Internet users perusing the pages of American Christian blogs in recent months may have noticed the considerable buzz surrounding the sweeping movement of legal medical marijuana in more and more American states. Pastors and Educators traditionally pushed the argument against marijuana smoking by citing Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where he states that Christians must follow the law of the land. In whatever country marijuana is an illegal substance, it is unchristian to consume it. But in light of legalization, these pastures are forced to face the issue from new angles. Is smoking marijuana inherently un-Christian, inherently sinful? If so, how is it different to alcohol? How does it differ other medications such as aspirin or narcotic pain killers? Is it ok in a medical context only? Here is a selection of spirited responses from various Christian leaders as they attempt to come to terms with their flocks new green pastures.
My interest in the subject began with Texas’ state representative David Simpsons call to reconsider the harsh ban on marijuana by claiming that this ban is un-Christian. As he put it, “The Bible warns against excessive eating, drinking and sleeping (proverbs 23:21), but it doesn’t ban the activities or substances or conditions associated with them – alcohol, food and fatigue. Elsewhere, feasting and wine are recognized as blessings from God.” and “Civil government should value everything God made and leave people alone unless they meddle with their neighbor.”
A nameless blogger for “grace church” wrote an impressive article about how, obviously, when in a state where marijuana is not legal, a Christian should never partake because…
- Christians are not commanded to use marijuana in the Bible.
- Christians are commanded to obey their governing authorities.
- Where the governing authorities prohibit an action that the Bible does not command us to do, we are under obligation to obey them just as much as we are under obligation to obey the direct and specific commands of the Bible.
He then went on to quote an impressive lists of the awful and deadly side effects of cannabis use which, if true, would obviously be abhorred by all well-wishers alike, but which, I’m happy to report, are not backed up by science at all. This blog most accurately summed up the majority of my online searches. It’s summarizing statement was simply “Therefore, since any use of marijuana robs the individual of their ability to control themselves at that moment and since long-term marijuana use physically harms the user, we believe that a Christian must never use marijuana…. we conclude that it would be sinful for a Christian to sell or otherwise distribute marijuana to others.”
Most online pastures maintained that getting high is just a bad thing for Christians to do because, well…pot is evil. But one pastor, Ben Tartin, stands out in his willingness to look a little deeper. He claims the question should not be “what are you smoking” but rather “why are you smoking weed”? It is wrong and un-Christian to use marijuana to escape reality or to numb yourself to your life. It is not inherently un-Christian to use marijuana to ease the pain of neurological disorders. While he doesn’t say recreational marijuana use is un-Christian, while medical use is fine, he does say, “We need to listen carefully, with Bible-transformed ears to hear the plights of our fellow men and women. Dumping a 750 ml jug of wine into a lonely woman’s gut on a gloomy day is very different than the same bottle of wine sipped into the same tummy during her wedding celebration with friends and family…”
The “what” question pulls us backwards, toward the lifeless power of Johnny Law. But the “why” question spurs us forward, toward the living freedom of Jesus Love. You have heard it said, “Thou shalt not be ‘blazin’ the ganja.” But I say to you that everyone who seeks pleasure outside of the gospel loses his life.” He says that we should stop asking the question “Am I allowed to” because that is a legal question and Jesus doesn’t care. The question should be “Is this good for me and for my neighbour?” The answer to that will lead you to be a good Christian. A young Christian pot-smoker should be asking him/herself “How will my smoking pot profit my neighbour both spiritually and physically”. This leaves it open, maybe not intentionally, to the individuals personal stance on medical marijuana. It is hard to argue with a medicine that works, although certainly different sects have varying approaches towards modern medicine. He did, however, go one to write about how we should love others the way that Jesus loved others, and how Jesus did not care about making himself more comfortable, only about complete self sacrifice of his life and happiness for the sake of humanity. I must admit, I am not a Christian, and I don’t know much about Christian theology, but I gather here that he might be implying that healing oneself with medicine is not necessarily the ultimate good.
In Christianity Today, Pastor Ben Tartin summed up his sentiments in these closing statements “And finally, I will lead them to the Bible in all I say and do. Oversimplification looms large from any angle, and subjective anecdotes will flood most people’s minds like a tsunami. Hear me now: You cannot debate this issue with physical science, social science, or strained comparisons to alcohol and other substances. We must trust the transforming power of God’s Word to ground the Christian ethic. Expose the Scriptures to your people; it will train them to love others and the Lord their God in all that they think, in all that they do, and, yes, in all that they smoke.” I think that’s pretty awesome.