He Does Dentistry on the Side

Had my yearly visit with Hansrolf today. I mostly go there for the laughs, but Hansrolf also performs dentistry on the side. I’ve been visiting Hansrolf for about 30 years, I guess. He is just two months older than me. We married at the same ages, and our sons were born the same years – our oldest sons were sometime-rivals at the local recreational basketball tournaments and it was always fun to run into him at those games. He and I used to share our latest mountain climbing and hiking adventures, and sometimes he’d ask me to tell him about the latest “trashy” (I used this word first, but he seemed to have great fun using it once I had) romance I was writing (ahem… I went through a short period in my life – a VERY short period – like, a year or two… okay, maybe three at the most – when I wrote historical romances involving British soldiers on the Iberian Peninsula and feisty English governesses… I know… stop laughing). But nowadays we mostly just crack up about the adventures of middle age together.

Today I asked his newest assistant if Hansrolf keeps her laughing at work, and just the question made her start cracking-up. Then she shared his latest shenanigans with me –  apparently Hansrolf has taken to jumping out from closets and hallways and scaring the living daylights out of his technicians and assistants.

I glanced over at the room across from mine and saw that Hansrolf had made it to my husband. I couldn’t hear what Hansrolf was saying to him  – but Scott was laughing so hard it looked like tears had started to leak out of his eyes. Hansrolf was working his magic there.

When he came into my room I told Hansrolf I’d been talking with his new dental hygienist and she’d mentioned that he had made it a part of the daily routine to jump out at his assistants from closets and hallways. He nodded his head and said in a matter-of-fact way that he does this to help maintain good health at the office – it keeps his assistants’ hearts pumping, and keeps him agile. This, of course, all made perfect sense to me.

As Hansrolf’s crackerjack team of dental professionals took turns flossing and polishing and x-raying my teeth, there was music being funneled into the room through speakers. But as I listened to the music, it occurred to me that this wasn’t your typical dental office music. This was not Winchester Cathedral I was listening to here. Fleetwood Mac came on singing “Wouldn’t you love to love her?” This was followed by Led Zeppelin. And then it occurred to me that Hansrolf probably had something to do with this.

“Did you pick this music?” I asked around a mouthful of dental instruments. He said it was from a station out of Bellingham. I thought about this for awhile, and then asked,”You know how music is usually geared for the older clients…? So… dang… WE are the older clients now, aren’t we?”

He nodded his head in affirmation. “The other day I was in Safeway and Highway to Hell came on,” he told me. “Safeway!! Highway to Hell!!” he repeated, the shock of the experience still obviously with him. “On the one hand it was good to not have to listen to Dean Martin crooning something, but on the other hand… it says something about how old you are when your music is now considered mainstream and fit for Safeway.”

At the end of our visit, Hansrolf pronounced my teeth “perfect” and sent me off to check out with his receptionist and get my little bag of free stuff – floss, toothpaste, toothbrush. (Hansrolf’s office once donated 100 free toothbrushes to a charity I was involved in through my school.)

And now as I sit here typing this it occurs to me that – seeing as how Hansrolf is my age and everything – and seeing as how we’re both rapidly approaching retirement age – there will probably come a time when I will have to look around for another dentist. It would be nice if I could find another dentist with a sense of humor – but I’m not banking on find another dentist who can keep me laughing in the same way Hansrolf does. Hansrolf is irreplaceable.





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.

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

Conversation about Christian Science on a Discussion Board

What prayer feels like, for me, is… it’s like waking up to a beautiful sunrise in the morning or listening to an inspiring piece of music, or looking at the stars on a clear night – it’s a feeling of uplift – of thoughts soaring, of fear dissipating, of a consciousness full of joy and good will. Often times my prayers come with humor – laughing always seems to help get rid of fear for me – and for me, fear is always a part of whatever problem I’m facing. And Love is always a part of the healing. I’ve sometimes known I was healed before I saw the healing manifested humanly – I could feel the change in my thoughts. 
– Karen Molenaar Terrell 

Every now and then something really amazing happens – people with different perspectives on life will get beyond biases, prejudices, and stereotypes and have a real conversation with each other! I love when that happens…

Here are excerpts from a recent conversation about Christian Science on an Amazon Discussion Forum:

Mustaaaaard says:
Yeah. Christian Science. The people who let their children die because they don’t believe in Tylenol. Eff off.

