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Letter from America

High on God

As I write, this day Washington legalised marijuana use.

Predictably there will be a whole host of commentary about it, both from the secular media, and also from Christian pundits. What does the Bible have to say?

I suppose we must be honest and say that, taking a strict literalistic approach, the Bible says nothing at all about smoking pot. That said, there are certain obvious principles that clearly apply which cannot (or at least should not) be gainsaid. After all, the Bible also says nothing whatsoever about getting drunk on Martinis or vodka, but there are certain texts (Ephesians 5.18 springs to mind) that most pastors would not find too difficult to apply.

The difficulty here is whether marijuana use always creates a comparative situation of being intoxicated or whether (as no doubt someone somewhere will argue) it is instead comparative to a nice chardonnay on a summer’s evening. There are also questions about the right approach to legalising versus criminalising what society typically views as aberrant behaviour, and whether a ‘war on drugs’ in general is the right approach to limiting drug use. Is being against marijuana legalisation like being against the end of Prohibition?

Damaging the brain

I do not think so for various reasons, but I must begin by being honest and saying that, whereas I am absolutely crystal clear that you can have a half pint of beer or glass of white wine and not be in violation of Ephesians 5.18, I really have no personal experience when it comes to puffing on the peace pipe. I don’t intend to either (whatever the law says!). The reason why I think it is not the same as being against the ending of Prohibition is because: a) there seems to me to be some evidence that suggests that marijuana use negatively impacts brain development, mental vitality, and other health matters, and therefore is potentially in violation of treating our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19); and b) there seems to me to be some evidence to suggest that smoking marijuana is always an experience that puts you in violation of Ephesians 5.18 intoxication.

That does not mean that alcohol abuse is worse, or that marijuana use is the unforgivable sin, or that throwing everyone who so much as looks at a joint in jail is good police practice for legal control of drug abuse. Nor does it mean that medical use of marijuana or derivatives — for genuine medical matters, note — is in a different category. I do not presume to have the medical expertise to determine whether there is medical benefit to that kind of treatment, but, if there is, then there seems to me to be absolutely no reason why marijuana could not be used in a hospital environment, in the same way that opiates are often used to control pain, but that does not mean that I am for shooting up with heroin as a leisure activity. Of course, some people campaign for medical use of pot because they hope to have ‘medical use marijuana’ sold in cafes, which is taking the law and making it look like an ass.

Juvenilisation of society

More importantly, than any of the above, is the vacuum that such discussion in our societies seems to show exists between life as we experience it in the daily grind and the experiences we want to live. ‘Work in your world. Play in ours’ is a statement which in a different kind of escapism shows that many of us feel we have much from which we need to escape. Hence the juvenilisation of our society — it is children who fixate on play, adults who understand that they have responsibilities — and hence we have such puerile (laughable) matters as state legalisation of a drug that everyone knows is liable to make you a pot head. God help us.

Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois.