The Gospel Coalition

The recent legislation approving recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington creates new challenges for pastors and churches, not only in those states but across our country. For decades, the criminalization of cannabis allowed pastors to functionally dodge the question of its morality. If it was illegal, it was wrong. Now that marijuana has passed the first bar of legal legitimization, how should churches respond?

I'd suggest we start by changing the questions. In most cases, the most pressing concern is whether marijuana can be used recreationally within a life formed according to Scripture. In attempting to resolve the question, most people turn to marijuana's effects on the brain, its similarity to alcohol and tobacco, and whether it falls into the class of drugs that Christians should avoid because of their putative "harm" to the body. But by expanding the question's scope, we will both see what's actually at stake on this issue and also broaden the audience of our moral proclamation beyond those tempted to use cannabis.

What Is the Purpose of the Body?


The questions beneath the question about marijuana concern whether, when, and for what purposes we should use "drugs" at all. The moral nature of any artificial stimulation or technological intervention into the body's processes depends upon our understanding of the human body's nature and purpose, and its meaning within creation. As Luke Bretherton has pointed out, unlike other technologies (such as shoes), drugs induce changes to the person through "becoming part of the body's chemistry rather than external simulation." Pain is the natural bodily response (in many cases) to harm and can warn people about their environment and remind them of their vulnerability. It is a response built into the structure of creation for our own good. To use drugs to eliminate every and all experience of physical pain would be to inhibit one of the body's most important natural responses and would not be conducive to human flourishing.

In that sense, then, it's important to distinguish between medical uses of drugs that repair or restore the body's natural functioning and what Bretherton calls "ampliative" uses, which seek to enhance or augment the human experience. Yet this latter use does not happen in a vacuum; the social pressures to pursue particular goods dispose us to seek out some drugs while rejecting others. Drug use is more than a decision; it is a phenomenon. Cialis and other sexual performance "enhancers" emerged in a world where pursuing sexual gratification is almost never questioned. The spirit of the age made using those drugs plausible, which in turn made their development likely.

Framing the question of marijuana in the broader context of drugs and their role within our world, though, would make pastors and churches more attentive to the "respectable drugs" that we depend on without reflection or concern. Cannabis may be used to provide a certain sort of mild euphoria, for relaxation, for amusement, or to alleviate pain. Whether these sorts of goods should be induced with external stimulation, rather than by pursuing them in the context of forming a virtuous character and cultivating a restful, social life, is the pressing question. But when we examine first the question of drug use more generically, the issue comes closer to home for many of us. Should we seek the energy to get through our day from a Monster or Five-Hour Energy (or chronic coffee intake)? Or do we use these drinks to compensate for our vices or sub-biblical commitments to rest and sabbath?

Beyond Yes and No


In many congregations, in fact, such purportedly benign drug use is probably far more prevalent, including—and maybe even especially—by the church staff. It is easy to denounce cannabis use and feel all the satisfactions of righteous indignation. But in many white, suburban, upper-middle class contexts that judgment ensures the problem stays "out there" without allowing us to see how the same mentalities, attitudes, and dispositions about pain and drug use already exist "within here." Exploring this more foundational question helps ensure judgment begins within the house of God.

I don't mean to suggest that recreational marijuana use is licit and that caffeine and alcohol are not (or vice versa). Instead, I want to highlight the place of drugs within our lives more broadly. For in providing moral guidance from the pulpit and elsewhere, pastors should go beyond telling people what they can and cannot do. They must go to the heart of the life from which the question arises, in order to discern whether and how it fails to conform with the gospel.


That doesn't mean, either, that all drugs are created equal or engender equally problematic consequences. Drugs like LSD seem totally corrosive to the integrity of the body and the human person, and to engender devastating dependency.

Yet the more interesting cases come closer to us. Consider the interrelationship between caffeine and marijuana. On the one hand, many of us rely on caffeine to fuel our work obsessions. Caffeine abuses reveal an overworked, exhausted culture that refuses to rest. A cup of tea is a wonderful gift. Five cups a day may signify unhealthy dependency.

On the other hand, recreational marijuana use seems can engender something resembling sloth. Proper relaxation is a sort of satisfaction—"a job well done"—not a form of escape. Cannabis use may undercut this rest, or at least short-circuit it.


Sloth and overwork are symptoms of the same diseased understanding of how we labor. Some people will strap themselves to and die on the wheel of performance, while others escape their troubles by medicating themselves. In that sense, drugs are (ab)used to therapeutically fill a gap that is felt without being articulated.

Drug use of various kinds highlights our culture's fundamental commitments and raises questions about how we interact with those commitments as Christians. Just how far does the therapeutic mentality infiltrate our churches? The fastest-growing segment of drug use seems to be painkillers and prescription medicines. Such "white collar" abuses reveal the same sort of escapist mentality that marijuana may foster in different social contexts. 

