Three girls and I went to the Four Candles pub for dinner. I saved our table while my friends went to the bar to order our food (fish and chips for me). I observed a group of men in their late twenties/early thirties, one of whom was obviously having his stag night (bachelor party). He was dressed in an inappropriate "French maid" costume, complete with a bow on his head, and had a beer mug taped to one hand and a large rubber male organ taped to the other. A few minutes later, I saw that he and one of his friends were talking to one of my friends who was still standing at the bar! I walked down to see if she needed rescuing.
As I approached them, I heard them offer her alcohol. She said that she didn't drink. "Now's a great time to start!" they offered. "It's actually against the laws of our school," she said. I greeted them and added, "It's actually against our religion, too." "And what religion is that?" "Christian Science." "Those two words don't go together."
Their genuine interest led to about twenty minutes of friendly and earnest conversation about Christian Science. We talked about the Bible, the Genesis 1 and 2 creation stories, Jesus, the pool of Bathesda, alcohol's influence on our ability to think and pray, angel messages, synonyms for God, the kindheartedness of those in the medical field, the "what would you do if's" of Christian Science, the assertion that God created medicine for man's betterment, the problem of evil, the devil, the benevolence and omnipotence of God, the merits of allowing children to grow into their faith, etc. For parts of the conversation, each of us talked with one of the men, while during other portions all four of us spoke together.
It turns out that these men were graduates of the University of Oxford; both are scientists, and one does research to develop new medicines! They enjoyed challenging us and learning about our perspectives to the extent that they gently avoided returning to their drinking party, members of which came up occasionally to persuade then to return. When we finally said goodbye, the friend of the creatively dressed "stag" said to me, "I hope someday if you get really sick and your religion doesn't heal you, that you'll turn to medicine." I said, "Thank you. Likewise; I hope if the medical field ever says, 'Sorry, there's nothing more we can do', you'll consider Christian Science." He said, "I definitely will." And we parted ways.
Just in case this seemed as out-of-the-blue to you as it did to me, here's a tidbit more from our evening:
As we were walking out of the pub, a pair of men (maybe mid-thirties?) stopped us, asking us if it was our first day in Oxford. We had a friendly chat and asked them if there were any local places we should check out when we returned to Oxford. They listed a number of pubs and dance clubs. "Any places for activities other than drinking?" I asked. "Who said anything about drinking?" one guy joked. "Why not drinking?" "Well, we don't drink because of our religion," I explained. "What religion is that?" "Christian Science." There was a brief pause, in which we prepared ourselves for the usual response.
"Mary Baker Eddy?" one man asked. "Yes!" we said, delighted. "Yeah, we walked past that Christian Science Reading Room back there", he said, gesturing down the road. The other man said something about Scientology and the first man said something to the effect of, "No, Christian Science is totally different than Scientology. Scientology is that wacky religion for Hollywood Movie Stars." It was quite a fun moment, and although we didn't talk much longer, it was fun to hear that someone had an idea of where we were coming from.
Not exactly what we expected to experience in an English pub!