Karen says:
I was raised by a CS mom (now 87) and a non-religious dad (will be 97 in a month), and I could not have asked for better parents. My parents maybe didn’t share the same religious beliefs, but they shared the same values and taught their children to take care of the environment, to appreciate the beauty of nature, to look for the good in people, to play fair, to not be quick to judge others, to not buy into every piece of hearsay, rumor, and gossip that comes our way, but to do our own research, and question our own beliefs and biases, and recognize the biases of others, too. I’m really grateful they are still in my life.

The Weasel asks:

Karen, can the core beliefs of CS be boiled down to a few bullet points? Can you try to list them as far as you understand them to be please?

Karen says:
Hi Weasel,
It’s probably important to note that I am not an official spokesperson for the CS church or anything – and I do not speak for any other CSists – just for myself. CSists come in all shapes and sizes and colors and political parties and most professions (I even knew a CSist who was a dentist 🙂 ). There’s no one in our church leadership telling us how to vote or who to vote for or where to stand on social-political issues – that is left up to individual conscience. Some CSists are religious. Some are not. I am not. In my mind I make a distinction between the religion of Christian Science, and Christian Science as a way of living, and a way of looking at the world. 

It might actually be easier to start with what CSists don’t believe:
– CSists don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god
– CSists don’t believe the world was literally created in a week
– CSists don’t believe in literal places of hell and heaven
– CSists don’t believe in pleading, cajoling, and begging a capricious supernatural god who might choose to heal, or might choose to not heal his children
– CSists don’t believe in Original Sin, or that God’s children are sinners.

What CSists believe:
– Mary Baker Eddy, the discover of CS, offers these synonyms for God: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love.
– CSists believe that Jesus’ mission here was to show us how to heal. In the CS textbook, Eddy writes: “Atonement is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him  endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life’s work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals,- to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility.”

What *I* have experienced: – I have found that when I’m able to draw my thoughts close to Love – to fill my thoughts up with joy, hope, and love (and eliminate fear, hate, and anger) – I experience healing in my life. I don’t have to plead with Love to heal me – it’s the nature of Love to heal. I don’t consider these healings “miracles” – I consider them natural. I apologize. I realize this was kind of long. I couldn’t figure out how to explain an entire way of life in a pithy post. Hope this helps you understand how at least ONE Christian Scientist looks at the world. And thanks for asking! 🙂

Lifelong Atheist says:
There is no evidence whatsoever that prayer works at all (and no, “I prayed and God healed my little girl” is not evidence). There is plenty of evidence that medical care works, preventable errors notwithstanding. I can personally testify to that. Christian Science parents who deliberately withhold medical care from their children in favor of prayer are potential murderers. If their child then dies, they’re actual murderers. That’s the bottom line for me.

Karen says:
I suppose there may be CSists who view medical science as The Enemy. I am not one of them. My brother-in-law is an anesthesiologist, my sister-in-law is an emergency room nurse, a niece is a medical doctor, a nephew just graduated from med school – and these are all people I love and respect very much – they are not my enemies – they work very hard to do what they can to help their patients. But they are also all people of integrity and honesty – and I don’t doubt that they’d be the first to tell you that medical science is not perfect – theories about cause and cure are constantly in flux; medications that help one person might kill another; what seems like “good medical practice” today might prove to be the source of woe tomorrow. I’m sure we’ve all had friends and family members for whom the medical treatment that was supposed to cure them actually ended up killing them – I know I have. And I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen those commercials on television that tell us about the side effects of drugs that might include liver problems, depression, vulnerability to infections, diarrhea, nausea, death, etc. – I’m always wondering who is running out to get those medications, you know? I think a healthy skepticism in regards to medical science – as well as Christian Science, faith healing, religious beliefs, mass media, and political propoganda – is a good thing. Blind and unquestioning trust in any form of treatment does not seem very healthy to me.

Have you ever read Norman Cousins’s Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived by the Patient? I would highly recommend it.  Here’s my review for it:

In the beginning of the book, Cousins tells us about the illness from which he was told by medical specialists he wouldn’t be able to recover. He briefly describes how he declined to accept this medical verdict for himself, and with the support of his personal physician, set about putting into action a plan of treatment for himself which included plying himself with high doses of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and humor (Candid Camera episodes, and Marx Brothers movies).Cousins was able to recover from his illness and later wrote a story about his treatment and recovery for the New England Journal of Medicine.