Expanding the framework for evaluating marijuana implicates us all. But the gospel of Jesus Christ creates churches where we carry one another's burdens. We admonish one another by observing the ways we have failed in our discipleship because we idolize performance and success. Then we begin the process of repenting for our own sins and ensuring that a gospel-centered judgment about whether to use marijuana will actually sound like good news.


Comments:

Michael

March 9, 2013 at 08:05 AM

My question is this: How can we condemn something God created? This is not an artificial stimulant made by man. It's a natural herb give to us by God. There are no additives that make marijuana-marijuana. It has been opposed by the church because it was illegal by man's law. Anything can be labeled as "harmful" if not used in a responsible manner. As with alcohol; its not a sin to drink- its a sin to be a drunkard. It's every man's conviction that will tell what is right and what is wrong for him when dealing with issues such as this. God gave us the ability to know right from wrong and we must choose for ourselves. No one knows our hearts like God. Follow your convictions that God has impaled upon by the Holy Spirit. Its not for man to decide.

Karen Butler

March 9, 2013 at 08:04 PM

"Drug use of various kinds highlights our culture's fundamental commitments and raises questions about how we interact with those commitments as Christians."

Definitely! And I don't think we are at all ready to answer them -- witness the deafening silence to my legitimate query,above.

I have asked a serious question about how Christians should engage with medical marijuana, but have had no response, which is disappointing, but hardly surprising. I don't think we have an ethical framework that can take the weight of its implications -- I explained above how I believe the narrative used to describe the prescribing process for anti-anxiety medication changes everything. Matthew prefers to call marijuana use sloth. I know Christians who use marijuana and call it medication. I call the whole thing hypocrisy.

And as one with lived experience with anxiety I can say that whether it is benzos or pot that enables an escape from pain rather than facing it at the foot of the cross, it all ends in futility. And the science agrees with me, as studies show that long term use of meds worsens anxiety (http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/04/10943/) These results make sense, for even psychic pain has a reason for being, as Lewis observed, rousing us from “our sins and stupidities… pain insists upon being attended to.” Drugs "that take the edge off psychic pain, but can dull a keen attention most needed, and sap from our meager rations the energy most required for active aggression against our mind’s defections from the truth...drugs can enable a truce that should never be made with lying thoughts, and allow the psychic wounds of ‘stinking thinking’ to fester into a terrible spiritual gangrene. (From http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/out-of-darkness-light/)

These are urgent questions for me, they are not academic at all. Some that I minister to are are impoverished and disenfranchised, and deeply distrustful of the psychiatric establishment -- for plenty good reasons. They use marijuana for reasons that in another setting would be considered legitimate. I would appreciate a thoughtful response from someone who has wrestled deeply with these issues.

Mike

March 9, 2013 at 03:44 PM

LSD is a "mind altering" drug. True, maybe your kindness won’t fall out, but your mind might.

Mike

March 9, 2013 at 03:41 PM

I would like to see the biblical understanding of the heart factored into this topic. For instance, the idea of refuge and escapism being found in getting stoned vs. Christ. Or the understanding that getting high, really comes down to a worship disorder would help round out the conversation.

[...] Drug Culture Matthew Lee Anderson —  March 7, 2013 — 1 Comment That’s the subject of my latest essay over at The Gospel Coalition.  Here’s my concluding paragraphs: Yet the more interesting cases come closer to us. [...]

Brent Johnson

March 8, 2013 at 11:06 PM

No, the government is going to try to control who grows and sells it, it won't be a free for all. I live in Wa. and one of the expressed concerns is how to do this without the gangs being involved. They may hand out contracts to people to legally grow and harvest and all that but what happens when someone shows up at the door and demands they are part of the action?
Legalizing also causes crime in other areas. People don't realise that Amsterdam is one of Europe's most violent cities and is in fact currently trying to close down these "coffee" shops due to the crime associated with them. California also has seen an influx of crime around the cannabis clubs with some reports saying robberies are up 200% around them and aggravated assault up 57%.
And if you check, alcohol still has a black market and all the trappings that go with it.

Emmanuel Durand

March 8, 2013 at 07:34 AM

I remember reading a short biography of Christmas Evans, a Welsh preacher of the late 18th-early 19th Centruty. I was amazed at his energy and extensive travelling. I was also puzzled at the amount of alcohol he drank, but he was also using opium amongst other things to help him through his various pains and ilnesses. I don't think it was only for medical use. Opium was a recreative drug at the time it seems. Yet, this preacher was greatly used by God. Any thoughts?

Karen Butler

March 7, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Moderator: the link for treatment protocols for benzos should go to this page -- please replace it with this: http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual/bzcha03.htm

Thanks!

