Is Christian Science a Dying Religion?

“But the time cometh when the religious element, or Church of Christ, shall exist alone in the affections, and need no organization to express it.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 145

“When students have fulfilled all the good ends of organization, and are convinced that by leaving the material forms thereof a higher spiritual unity is won, then is the time to follow the example of the Alma Mater. Material organization is requisite in the beginning; but when it has done its work, the purely Christly method of teaching and preaching must be adopted.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 358-359

“It is not indispensable to organize materially Christ’s church. It is not absolutely necessary to ordain pastors and to dedicate churches; but if this be done, let it be in concession to the period, and not as a perpetual or indispensable ceremonial of the church. If our church is organized, it is to meet the demand, ‘Suffer it to be so now.’ The real Christian compact is love for one another. This bond is wholly spiritual and inviolate.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 91

A friend of mine recently pointed out an article in The Federalist titled, “How Christian Science Became a Dying Religion” In the article the author, Alfred Siewers, writes: “Today, demolished or converted Christian Science churches testify to its decline…The number of Christian Scientists in the United States was 270,000 in 1936 (the last reliable public count). Today, despite growth in the nation’s population, actual church membership in the U.S. could well be down to 50,000, based on a steep drop in numbers of congregations and registered healers.” And he mentions that the last Christian Scientists in Congress, Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Lamar Smith, are no longer members of the legislature.

Here’s my reaction to all of that:
– Regarding Goodlatte and Smith: I don’t care what religion (or non-religion) legislators practice just so long as they are in Congress to help bring equality, justice, and fairness to all Americans, to serve the constituents (rather than corporations), and to save our environment.

– Regarding the closure of Christian Science churches: Back in 1879, when Mary Baker Eddy was trying to share Christian Science with the world, there weren’t televisions, computers, radios, or the internet – and I’m thinking the most effective way for her to share her discovery of Christian Science at that time was through a church. Maybe an organized religion is no longer the most effective way to share the Science of the Christ (Love, Truth, Life).

I believe Christian Science is more a way of life than a religion. Christian Science isn’t something that needs to be housed in a material structure. It’s not dependent on a human organization or a physical building. Christian Science can be practiced anywhere at any time by anyone. The power and presence of Love – the power and presence that brings us healing – isn’t limited to people who are card-carrying members of the Christian Science church. It’s available to all of us – no matter our church or political affiliations, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. No one is ever separated from the power and presence of Love.  The power of Love doesn’t discriminate or judge us, or leave anyone out. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptations and bestowals.”

– Regarding the “declining” membership: Big numbers or little numbers, lots of people or just a few, popular or unpopular – I. Do. Not. Care. I don’t follow ANYthing just because it’s popular, or because celebrities and the “cool kids” like it – and I’m guessing you don’t, either, right?  I follow something because it resonates with me – it feels “right” to me – I follow an idea because it helps make me a better person, or gives me the tools to make the world a better place. I follow the teachings of Christian Science because it has brought me healing.

Is Christian Science a dying religion? I guess my response to that question would be another question: Isn’t Christian Science MORE than just a religion?

church

 

The Good You Seek

The Good You Seek

I want to take a break, I said.
Can I step out of life for a moment,
or maybe stay in bed?
Can things go on without me?
Can you just pretend I’m not here?
For life is a messy business
and I’m tired and I’m weary
I’ve made too many mistakes to count today
And I’d like to not make anymore, not any.

And the still small voice reached into my thought
– gentle, peaceable benediction –
“All the good you seek and all that you’ve sought
you can claim right now – and that’s no fiction –
for Love is yours to express, to feel, and to be
– you are wealthy beyond description.
Nothing else matters, there’s no other power
no warring opinions, no need to cower
You are loved and you’re loving
and that’s all there is to it
Love’s loving child, and there’s nothing else
but loving, simply nothing.”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, *A Poem Lives on My Windowsill*

A_Poem_Lives_On_My_W_Cover_for_Kindle

There Will Be

I’m sitting at my desk, looking out
my window at the half-moon above
I can hear birds singing out there –
singing in the new day.
The sun hasn’t risen, yet – 
but the stage is being set.

There is good waiting for us today.
There will be kindness. There will be
laughter. There will be lessons learned
and there will be forgiveness. There will be
salvation.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

Marriage Equality

I believe that every citizen – regardless of race, ethnicity, social and economic status, religion, non-religion, gender, or sexual orientation – should have the exact same rights as every other citizen – including the right for consenting adults to marry whom they love.

This month my husband and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Every year about this time I find myself thinking back to that happy day and the days leading up to it.

You know those shows you see on television where the bride spends HUGE amounts of time, thought, and bucks choosing the just right ring, dress, caterer, flowers, music, photographer, and reception venue for her “big day” – those shows where every minute detail of the wedding production is analyzed, critiqued, and judged for its merits on visual perfection? Where the ceremony is somber and refined and the highlight of the whole shebang is the dress the bride wears?

Yeah. That wasn’t us.

My engagement ring was a little garnet ring I picked out from a small jewelry shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle, and the man who sold it to us was cheerfully, flamboyantly, hilariously gay – he had us cracking up the minute we walked into his shop. My wedding dress was the first dress I tried on from the sales rack at our local Bon Marche. Cost me $120. Our minister was a hoot – we’d met with him for a required counseling session, and when he told us that anything he had to say to us would be pretty much useless at this point – because it’s really only AFTER the wedding that the bride and groom realize what they’ve gotten themselves into (we later learned that he’d just recently been divorced), we immediately recognized the man had a sense of humor, and he was, for sure, the minister we wanted officiating our nuptials.