The remainder of the book shares communication from doctors and medical research that supports Cousins’s belief that medical care is both a science and an art – and that positive human emotions play a big part in recovery from an illness. Cousins talks about the importance of a healthy doctor-patient partnership when treating disease, the part creativity and a “robust will to live” plays in longevity, and the power found in placebos. Cousins writes: “It is doubtful whether the placebo – or any drug, for that matter – would get very far without a patient’s robust will to live… The placebo is only a tangible object made essential in an age that feels uncomfortable with intangibles… The placebo, then, is an emissary between the will to live and the body. But the emissary is expendable.”

Cousins talks about the need so many seem to have to see their doctor DOing something, and giving them something tangible to help them. But Cousins suggests there may come a time when these “tangibles” are no longer needed. 

Near the end of the book, Cousins asks the question: “Is there a conflict at times between the treatment of disease and the treatment of human beings?” What a great question! If a doctor treats his patient as just a lump of flesh to be prodded, injected, weighed, measured, and tested then, I think, a really important part of the healing process is missing. The best doctors, to my way of thinking, are the ones who are able to listen to their patients, reassure them, provide confidence in their healing, and value them as partners in the process. In my life I have encountered several practitioners with these fine qualities. After reading Cousins’s book, and the letters he included from doctors around the country, I am encouraged to believe that there is a growing number of medical physicians ready and willing to treat human beings, rather than just disease.  

Art asks:
“It might actually be easier to start with what CSists don’t believe: – CSists don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god – CSists don’t believe in pleading, cajoling, and begging a capricious supernatural god who might choose to heal, or might choose to not heal his children” OK, final question for now Karen: I always thought that Christian Scientists WERE praying and pleading with a capricious supernatural god to heal illnesses rather than take a family member to a doctor. If not, what is the exact nature of the prayer involved?

Karen replies:
Art, you ask: “I always thought that Christian Scientists WERE praying and pleading with a capricious supernatural god to heal illnesses rather than take a family member to a doctor. If not, what is the exact nature of the prayer involved?”

Thank you for asking this question. Christian Scientists have been lumped in with “faith healers” a couple times on this thread. Faith healers would not appreciate this – I’m pretty sure they consider CS a cult and its members “un-Christian” – and CSists don’t consider themselves faith healers. You wouldn’t hear a CSist ever saying “It’s God’s will” that someone died, or “God wanted that child with Him in heaven.” CSists don’t do the talking in tongues thing, or the laying on of hands thing, or the handling serpents thing. CSists may be crazy, but they are a totally different kind of crazy. 🙂

Mary Baker Eddy’s written a whole chapter on “Prayer” in the CS textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Here are some thoughts about prayer from that chapter: 

“God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love… Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it… The mere habit of pleading with the divine Mind, as one pleads with a human being, perpetuates the belief in God as humanly circumscribed,- an error which impedes spiritual growth. 

“God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection? Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept?… Are we really grateful for the good already received? …The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer… 

“‘God is Love.’ More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go… In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals.”

What prayer feels like, for me, is… it’s like waking up to a beautiful sunrise in the morning or listening to an inspiring piece of music, or looking at the stars on a clear night – it’s a feeling of uplift – of thoughts soaring, of fear dissipating, of a consciousness full of joy and good will. Often times my prayers come with humor – laughing always seems to help get rid of fear for me – and for me, fear is always a part of whatever problem I’m facing. And Love is always a part of the healing. I’ve sometimes known I was healed before I saw the healing manifested humanly – I could feel the change in my thoughts. 

Art asks:
Personal question Karen: you don’t believe as your parents do but you still self-identify as a Christian Scientist?

Karen responds:
My dad is non-religious. My mom is… she is simply wonderful. My mom wasn’t raised in CS – she found Christian Science not long before she married my dad – she was attracted to this way of life because she liked the idea of a God who is Love – a Love that heals. She never had any kind of official position in the church or anything – like me, she is not really a very religious person. She is an independent thinker and a free spirit – not into group-think. 

I identify as a Christian Scientist because I really like the ideas and thoughts found in the CS textbook – I believe in God as Love, and I’ve experienced healing through my understanding of Love.

Art responds:
“I identify as a Christian Scientist because I really like the ideas and thoughts found in the CS textbook – I believe in God as Love, and I’ve experienced healing through my understanding of Love.”
Thanks for the insight Karen. Anyways, like many here I’ve always had a negative opinion of Christian Scientists so I appreciate an intelligent perspective from somebody like yourself.

Karen replies:
You write: “Anyways, like many here I’ve always had a negative opinion of Christian Scientists so I appreciate an intelligent perspective from somebody like yourself.” Thank you.

And thank you for asking questions with a genuine interest in learning what I had to say. That felt really good. 🙂

Buck “Buck” Buckaw says:
Michael Nesmith is a devout CS (as I’ve mentioned to you on a previous occasion) but you wouldn’t know it by listening to his music. It didn’t come to my notice until I read a biography about him.

Karen responds:
Buck “Buck” Buckaw – 
I do remember our talking about Michael Nesmith – and I remember enjoying that conversation very much. 🙂

Another one of my favorite people – an atheist, not a Christian Scientist – had this to say about Michael Nesmith: “So then, a few years ago, I was introduced to someone who became a great friend of mine, Michael Nesmith, who has done a number of different things in his career: In addition to being a film producer, he was originally one of the Monkees. Which is kind of odd when you get to know him, because he’s such a serious, thoughtful, quiet chap, but with quiet reserves of impish glee… I just hope that there will be other projects in the future that he and I will work on together, because I like him enormously and we got on very well together.” – Douglas Adams (Adams died not long after that and I don’t think he was able to work with Nesmith again – but it really meant something to me that Adams saw those qualities in Nesmith, a CSist.)

And no, you will not hear a CSist knocking at your door. 🙂 Frankly, it took me a long time before I felt comfortable “admitting” I was a CSist or talking about my way of life in an open and honest way. I know there is a lot of… not sure what the word is… misinformation? bias? prejudice?… about CS, and I’m not always eager to enter discussions about CS… sometimes – if I sense that nobody is really interested in having their minds relieved of their prejudices – I choose not to enter those discussions at all. But it felt to me like there were people on this thread who were genuine and sincere in their questions about CS. It is good to hear your voice again, my friend.  Karen

Buck “Buck” Buckaw says:
Thank you so much for your kind words, I always enjoy our exchanges immensely and recall them with fondness.
Regardless of what belief system you might adhere to, you are a shining light. Keep on shining brightly.

Karen says:
Oh, Buck “Buck” Buckaw – thank you. You don’t know what your kind words mean to me tonight. Thank you. I am so glad to know you are in the world.

Buck “Buck” Buckaw says:
OK, that’s enough of the mutual admiration society.
We risk turning the whole thing into some sort of giant hug fest and that just won’t do, particularly for the more jaundiced participants of this thrill ride. Now, what were we talking about? Oh yeah…..Christian Scientists hey? What a kooky bunch.

Karen says:
I know, right? Tell me about it. 🙂

Posts taken from this thread: http://www.amazon.com/forum/religion/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg8?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1M9TK6UGAX6EO&cdPage=8&cdThread=Tx3ND88NVC53B3

Echo Chambers and the Vaccination Debate

I first became familiar with the term “echo chamber” when I was visiting the sciencebasedmedicine.org site a year ago. An “echo chamber”, I learned, is composed of people who insulate and isolate themselves from world perspectives that differ from their own, and surround themselves with people who echo their own beliefs and opinions. I discovered on the sciencebasedmedicine.org site that people who accuse others of belonging to an “echo chamber” are often living in their own echo chamber.

And, really, who can blame anyone for wanting to surround themselves with people who think and believe as they do, and share their opinions about stuff? An echo chamber is a comfortable place to live. When we live in an echo chamber we get a lot of kudos and pats on the back and thumbs up for espousing our beliefs – our little egos are given free rein to grow and prosper, to puff up and expand. We can feel really good about ourselves because everyone else agrees with us and thinks we are cool.

It takes courage to leave our echo chambers – to peek out of our little caves and venture forth into the Big World of Ideas. It takes courage to allow others to question our most cherished beliefs, and to allow ourselves to question them, as well.

Right now I’m seeing two major echo chambers when it comes to the vaccination debate. In one chamber there are the anti-vaccination folk who can rattle off statistics and personal anecdotes about the dire effects of vaccinations on one’s health, and the ineffectiveness of some vaccines – such as the flu vaccine – in stopping disease. In the other echo chamber there are folk who can rattle off statistics and personal anecdotes about how the use of vaccines has dramatically stopped the spread of diseases such as polio and small pox, and has helped to eradicate some diseases entirely.