Karen Butler

March 7, 2013 at 10:02 AM

"I respectfully submit that coffee, energy drinks, anti depressants, Cialis or whatever artificial stimulation or technological intervention are irrelevant here. Co-relating the use and effects of marijuana with these other substances is unhelpful in answering the pot "question"."

I respectfully disagree with you that it is irrelevant. Our state legalized medical marijuana in 1996 -- our city has dispensaries everywhere. I frequently encounter Christians who have mental disorders who use marijuana as therapy for their anxiety.What can I tell them that is coherent as an argument against this practice? Can you logically tell me the difference between the prescription for Xanax and one for 'medical marijuana'?

Both are a 'medical' system of Patient+Sx= Rx

Both act on the brain with the same mechanisms -- on the GABA receptors, just on different agonists.

Xanax has your approval because it is administered by a more respectable doctor who first looks at a DSM manual before he gets out his prescription pad, but the folks at BenzoBuddies would tell you that their Ativan was just as good a buzz as your hit of pot, and pot would sedate them just as well, without any devastating side effects.

And that they would far rather be withdrawing from pot than a Xanax, anyday. Just have a look at these treatment protocols for benzo withdrawal:http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual/bzcha01.htm#10

Matthew

March 7, 2013 at 09:33 AM

"You really believe those gangs and cartels will give up that influx of money?"

Yes. They will not have a choice if the government were to legalize it. Government prohibition is the only reason marijuana prices are anywhere near as high as they are and is the ultimate cause of the "violent underpinnings" of marijuana.

Gangs and cartels need the state to create black market prices they can profit from.

David Strunk

March 7, 2013 at 08:12 PM

I am a pastor in Colorado with a few pretty limited observations:

1) Marijuana was readily available before the new laws as "medical marijuana" dispensaries were everywhere, and it was a joke of task to get the license to buy it. It was readily available to anyone with any desire to have it.

2) In my limited realm of experience and observation, then, drug use hasn't really increased. It hasn't become more of a pastoral issue than it was before, which was always for adolescents and early young adults (and many churches have their own problems with young adult attendance anyhow).

3) Because of the typical clientele of marijuana use (youth), I did vote against its legality because it has dramatically unhealthy effects for youth and all partakers, really. Teaching true wisdom has always been about more than giving someone right or wrong, but we can still all believe in the first use of the law, can't we?

Matthew

March 7, 2013 at 05:02 PM

Gambling is not legal in every state except in peculiar government approved ways. This keeps out competition which allows the mob to continue to have control.

"Sure the state will find "legal" growers but these drug gangs will control them through the back door."

Why would the state need to find legal growers? Does the state smoke marijuana? If it is legal, anyone can make it. If anyone can make it legally, gangs would have to bear the cost of forcing other people to not produce it themselves. They cannot bear that costs without legions of policemen to help them out free of charge.

The mob controlled alcohol during prohibition. That is no longer true. And alcohol is only marginally legal to produce.

Links I like | Blogging Theologically

March 7, 2013 at 04:01 AM

[...] Marijuana, Coffee, and Our Medicated Age [...]

Jay

March 7, 2013 at 03:33 PM

Hi - i just wanted to chime in and ask a question - to all those commenting - have you smoked weed? If so for how long? Just once? Casually? Habitually?

Because if you haven't please note that stats mean nothing.

Like Justin said - it's a matter of the heart. What are the motives behind it.

It is also something that can only be judged on a per person basis. Not as a whole. If one person IS smoking weed as a form of escape, they seek to get high or they don't want to deal with life/problems - that could be considered wrong depending on the individual relationship with God. If someone smokes a joint as a way to relax after a long week and they just want to chill - who is to say that is wrong - no one other than God.

You see when it comes to these types of things we need to realize that the most important thing for all of us to do is focus on our OWN personal relationship with God. Don't worry about whether or not you think that Bobby is in a bad spot because he is smoking weed. Maybe he's not. At the end of it all we will all be judged according to how we spent our time down here. We will stand solo before the throne - we wont be standing beside Bobby, so get YOUR life right before Christ.

And on that note...what are well all doing for Christ today? This week? Anyone feeding the poor? What about sharing the gospel with a co worker? Your waitress who looks like she is having the worst day, did we show her the love of Christ? And our money - what are we doing with that? Our time our talent our treasure - how are we spending it? Are we serving others? Or are we serving ourselves? That is the REAL issue here folks. Going to church & having a mid week home group is NOT cutting it. Not at all. It's issues like this (Marijuana) that are truly irrelevant to what we should be doing - Going out into the world - preaching the gospel and making disciples.

PLUS - God made Marijuana. It also has 7 leaves. It is a healing plant that is better for you than a Tylenol 3, Prozac, or any other pharmaceutical drug out there. Do you know what the root of pharmaceutical is pharmakeia? And that means sorcery. Witchcraft. It also refers to the making of spell-giving potions, or alchemical potions (or elixirs) believed to have transforming powers, such as the power to extend life, boost energy, or enhance the mind. It also refers to any substance used to poison someone, to prevent or treat disease.