The wedding was a joyful, light-hearted affair in a small Methodist church in Gig Harbor – I remember the minister asking us if we really wanted to hold the service in his church – it was very small – could maybe hold 100 people – and very old (it’s since been torn down and a larger church built in a different location) – but, for our purposes, that little church was perfect – I liked the cozy smallness of it and the stained glass windows – and from the church’s steps we could look out across the water and see Mount Rainier rising above the hills in the distance. The wedding itself was simple, joyful, and natural. We weren’t too concerned with “perfection” – we just wanted our guests to feel comfortable and loved. The reception was held in my parents’ backyard – with the sound of laughter, and the smell of daffodils and plum blossoms, filling the air. And we played volleyball in the pasture – the groom’s team won, but it was a close game.

The minister came to the reception, and fit right in with our hooligan families and friends. Before he left he told us that sometimes he’s really worried about the future of the newlyweds he marries – they often seem more concerned about the wedding than the actual marriage – but, after watching us yukking it up with our families and friends, he felt good about being a part of our ceremony. He knew we were going to be alright. We knew how to laugh.

When I think about that day, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to deny other people the right to a wedding, and to a life-long commitment in marriage with the partner they love. I can’t understand why any heterosexual couple would feel their own marriage is threatened by giving homosexuals the same rights that they have. I feel a real yearning for other folks who love one another, and are brave enough to make a commitment to each other, to be allowed to have what my husband and I were allowed to have.

***

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” –
from the chapter titled ‘Marriage’ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

wedding photo

Karen and Scott Terrell, 3-31-1984. Photo by Bob Harbison.

During My Break

I’m never sure when my break is going to come at work. Today it came at the beginning of the day. I decided to take a quick walk down to the market to get a little exercise and maybe buy some snack to bring back to school.

At the bottom of the hill this man came around the corner and we smiled at each other. He opened up the door to the little barber shop that I pass on my way to the store, and went inside. I remember someone once telling me that the other “Molenaar” in the valley owns that barber shop. So – I couldn’t resist, right? – I opened the door and stuck my head in and asked if there was, by any chance, a man named Molenaar in there. “Yeah,” another barber said. “He just walked through the door…”

At that moment the man I’d exchanged smiles with came out of a back room. I asked him if his name was “Molenaar” and he said it was. I told him I am a “Molenaar,” too. That surprised him – “How could that be?!” he asked. I told him there are gazillions of us in the Netherlands. He smiled and he asked me if I’m the “Molenaar” that sometimes writes letters to the paper – he said people always wonder if we’re related – if I am his sister or something. I told him that I was, indeed, that Molenaar. I told him that I’d met his daughters at sporting events when my own sons were involved in sports (his daughters are all athletes), and he nodded and seemed happy to hear that. Then he asked me if my dad was the climber – and I said yup. He said his uncle was good friends with my pop, and told me his uncle’s name – and for the first time I realized that my dad’s dear friend, N. Molenaar, was related to the local barber! Whoah. I never would have made that connection if I hadn’t wandered into that barber shop this morning.

I continued on my walk to the store. There was a group of men hanging out on the corner carrying on a lively conversation with each other – they looked like maybe they’d spent the night outside and were just waking up. I passed them and said hi and went into the store to find something to snack on. I bought a can of mixed nuts and came out of the store. I said hi, again, to the men on the corner. One of them asked me if I could buy him a mocha or maybe give him a dollar – he made a point of saying he wouldn’t spend it on alcohol or drugs – said he was going into rehab soon. I figured a mocha sounded like a better deal for him than a dollar.

So I went back into the store. There were two women standing in front of the espresso stand – a friendly-looking red-headed lady, and an equally friendly-looking blond-haired lady. We chatted for a while while they ordered and got their drinks, and then I ordered the mocha for the man standing on the corner and a small cappuccino for myself.

I came out with the coffees and went back to the corner, but the man had disappeared. “Where’s the fellow who wanted the mocha?” I asked his friends. They kind of looked around and noted that “Joey” was gone. Then one of them saw him standing in front of the store I’d just left.

“Joey!” I called to him. “What are you doing over there?!” (I was using my high school teacher voice now.) He looked over and saw me and came up to get his mocha from me. He thanked me, and thanked me again, and told me he was going to “pay it back” and buy someone else a coffee now.

As I passed his friends at the corner, they all wished me a good day. One of them met my eyes and said, “Thank you for doing that for Joey. Thank you.” And there was something so sincere and kind in the way he thanked me for buying his friend a coffee that it really touched my heart.

And then I went back to work.

A lot of really cool things can happen in twenty minutes.

She’s Still Giving

Something really magical happened tonight. As Scott and I were getting ready to leave for our son’s improv show I looked down on the floor and saw this card lying there. I have no idea where it came from. I opened it up and it was a card from Moz! Today is the second anniversary of Moz’s passing and I’ve been thinking of her all day long. Finding her card lying there was like this huge, cosmic, unexpected gift. Inside the card was a Valentine’s message and a check (dated 2013) for the son we were on our way to see. I felt like Moz was directing me to bring the card and check to him tonight. And so I did. Moz always said, “I’m a giver!” And she’s still giving.

Moz card to us