From my perspective – sitting by myself outside the chambers and listening to all the echoes coming out of them – it’s all kind of fascinating.  From my perspective, the people involved in these debates – whether they’re pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination – are actually a lot more closely connected with each other in the way they view the world than they may think they are.  Both groups see a material world that has danger in it – that can be capricious and random and scary. The people in both groups are motivated by a fear of getting sick – the anti-vaccination people are afraid the vaccines will make them and their loved ones unhealthy, and the pro-vaccination people are afraid that NOT taking the vaccines will make them and their loved ones unhealthy.

As I see it, there are no bad guys here – there are just people who want to help keep their loved ones safe, and are doing what they think is the right thing to do to help make that happen.

Because I’ve always identified myself as a Christian Scientist – and a lot of people think of Christian Scientists as “the ones who don’t go to doctors” – I’ve often been asked if I had my children vaccinated. The answer is yes. This is not something of which I’m either ashamed or proud. It’s not something I’d brag about in the pro-vaccination echo chamber, and not something I’d feel guilty to admit in the anti-vaccination echo chamber.  (I’ve also had vaccinations myself – right after my oldest son was born I was vaccinated for rubella; I went in for a tetanus shot once when I fell kiester-first through a hole in the porch and snagged my legs on rusty nails as I was going down – I still crack up every time I think about that adventure – I am such a doof; and several years ago I voluntarily went to the doctor and got the pertussis vaccination to help alleviate the fears of the people around me when I began working at a high school during a time when pertussis was running rampant through my state. [As a youngster I had mumps, measles, and chicken pox – I was quickly healed of all of them – and a titer test later confirmed I carried the antibodies.])

When I took my sons in to be vaccinated I had to sign consent forms that listed a lot of possible side effects to the vaccinations, and I remember feeling frightened by what I read there. I did not sign those forms glibly – my sons are the most precious people in the world to me. As a Christian Scientist I used my understanding of God – of Love – to know that those vaccinations had no power to hurt my sons – that they were held safe in the arms of Love. My sons, I reasoned, are the perfect, whole, untouched, unaltered, unmarred, complete reflections of Life and Love – never for a moment separated from all that is good. As ideas of God, their real spiritual being is always safe, and never for a moment separated from the consciousness of Truth.

I’d taken the sons in to be vaccinated because my husband had requested that I get them vaccinated, and because it seemed the responsible thing for me to do for the other people in my community who don’t share with me the same perspective about the reality of Spirit, and the unreality of matter. It felt, to me, that NOT taking my sons in for vaccinations would have been, in a way, like forcing my beliefs on other people.

But I have to admit to harboring some respect for the people who consciously withstand the peer pressure and refuse to follow the herd into whatever echo chamber is loudest. It ain’t easy to stand alone for what you think is right.

And this reminds me of a dream I had years ago.  In this dream I was maybe 12 or 13 years old – and there was this ominous, oppressive feeling to the atmosphere. The sky was dark and roiling with purple storm clouds. A bus filled with my classmates and their families pulled up. All the popular kids were either on that bus, or getting onto it. In the dream I realized that everyone was getting on the bus to go get exterminated – that people were voluntarily going off to get shot or something to save mankind.  And everyone was laughing and congratulating each other for their self-sacrifice, and patting each other on the back. And I really wanted to get on that bus, too, and be with the other popular people. But my Dad (who is not a CS, by the way) came running out of the house and down to the bus stop to stop me from getting on the bus. “No,” he yelled to me, “You can’t get on that bus! We’re going skiing in Sun Valley next week!”

So I didn’t get on the bus. I watched it pull away, loaded with my friends. It felt bad. At first. But hey, I got over it. I mean, I had Sun Valley to look forward to, right?

The chemist, the botanist, the druggist, the doctor, and the nurse equip the medicine with their faith, and the beliefs which are in the majority rule. When the general belief endorses the inanimate drug as doing this or that, individual dissent or faith, unless it rests on Science, is but a belief held by a minority, and such a belief is governed by the majority. – Mary Baker Eddy

An interesting youtube clip about the safety of vaccinations since 1989.