Just sayin.

Suzanne

March 7, 2013 at 02:48 AM

Thank you for this well detailed, informative article...indeed there's always something for whatever ailes yeh' :-)

Another former pothead here..until God gave me a new heart and a new Life. My pot use was extensive but never led to other drugs, never even tried anything else (by God's grace) but getting high on the potent stuff was a daily/nightly joy and my "norm" for many, many years.

In observing a few articles and responses over the past few months as to the pot "question" I can't help but wonder, am I missing something?

This really is not an ambiguous or complicated issue, dear Christian. You inhale a narcotic substance, it changes/altars your emotional and intellectual make-up for a period of hours, years as you continue to smoke through them. Does this not in itself easily resonate in the Christian thinker as being in opposition to Christlikeness, for instance?

I respectfully submit that coffee, energy drinks, anti depressants, Cialis or whatever artificial stimulation or technological intervention are irrelevant here. Co-relating the use and effects of marijuana with these other substances is unhelpful in answering the pot "question".

I guess I'm biased, but if for no other more 'obvious' reasons to altogether avoid pot (and there are many) know that using it opens the door to "other spirits", as was alluded to from another former user in the comments here; this also is grievous to the Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1Cor.6:19)

Do we really need to explore the wisdom much beyond that? Again, I may be missing something..?

Ultimately, we who have been given new Life in Christ and in whom the Spirit now dwells have the gift of a biblically, Spiritually informed conscience that we do well to pay heed to.

Blessings ~

john doe

March 7, 2013 at 01:57 PM

your numbers are not even close to being correct. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000336
the average time for cleansing your system is 1 months (but you can say months if it's 32 days i guess, split all the hairs you wish)studies show marijuana does not permanently affect you
http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000235
(make sure to read the newer entries, the first few are about studies from the 80's)

Brent Johnson

March 7, 2013 at 01:53 PM

Gambling is legal now in every state and yet it hasn't done away with the mob. Places where prostitution is legalized hasn't doen away with pimps. Sure the state will find "legal" growers but these drug gangs will control them through the back door.

Devin Mork

March 6, 2013 at 12:58 PM

America has outlawed many consciousness-altering substances, and addiction and abuse haven't gone away. Portugal legalized *all drugs,* and their addiction rates are falling. Fundamentally, I think this conversation needs to move from law & legalism to grace & wisdom. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

Andy

March 6, 2013 at 12:48 PM

I don't want to go off on an adventure of missing the point but I thought Russell Brand had a fairly insightful blog the other day about his heroin addiction:

http://www.russellbrand.tv/2013/03/give-it-up/

In it he writes:

"The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope."

And:

"Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution."

Although neither he nor those commenting on his blog realize the One who can truly set us free from addiction(s)it always struck me as someone who smoked pot, and really, was continually stoned from about the time I was 13 until I was in my early 20's, that if we don't like the reality we have then we'll find one we do like, which for many people, is through chemical use of some sort be it alcohol, drugs, or what have you.

The danger of smoking pot, is much like a computer and the virus software that we use to keep them working correctly. Within the way your computer receives and sends information are things called ports:

"As you know every computer or device on the Internet must have a unique number assigned to it called the IP address. This IP address is used to recognize your particular computer out of the millions of other computers connected to the Internet. When information is sent over the Internet to your computer how does your computer accept that information? It accepts that information by using TCP or UDP ports.

An easy way to understand ports is to imagine your IP address is a cable box and the ports are the different channels on that cable box. The cable company knows how to send cable to your cable box based upon a unique serial number associated with that box (IP Address), and then you receive the individual shows on different channels (Ports).

Imagine the spiritual warfare that goes on around us. Think of the 1000's of ways the enemy is enticing us to sin. When we use pot, drugs, and whatever, it's like those virus protection tools we use ( the holy spirit ) are gone and allow us to become vulnerable to all kinds of attack by skewing the way that our brains, bodies, and spirits receive and send information. Although I probably more agree with Jack I don't think it's necessarily an issue of impaired judgement but one of more ignored judgement. We know it's wrong, we intentionally reject the "unchemicalled" state of mind that we were created in for something we think is better.

Sorry to be so long winded. :)

Melody

March 6, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Justin, yeah, for many people that little sleep does create impaired judgement, but hardly on the level of drug use. And often people don't choose a lack of sleep.

Texting while you drive is illegal, so it gets the same kind of thumbs down Marijuana used to get - but I would agree that casually endangering the lives of others is wrong. I think it's probably the effect of impaired judgment though, not the cause.

Robb

March 6, 2013 at 11:01 AM

"Drugs like LSD seem totally corrosive to the integrity of the body and the human person, and to engender devastating dependency."

