – who presume to know what someone else is/was thinking, feeling, and believing – this is often a symptom of bigotry.  Fraser’s article made me wary of Fraser.

There’s another book about Christian Science, though, written by Lucia Greenhouse, a woman who watched her Christian Science mother die of cancer – that I think is less sensationalistic than Fraser’s writings about Christian Science. One of my friends who was raised in Christian Science could relate to a lot of Greenhouse’s experiences with Christian Science in fathermothergod  – and I think Greenhouse’s book was really helpful in validating my friend’s experience. I don’t discount Lucia Greenhouse’s experiences with Christian Science – I believe she’s telling the truth. But my experience being raised in Christian Science is very different from either my friend’s or Greenhouse’s.  My brothers and I were brought to doctors, dentists, and optometrists – and this was no big deal. We also experienced some really beautiful healings in Christian Science. (Which you can read about in Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientisthttp://www.amazon.com/dp/1419612298/ref=rdr_ext_tmb .)

As I wrote in my last post, what draws me to Christian Science is the transformation in my nature that I feel when I experience healing – and I HAVE experienced healing in Christian Science. Christian Science healing doesn’t just make me better physically – but it brings me closer to Love – it lifts my thoughts, inspires me, gives me courage – fills me with joy and gratitude and good will to my fellow man and woman. These are not things I’ve experienced in medical science treatment.

And now I give you a picture from my morning bike ride – just because I wanna… 🙂

Samish River (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

My Almost-Interview with NPR

A staffer at NPR recently asked me if I’d be interested in doing a segment on Christian Science for NPR’s Interfaith Voices. It sounded like a great opportunity and I agreed to do a pre-interview. I had a nice chat with the senior producer of Interfaith Voices. I talked about what prayer means for me as a Christian Scientist (not pleading to some anthropomorphic god to fix everything for me – but drawing my thoughts close to Love), and she shared what she’d heard about research that shows human thoughts and feelings play a huge part in healing. But then she asked me, “Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?” and I realized that that’s what the whole segment was going to be about – Christian Science versus medical science. I told her that I’d sometimes taken my sons to doctors when I felt the need, and that maybe I wasn’t the right fit for this show. She graciously agreed that I probably wasn’t the right person for this segment, and let me off the hook.

I was hugely relieved to be let off the hook, but I guess I was also a little disappointed about the focus of the proposed segment. I wish that one day someone would ask me to talk about Christian Science just for itself – not as something in opposition to something else – but as a way of looking at life and a way of living. Sometimes it seems that the only thing people THINK they know about Christian Scientists is that they’re the ones “who don’t go to doctors.” As I’ve mentioned, there have been times when I felt the need to take my sons to doctors when they were youngsters. I was not conflicted about this or anything. I wasn’t worried about being ex-communicated or losing my Christian Science friends or making God angry – I don’t believe in a wrathful, vengeful god – in Christian Science “God” is another name for Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love – and Love doesn’t get angry at parents for doing what they feel they need to do, humanly, to keep their children safe and healthy. An angry god is not the kind of god I could ever worship.

Getting back to the producer’s question, here are some reasons why I might choose Christian Science treatment over medical treatment for myself –

  • Christian Science is always available – even if I’m in the middle of the wilderness on a back-packing trip, far away from civilization. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.'”
  • Christian Science treatment doesn’t involve any invasive or intrusive procedures – there are no scalpels or knives, or drugs that might have harmful side effects.
  • When I experience healing in Christian Science my whole nature is transformed – not only do I come out of the experience better physically, but I come out of the experience a better person – less fearful, stronger, kinder, more responsive to the needs of others. Christian Science healing is uplifting. It brings me into at-one-ment with the Consciousness of Love. And that is something I haven’t experienced in medical treatment.

But I think asking Christian Scientists why they would choose Christian Science over medical treatment is the wrong question to ask, really. It’s akin to asking people who go to doctors why they don’t choose Christian Science instead. It’s setting up Christian Scientists to be in a defensive position. A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?”

And here is my answer for THAT one: Christian Scientists believe that Jesus’ mission here was to teach us how to love and how to heal. I like the idea of that – that I can use my understanding of God as Love to help heal the world.  It’s a way of life that I have found practical and useful. I have been able to prove the teachings of Christian Science in my own life and have experienced some wonderful healing through my understanding of it. I am a Christian Scientist because it has enriched my life and helped make me a better person.


photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell