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Is Mary Jane Coming to Church?

By November 11, 2013 One Comment

Three cities in my home state of Michigan decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in last week’s elections (following the earlier lead of several other cities), causing me to wonder, “Does this make it okay for Christians in those cities to light up?” 

I thought this was an original idea.  Am I ever out of it.

A quick check of the internet on the topic of Christians and pot shows 6,630,000 hits (not trying to make a pun here). 

The pro side likes to cite verses like Genesis 1:29 in the King James Version, “I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth . . . “ End of argument right there.  God gave us herbs.   Then there’s I Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me . . . “

The con side likes to quote the rest of that Corinthians verse, “but not all things are beneficial.”  And they like Galatians 5:12, which lists sorcery among the works of the flesh.  Why sorcery?  The Greek word is pharmakeia, which should give you some sense of what sort of sorcery Paul had in mind. 

What do you think?  It was always simple when marijuana use was illegal.  Christians should abide by the law, this is against the law.  Nice and easy with a minimum of moral reasoning required.

But what about places where marijuana use is now legal?  How does the church make its argument without sounding as rigid as the Prodigal Son’s older brother?  I looked at some of the anti-pot stuff by Christians on the web and felt like I had taken a time trip back to the days of Prohibition.  Legalism is a bummer, dude.

Just as predictably, some on the left are saying the church shouldn’t argue against it because this is an issue God does not care about.  They equate it to the rules about card playing, watching movies, dancing, and doing anything other than going to church on the Sabbath.  They wonder who but a really uptight minority enforces those rules now. 

If the church is going to take an anti-pot stand, we are going to need to address the parallels between drinking and smoking marijuana.  If the argument against marijuana is it affects your brain, the church is in trouble.  NPR did a story recently on “Beer Church’” which has been picked up by other media outlets with headlines like “What Would Jesus Brew” and “Beer Churches Bubbling Up.”  The acceptance of alcohol use in the church today compared to a couple of generations ago is remarkable.  One of my seminary’s most esteemed professors, a brilliant conservative scholar, leads a monthly discussion called “Confessions on Tap” at a local brewpub.  Students sit with him over a beer and talk about the ministry implications of the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort and Belgic Confession.  I know of lots of Christian small groups that meet over a few beers or glasses of wine.  Why do they do that?  One reason is people talk more openly after a drink or two.  They aren’t drunk, but they do become more relaxed, because the alcohol does affect their brains.  Sounds a bit like pharmakeia to me. 

I have heard reports of young evangelicals who use marijuana and don’t see a problem.  And what about those people (and there are over 100,000 of them already in Michigan) that have a prescription for medical marijuana?  Surely some of those people go to church.  What does the church have to say?

I’m too old for this argument.  I made up my mind about using marijuana almost 40 years ago. I am not going to change now.  I went to a state university in the ‘70’s where lots of my dorm mates smoked marijuana frequently.  I didn’t.  If you saw a picture of me from 1978 you wouldn’t believe I wasn’t smoking like a fiend.  I had a ton of hair and wore tinted glasses and looked like I was a roadie for the Doobie Brothers.   But I was a good boy.  As I aged, I thought pot sort of went out of style.  Now I realize it was probably just me that went out of style. The church is going to need to figure out a way to deal with it that isn’t couched in legalism or liberality.  What do you think?   


Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal. 

One Comment

  • Dave Vander Laan says:

    Full disclosure: I have never taken a toke.

    The Church cannot be afraid to have conversation about this topic. And I mean exactly that – conversation, beginning with listening instead pontificating.

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