Surely you mean drugs like methamphetamine or heroin? LSD has no serious physical effects and is not considered to be an addictive substance with dependence scores lower than alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Meth, heroin, etc. on the other hand are extremely destructive drugs…

Karen Butler

March 6, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Whoops, I was in a hurry and forgot the link to the map that correlates geography and psychotropic drugs: http://1boringoldman.com/index.php/2013/02/23/better-than-a-sudoku/

Karen Butler

March 6, 2013 at 10:15 AM

"Just how far does the therapeutic mentality infiltrate our churches?"

Well, here is the raw data showing "the geography of anti-depressant, anti-psychotic and stimulant use." How interesting that it correlates to the Bible Belt. The retired psychiatrist who runs that very interesting website, and works among those populations, says it is an "area where alcohol is a sin, but medications aren’t. Paradoxically, there’s a lot of drug abuse in these same areas. Down home religion, poverty, drug abuse, and psychotrophic drugs are the new American Gothic…"

And then you have the other half of the church, the upper-middle class urban chic who are "Finding God in a Little White Pill." http://deeperstory.com/finding-god-in-a-little-white-pill/ Never mind that the God they find works his miracles no better than a placebo.

And of course, the world looks at this and jeers,and writes these sorts of gloats -- "When God is not Enough." Take a happy pill, of course. http://www.alternet.org/belief/when-god-not-enough-religious-states-have-highest-rates-anti-depressant-use

It is so sad. Lord grant us repentance, as Matthew writes, for loving our idols of success and performance. For loving our triumphalist narratives of prosperity more than the harder story of bearing a cross and dying to self.

Jack

March 6, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Hi Justin,

I'd agree with everything you said. But I think there is more to it. I'd be curious what you think the reason is that drunkenness is explicitly called out as sin in the bible (and lumped into elder qualifications), but not lack of sleep (for example)? The reason someone would settle for an unhealthy lack of sleep can be a heart issue too. Is there a principled difference?

Brent Johnson

March 6, 2013 at 09:12 PM

As a former and avid pot user I understand the article's message and it's one that's needed. How dependent are we on licit drugs? As has been stated though, the use of THC causes impairment and also, I know people refute this, is a stepping stone to more serious drugs. Not all pot users turn to harder drugs but almost all hard drug users started with pot.
The other issue that troubles me is that even though it's legalized, it won't rid it of it's violent underpinnings but will make government complicit with those who control it's manufacture and sale. You really believe those gangs and cartels will give up that influx of money?

Justin

March 6, 2013 at 08:33 AM

Jack,
While you raise a valid point with your "impaired judgment" arguement, doesn't getting 5 hours of sleep for 3 nights in a row lead to impaired judgement? How about texting while you drive? All studied show that leads to impaired judgement as well. It's really a matter of the heart---why is one choosing to smoke marijuana? To escape reality? To alleviate chronic pain? To be cool around friends?

MarieP

March 6, 2013 at 08:05 AM

Doug Wilson wrote an article one the subject, which is now an appendix in his book Future Men- you can read it here (scroll down 2 pages):

http://tinyurl.com/bwpaf73

And I just found a copy of the older article here, 1/3 way down the page:

http://tinyurl.com/c54xp7z

"Because marijuana is a toxic drug, getting to the point of physiological response happens rapidly. Unlike wine, for example, marijuana has an immediate effect, within minutes. Two sips of wine tastes good. Two hits from a joint and the process of intoxication has begun." The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) Over recent decades, THC potency has regularly increased. In the sixties, ordinary marijuana averaged one-half of one percent THC. Today the average is three percent, with some forms (sinsemilla) getting to an average of 7.5 percent.

The half-life of THC in the body is three to seven days. Contrast this with the half-life of alcohol, which is about an hour. Marijuana smokers frequently think that they do not have a problem with the drug because "they only smoke on weekends." But by the next weekend, up to half the THC is still in the body, and is slowly being released by fatty tissues into the bloodstream. Even after the high has worn off, THC continues to impair the body's ability to function. For a chronic user, it can take months before the THC is out of the system (Cool, and even then, permanent effects on the ability to think can be measured and observed."

This hardly sounds like a "mild euphoria"

Jack

March 6, 2013 at 07:42 AM

The angle you chose to evaluate Marijuana is interesting and valuable. However, I would challenge you that the main distinction the church should be making with drugs like Marijuana is that it's main side effect is IMPAIRED JUDGEMENT. This frames the conversation scripturally by looking at the principle of drunkenness. And what makes Marijuana less acceptable than alcohol, is that unlike alcohol, Marijuana has a significant effect on judgment even with a little use (one puff). The purpose of smoking the joint is the high. With alcohol that is not always the case. Lastly, contrast this with caffeine and I believe you see two opposite purposes/effects the drug has on the mind. This to me seems to be the main principle we should be interacting with as we figure this out. Thanks for your article. Very insightful.