An Incident in a Discussion Forum (okay, this is me being cranky)

Asking people about their opinions is a very good way of making friends. Telling them about your own opinions can also work, but not always quite as well. – Douglas Adams

 She arrived in the middle of a discussion upon international politics. “Look at India,” one of the ladies was saying. “Yes, but look at Japan,” urged the other with intense vehemence. Barbara was introduced to the ladies, of course, but she never heard their names. They were already labeled, much more legibly in her retentive memory, as Mrs. Japan and Mrs. India. She was rather crushed at the farsightedness of the two ladies— what did they see when they looked at Japan and India like that? Did their bird’s-eye view take in the whole of these Asiatic countries at a glance? Were India and Japan open before their eyes like a child’s picture book? – D.E. Stevenson

The following was originally a chapter in The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New, but I took it out because the voice in this chapter doesn’t fit in with the rest of the book. In this chapter you see me being cranky and a little ticked off. It ain’t pretty…

Have you ever looked back on a period in your life and smiled with amusement and a certain amount of affection for the person you were? That’s how I feel when I look back on the person I was five years ago – during the period when I was spending a lot of my free time on a religion discussion board. I was cute, wasn’t I? – idealistic, naïve, really believing that everyone was on the discussion board for the same reason I was – to learn about other people’s beliefs, share their own, and exchange ideas and thoughts about religion, science, metaphysics, philosophy, literature, music, art.

I learned an awful lot from that discussion board – some of it was awesome, and some of it not so much. I learned there were a lot of people in the world with kind hearts and open minds and good humor. I also learned that there are an awful lot of people who want everyone else to think and believe exactly what they think and believe – and I learned that I wasn’t one of them.

I saw bigotry.

If there’s one thing that toasts my cookies it is bigotry.

At first I found myself mostly coming to the defense of the atheists on the discussion board, who, initially, seemed to be the major target of bigotry. They were told they were going to hell. They were told they were all lacking any kind of moral compass. They were compared to Pol Pot and Stalin. It was all ridiculous and hateful, and I could not let the bigotry slide by without responding to it.

Then for a time the bigotry seemed to be mostly directed towards the “believers”. Those who believe in God were called ignorant, uneducated, unintelligent, superstitious scaredy cats, and blamed for the murders committed during The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials. Which… yeah… I’m sitting here now, just shaking my head, as I remember the nonsense.

There were a lot of generalizations made – every atheist was lumped together into one group – as if they all believed, felt, and thought the same about everything; and every Christian was lumped together into another monolithic group. Finger-pointing and blame-laying was rampant. As a Christian Scientist, I was told by many of the Christians that I was going to hell because I didn’t believe in hell, or in a devil, or that Jesus was God. And as someone who identified as a Christian, a number of atheists seemed inclined to assume I held the same beliefs about God that they had learned when they were youngsters attending Christian Sunday Schools – and then judged me for the beliefs that they wrongly attributed to me.

It could all be a little exasperating.

For the first few years the humor, friendship, and intellectual stimulation I got from the discussion forum outweighed the exasperation. I met some really good friends there – people I still continue to call my friends – people who became familiar with my spiritual perspective about life in a way that many of my offline friends never did.

But after several years my interest in the discussion board began to wane. More and more I found myself in these weird dialogues with people who presumed to know what was in my head and heart without giving me the opportunity to tell them myself. More and more I found myself in the unsatisfying position of being treated like a student whose job it was to quietly sit and listen while others threw their great wisdom and knowledge at me. I found myself getting lectured to and preached at a lot, and I do not particularly enjoy being the target of lectures and preaching. Dialogues became one-sided monologues; the exchange of ideas turned into a one-way sermon – people telling me what I should believe, think, and feel, and then getting really agitated with me if I dared to question or voice a thought of my own.

The Grand Finale – the defining moment when I realized I no longer had any interest in serious participation on the discussion board – came for me on a thread titled “Repeal the child abuse for Christian Scientists in Washington State law”. For four pages (100 posts) I read comments, written by my friends (people whose atheism or Christianity I had defended time and again on the forum) about the lunatic Christian Scientists who are “neither Christian nor scientists” (pretty original, right?). For four pages I read comments from people attacking a “strawman” – indignantly pontificating on how wrong it is to legally allow Christian Scientists to abuse their children – when there never was a law or lobby that supported child abuse by Christian Scientists. And then I saw where one of my forum friends had written this: “I just took issue with the thought that the faith healers could be unaware that their ‘healings’ have zero positive effect… I think the fact that the alleged Christian Science lobby feels the need to protect themselves from prosecution tells me that they must know the reality of their faith… He seems to be saying that Christian Scientists aren’t True Christians. The Christian Science people seem to think they are Christians, based on my scanty reading of what they believe.”

SCANTY READING?!!! Oh, for Pete’s sake! I’d been sharing my experiences as a Christian Scientist on that forum for almost seven years – shared wonderful healings I’d had in Christian Science, shared my thoughts about “Christianity” – but my friend hadn’t, apparently, learned anything about my way of life or beliefs from what I’d written on there. It came to me, then, that the only reason some of these people had ever considered me their friend was because I had been a good audience – willing to listen to THEM – but that they hadn’t really been interested in anything I’d had to say.

I wrote a response:

Christian Scientist from Washington State here. I’m sure you are all completely right about me. I mean, you must be, right? I should be, like, locked-up for the good of society. Interned in a camp maybe. I should never have been allowed to marry – and certainly not to a nice, decent liberal man raised by his decent God-loving Methodist parents. I should never have been allowed to have children, and certainly never been allowed to raise them – it’s a miracle that they survived to adulthood and turned out to be such intelligent, healthy, whole, well-adjusted young men, considering their mom was a Christian Scientist. I should not be allowed to share in the rights of citizenship of this land – it’s far too good for the likes of me. I should certainly never have been allowed to vote – and never been allowed to participate in the democratic process. I should never have been allowed to be elected delegate to our state Democratic convention, and should never have been allowed to write letters and donate in support of environmental causes, the ACLU, gay rights, Habitat for Humanity, atheists, Amnesty International, and yes, universal health care (I don’t believe anyone should be denied the health care they feel they need just because they’re poor – health care should be considered a basic human right). I am, of course, just a cardboard cutout of a person – like every other Christian Scientist in the world.

As you know – seeing as how I’ve been on here for ALMOST SEVEN YEARS sharing my beliefs, thoughts, and feelings with you – I am a despicable, ignorant, uneducated, illiterate human being. I should probably be lined up with my fellow CSists against a wall and shot, as was once suggested on a local talk show.

Am I Christian? Nope, probably not (according to the current accepted definition of a “Christian”). Like my fellow CSists, I do not believe Jesus was god. Do not believe in a literal place of hell or heaven. Do not believe in Original Sin. Do not believe the story of Adam and Eve should be taken literally. Do not believe the world was, literally, created in seven days and seven nights. Do not believe in creationism. Do not believe dinosaurs and humans roamed the world at the same time. And, like those familiar with quantum physics, I DO believe matter is pretty much nothing . So shoot me.

My children , by the way, were vaccinated (edit: the topic of vaccinations is probably worth a whole ‘nother blog post), and were taken by me to doctors, when the need arose – which wasn’t often – they were mostly healthy. They also were raised by their parents – as I was raised by mine – to not be quick to make judgments on others, to try to approach the world without bigotry, and to question political and religious dogma, and those in authority (including the medical profession – you do all know that traditional medical practice is the third-leading cause of death in this country according to the JAMA, right? – it shouldn’t be surprising that thinking people might sometimes look for alternatives to it).

Okay. I’m pretty much done here. I’ve been yammering away on this forum for seven years. And apparently no one was listening.


Weirdly, I got nine out of ten “yes” votes for that post. 🙂 Most gratifying personally, though, was the response that came right after my post from my atheist friend, Conley. I think when I first came onto the forum Conley had had some pre-conceived notions about me as a Christian Scientist, but, like any true critical thinker, Conley had listened and observed and been willing to learn and shift his thinking. I liked and respected him. Following my post, Conley wrote: “Damned well said, Karen. And I was happy to note that you listed about half my favorite causes–which is what I’d have guessed of you. Best regards. -Conley”

I guess it’s because of people like Conley that I still sometimes pop in on the discussion forum. As for the “others” – the close-minded, arrogant, sermonizing, judgmental know-it-alls from the right and the left, the up and the down – both religious and non-religious –  who don’t really want to hear what other people have to say – I guess I just feel really bad for them. They are missing out, ain’t they?

what people think I do




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