Andrew Ayers

March 6, 2013 at 07:01 PM

Having said all of this. The Bible warns against any idol that we might submit ourselves to. We must be careful to "test the spirits". Also, in the Bible it is quite clear that wine was present at feasts simply to supplement the joy that all had in the Lord. To say that we cannot derive any joy or relaxation out of wine is to say that we cannot gain joy from any of God's creation. This then becomes a philosophical and hermeneutical issue. So quite honestly, the argument that we cannot obtain satisfaction from marijuana becomes faulty.

There is an objective reality that is not subject to our experience of wine or marijuana. We may very well experience a "psuedo-euphoria" from being enslaved to these things, but the objective reality is submitting to the Spirit of God. It isn't about what we would intend to use marijuana for. It's not about what our hearts tell us because our hearts are deceitful. It has to be about one submitting themselves to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Andrew Ayers

March 6, 2013 at 06:40 PM

If we succumb to that temptation.

Andrew Ayers

March 6, 2013 at 06:37 PM

"There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” -Mark 7:15

I think Jesus literally meant this when He said it. What we have to understand about marijuana is that it is instantly enslaving to a human being. Therefore, when a man is then enslaved to this "spirit" of marijuana all different manners of defilement flow out of the man from that point onward. Throughout history, have not human beings consulted demonic spirits for the same kinds of "euphoria". I am not going to use the "what the material was created for" argument like so many Catholics use. Not even demons make us sin, there is nothing outside of us that makes us sin. However, unless we are submitted to the Spirit of God, we will find that we allow ourselves to be tempted and then from that point defilement proceeds out of us.

Karen Butler

March 6, 2013 at 04:21 PM

But this data shows that aerobic exercise alone gives a greater benefit than medication, and better than even a combination of exercise and meds for the treatment of depression. And look at the relapse rates for both in figure 1, on pf. 635 of the PDF. Startling differences!
http://www.madinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Exercise%20treatment%20for%20major%20depression.pdf

As Dr. Marcia Angell, former chief editor of the New England Journal of Medicine writes, "Both psychotherapy and exercise have been shown to be as effective as drugs for depression, and their effects are longer-lasting, but unfortunately, there is no industry to push these alternatives and Americans have come to believe that pills must be more potent." http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jul/14/illusions-of-psychiatry/?page=1

She says this of those who accuse her of (as Adam seems to be saying I do here as well)downplaying the devastating consequences of untreated psychiatric illness,

"I do no such thing. But it is no favor to desperate and vulnerable patients to treat them with drugs that have serious side effects unless it is clear that the benefits outweigh the harms."

And as for the 'common grace' argument for psychotropic meds, does this view of these treatments extend to the use of the street drug 'special K' for depression, as is currently being examined? http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/01/31/146096540/i-wanted-to-live-new-depression-drugs-offer-hope-for-toughest-cases

Where is the line to be drawn? There are problems with that way of thinking, as this writer on the Cripplegate blog once observed, http://thecripplegate.com/depression-and-serotonin/#comments:

And why is this view such a problem? As Douglas Bookman writes: “To assign human discoveries to the category of general revelation is to lend God’s name to a person’s ideas.” Thus, when the discoveries of man are categorized as revelation from God, they are by definition true and authoritative and therefore must not be questioned, but rather believed and obeyed. The end result is that the findings of psychological research (and other secular fields of study) not only possess a falsely perceived validity but also lack any genuine accountability, for to question them is to question the very revelation of God (paraphrase of Bookman, “The Scriptures and Biblical Counseling,” 74). Incidentally, the same could be said of scientists who see nature as the 67th book of the Bible and therefore embrace a form of theistic evolution as truth that came to us through general revelation."

And about going cold turkey off meds, of course I would agree with you that no one should stop taking these toxic treatments suddenly, without tapering under a doctor's supervision. Here is a forum for those considering taking this step. The people are caring and the science shared by the moderator is accurate. How I wish it was Christian:http://survivingantidepressants.org/

Aaron Davidson

March 6, 2013 at 04:14 PM

From a biblical stand point I believe the best argument against the use of marijuana should be 1 Peter 5:8-9. Be alert and sober minded....!I can have a drink of wine,beer or spirits and still be sober minded. I can have 4 cups of coffee and still be sober minded, but one cannot have a toke of marijuana and still be sober minded. I do believe that a person can be drunk on lust, greed, anger etc. For the believer I think this is the best place to start.

Melody

March 6, 2013 at 03:32 PM

Yeah, I realize what's legal isn't always moral - I'm just saying it's an easy write off because it's illegal, but "how much sleep is honoring to God?" would require more thought.

Justin

March 6, 2013 at 02:34 PM

Hi Melody,

Thanks for the feedback and you raise good points. One thing I would give some gentle push-back on with your comment is on the basis of legal and illegal. Illegal doesn't necessarilary make it wrong and legal doesn't necessarily make it right. Abortion, same-sex marriage and other things are legal, but hardly not right.
Thanks again for your feedback. Thought-provoking.

Justin

March 6, 2013 at 02:32 PM

Jack,

Great points and I appreciate you bringing them to light, especially the fact that lack of sleep can be unintentional while drunkeness is always intentional. Again, good point and I to think the difference is intentional, which is another way of saying it is a matter of the heart - what is the motive behind it. Drunkeness always carries a wrong motive while lack of sleep may or may not. Thanks again Jack

Bob

March 6, 2013 at 01:33 PM

"Reported lifetime use of "all illicit drugs" increased from 7.8% to 12%, lifetime use of cannabis increased from 7.6% to 11.7%, cocaine use more than doubled, from 0.9% to 1.9%, ecstasy nearly doubled from 0.7% to 1.3%, and heroin increased from 0.7% to 1.1%. It has been proposed that this effect may have been related to the candor of interviewees, who may have been inclined to answer more truthfully due to a reduction in the stigma associated with drug use. However, during the same period, the use of heroin and cannabis also increased in Spain and Italy, where drugs for personal use was decriminalised many years earlier than in Portugal while the use of cannabis and heroin decreased in the rest of Western Europe."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Portugal

Adam Hawkins

March 6, 2013 at 01:32 PM

You've got to be really careful here. The stats on placebos and AD's may be similar when treating 1st time or mild cases, but with people who have had 3 major depressive episodes or more you see a huge benefit to those who continue treatment (especially in terms of avoiding further relapse).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1911177/

but this table is particularly helpful:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1911177/table/i1523-5998-9-3-214-t01/

I am not disagreeing that over-medication is an issue, but the answer is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Severe clinical depression is not something to play around with. It is life threatening, and medicine, while not the ultimate answer to our suffering, can be a real common grace.

I know this is off topic, and I don't write this to disagree, but I know many Christians who read comments like this that get very discouraged. If you are someone with life-threatening depression, or have had multiple major depressive episodes do not stop taking your meds without consulting your physician and make sure you have a deep and involved support group to help bare your burdens.

With love in Christ.

Joe Carter

March 6, 2013 at 01:26 PM

Actually, Portugal only "decriminalized" drugs, they didn't legalize them. And while the addiction rates have fallen, those reporting drug use, personal drug use over the course of their lifetime has gone up about 40 to 50 percent in the last decade and people reporting the use of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy, has all gone up. There has been an increase in drug-related deaths in Portugal too. (http://www.npr.org/2011/01/20/133086356/Mixed-Results-For-Portugals-Great-Drug-Experiment)

Michelle

March 23, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Alcohol affects judgement far more than Marijuana does, especially when it matters (car accidents, violence). I would argue that when someone is looking to get high, they are doing it specifically to relax, as in to avoid judgement altogether. Less poor decisions are made while high, because less decisions are made. It's the nature of the drug. If you are doing important things while high, that's a different story, but in general Marijuana is used int he context of doing nothing/nothing important.

[...] them happiness. Similar reasoning is given for other issues such as abortion, pornography, or the recent legalization of marijuana. If it makes someone happy, why not? As Christians, however, we believe that certain actions are [...]

Saturday Superlatives | Darian G. Burns

March 16, 2013 at 03:56 PM

[...] Marijuana, Coffee, and our Medicated Age by Matthew Lee Anderson [...]

Suzanne

March 12, 2013 at 11:32 PM

Hi Anon., Praise God for your recovery!

And praise God for His grace and mercy in the miriad of drugs that have helped and continue to help so many people.

I don't have much to say on legally prescribed medicinal drug use (pot or otherwise) other than just as with any legitimately prescribed drug this too can be abused. When it comes to serious pain management I say take what you need! (legally) Isn't that a whole nuther issue? One that doesn't belong in the same dialog as the recreational use of drugs?

It seems this article & discussion is unecessarily (strangely?) split into two completely different issues..?(or is it just my own lack of understanding?) Anyway, when I commented above I was speaking as a former unregenerate, daily habitual toker for 20 some odd years, specifically with the "recreational" question of the Christian (can/should-they/can't/shouldn't-they?) in mind.

Forgive my silence Karen Butler, I was out of town and couldn't respond to you.
In noting the direction the article took at the forefront with "recreational use" being "the most pressing concern", it was in that context (also other following statements) I responded, and stated that "respectable" (authors word) drugs were irrelevant to the question-specifically "Co-relating the use and effects of marijuana with these other substances is unhelpful in answering the pot question." I thought it was an odd melding to make a point that should be clearer.

Blessings ~

Anonymous

March 12, 2013 at 07:17 PM

I was in a car accident a few years ago and have serious spinal damage. This issue isn't hypothetical for me. If we can admit that Vicodin, taking with a prescription for pain relief (not recreation) can alter judgment and make you "high" but is a necessary component of life with severe pain, where does marijuana fall? I asked this to my pastor-husband, and he suggested searching TGC for articles by "guys much smarter than" him. I really appreciated this article and the correlation to socially acceptable drugs; I'm just really questioning where the "drunkenness" argument intersects with the practical question of chronic pain relief. Thanks for any wisdom you care to toss my way.

Bob

March 10, 2013 at 07:02 AM

mark 7:15-23
mark 12:31
Love your neighbor people. don't be a hypocrite

zilch

March 10, 2013 at 02:43 PM

Interesting comments. One thing that should be made clear: alcohol and tobacco are physically addictive. Marijuana is not. This is not to say that marijuana use cannot be a problem; you can become emotionally addicted to it, just as you can become emotionally addicted to just about anything. But alcohol, and tobacco, are far more dangerous drugs than marijuana, and destroy many more lives.

There are certainly good reasons to limit or abstain from any drug use. But to single out marijuana for demonizing, and granting a pass to alcohol and tobacco, is hypocritical.

Jeff Lucas

April 29, 2013 at 06:15 PM

There is a certain contrasting quality between judgments within the world view of the proponents of the war on cannabis and Christian theology.
The "everything is toxic" philosophy embraced by the ONDCP toxicologists and controlling offices such as the FDA and DEA is the exact opposite of sound Christian theology [1,2], and the corollary truths built upon it are not Biblically founded, and can be proven to be Biblically incorrect. -And if it's not Theologically true, if it's not true in the Bible, than it isn't true at all [3].
No Bible believing Christian can accept any "toxicology" studies or reports from the ONDCP in good conscience, when they consider the axioms that were used to build their studies. Do Christians adhere to "scientific" theories about big bang and evolution? No, and we can also reject the observations of the ONDCP about cannabis on similar grounds when all things are considered in a clear systematic theology. One must "Test The Evidences" that come from outside Scripture.
Scripture, tradition, and reason imply that all things are good, and that substance (such as foods and drinks) only becomes toxic in it's misuse, that is, in the uses that are not in order with the purposes God created them [4]. The Scripture's warnings against these philosophies are traditionally viewed as warnings about the Gnostics of the second century. It was a blending of Jewish, Greek, or Eastern philosophy with Christianity. These Gnostic errors are widespread, they appear century after century, and shows itself in many forms of religion, not merely in distorted forms of Christianity. In life application today, we can see that same Gnostic germ resurface in our society in the influence of modernism and postmodernism.
The war against cannabis is a frightening illustration, in that it is successful in stifling Evangelism within the local Church, and not many Leaders recognize what's going on, despite the fact that it devastates the lives of millions in perdition. This ascetic teaching is unnatural, contrary to the constitution of the world as that has been arranged by a holy and wise Creator, and it is also subversive of Christian liberty. Nothing can be esteemed common or unclean without throwing a reproach upon the Creator. [5] To further discover the long term consequences of these unnatural teachings, we can observe the characterizations and acts employed in the war on pot have a resemblance to the warnings in Scripture regarding the signs of false teachers (which are directly linked to signs of the coming Rapture of Christ's church). The war on cannabis shares at least 2 key qualities as the Gnostics. In the presence of the negative implications of statements such as "there is no way to teach this to you in a brief, " and, "everything is toxic, there is no harmless substances. ", the Christian should be reminded that encouraging formalism and asceticism as the result of false teaching is traditionally known as the activities of demons [6]; and the acknowledgment of liberty of conscience in a free moral agent is the formation of evangelical theology- for this very reason the Reformers left the Roman Catholic Church! [7]. The binge drinking phenomena we see in the just say no generation, as well as the licentious rebellion in the 60's, is evidences of the "fleshly indulgence", or antinomian development that results from these ascetic teachings. [8,9,10]

To summarize; The Christian world view and the ONDCP world view can be sharply contrasted. In the ONDCP world view, the Truth is "everything is toxic" and application is "just say no". In the Christian world view, the Truth is "God's creation is good" and application is "be ye sober". The Scripture provides us a sharper, more accurate understanding and response to the subjects of cannabis use in society than the secular drug use prevention community. And as Biblical passages are weighed and discovered as this more accurate Truth, it should bear witness that the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is Truth. We should lend thought to this greater spiritual Truth for which the Bible is compiled as evidence of; That Christ made atonement covering and salvation for our souls. "For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that he world through him might be saved. God publicly displayed him as the mercy seat accessible through faith, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but by grace are you saved through faith, and it's not of yourselves, it is a gift from God. For whosoever believes in Him will not perish. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."