Marijuana: A Theology

Regulating medical marijuana

AN interesting view from the US on the legalising of marijuana in Colorado this week.

Recreational marijuana became became legal in the US State of Colorado on the first day of 2014 for those 21 and older. Other states, like Washington, are preparing to do the same. this just a further sign of the “moral decay” of American society, or can we say the legalization of marijuana can have a place in a Christian theology that values, instead of denigrates, the body?

We might think primarily of the individual body and marijuana use, but first let us consider the social body and what will happen to our social body by legalizing marijuana.

Our social body is currently deformed, almost beyond recognition as a developed democracy, by the huge numbers of Americans in jail, many of them there for non-violent drug offenses.

The so-called “war on drugs” begun in the Nixon administration has been a Trillion Dollar Failure. All it has done is explode the prison population to the point where in the United States the number of Americans incarcerated dwarfs that of other nations. Our national failure on drug policy is also racist. “Black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails in 2010,” according to the Pew Research Center.

The effects of this on our social body of families separated, and non-violent individuals exposed to the horrific conditions of our overcrowded prisons, cannot be exaggerated.

From a body theology perspective, one thing we can say for certain is prison is very bad for your body. The American Journal of Public Health has published a study that shows a “two-year decline in life expectancy for every year served inside prison.”

In fact, we could say our marijuana public policy in almost all states and at the federal level is a public health menace, and that makes it a theological menace, if we value the social body.

But, let us not forget about the individual marijuana user. Is it good to smoke pot if it is legal? Is it moral?

There are biblical resources to which we can turn in thinking about these questions.
Biblically speaking, Jesus and his disciples clearly drank wine, and enjoyed it. In John 2:2ff, the Gospel records that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Matthew (11:19) and Luke (7:34) record Jesus noting that when it comes to drinking wine or eating good food, there is no pleasing “the people of this generation.” Jesus observes that people complained about John the Baptist fasting and “drinking no wine,” and then turned around and complained when Jesus drinks and eats with people, saying, “Look a glutton and a drunkard!”

When it comes to imbibing, in other words, there will clearly always be differences of opinions, even as in Jesus’ time. But Jesus showed his disciples that eating and drinking together was a way to celebrate community.

But, it is well to remember the instruction of Paul to the Corinthians, that their bodies are “a temple of the Holy Spirit” and thus we should “honor God with our bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

In other words, don’t abuse your bodies. In terms of body theology, stimulants or depressants, when taken to excess, have very negative health effects, and they are not a way to honor God and your body.

Moderation, however, is a healthy approach to wine-drinking, and, we may come to think, to using “recreational marijuana.” A little can be a part of relaxing with friends.

In addition, a glass of wine a day is good for the heart, notes the Mayo Clinic, though doctors caution people not to run out and start drinking to excess.

Marijuana has medicinal use for cancer patients, as is well known.

Does recreational use have any health value? Probably not, especially given that it is often smoked, but marijuana seems not to be the feared gateway drug to becoming an addict either.

Beyond recreational use, both wine and marijuana have had religious uses for centuries. Jews, such as Jesus, drank wine in several religious rituals and continue to do so, as do many Christians at Communion. Marijuana use has been part of Hindu ritual in the worship of Shiva, and its religious use “is most widespread today by Rastafarians as a Bible study, and meditation aid.”

Thus, it can be concluded that the moral goods of using wine or marijuana will depend on the user and his or her individual religious and or ethical convictions. In all instances, however, moderation that respects the well-being of the body is advised.

Treating human bodies with decency and respect, however, transcends individual religions, and even opinions, and is a common good.

Our laws on marijuana need to reflect this common good. We should legalize recreational marijuana use at the federal level, keep it out of the hands of children and teenagers as we do with alcohol, and release those who have been incarcerated for using marijuana from all our overcrowded prisons.

That is only common sense, and common sense is one of the best guides to morality
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/marijuana-christian-theology_b_4529031.html

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14 thoughts on “Marijuana: A Theology

  1. Such a tricky topic. My home land, Uruguay, legalized Marijuana about a month a go as a way of undermining organised crime. By allowing people to grow a certain amount of plants, allowing registered users to purchase up to 40grams of pot from chemists and setting the price just slightly under the street value for a gram ($1 as opposed to $1.40) is aimed at breaking the criminal activities related to marijuana.
    I’ve read that U.S. has one in five of their own citizens in prisons. I’ve seen documentaries about the failure of the war on drugs. So on one hand I can see the logic in legalizing it.

    But I’ve also been a drug addict and marijuana was the first drug I used as a teen, for me it was a gateway drug as it was for most of the people I’ve known over my life. I’ve had mental health issues and have sadly known too many young people in psychiatric hospitals who are there due to drug related mental illness.

    I think to equate marijuana use with drinking alcohol is a bit naive. If you could show me a Biblical example of Christ smoking pot I’d probably think otherwise. It’s true Rastafarians use marijuana as part of their religious practice and they read the Bible- but they have also been known to turn up at the palace gates of the Ethopian King declaring he is the messiah- something the Ethopian King denies. That’s the thing with marijuana- gives people crazy ideas about all sorts of things and use up time and energy that could be spent in more productive ways 😉
    http://altreligion.about.com/od/alternativereligionsaz/a/rastafari.htm

    Legalize it if you must, but don’t try to convince me it’s a harmless drug and fine in moderation. Obviously prohibition doesn’t work- but I’ve known too many young schzophrenics whose mental illness started from long term pot smoking and I’ve known too many people who once were young teens full of potential but who smoked marijuana and now, twenty years later, are still sitting on their couch playing video games and getting stoned. I’ve rarely met a recreational user who has chosen to stop smoking marijuana- most people seem to start in their teens and keep going, often using other drugs a long the way.

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    • Bravo Andrea.

      I don’t really know too much about marjuana, even though I dated someone who was constantly high on it. Do you get high on just one joint? Because you can have a couple of drinks and not be drunk and even safe to drive.

      The partner of someone close used to smoke it. He went through periods of heavy use and at these times he wasn’t really useful. The girlfriend used to complain that he didn’t help her with the kids etc (yet when he wasn’t on it, he worked incredibly hard). It was like it made him a Jekyll and Hyde.

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    • Thank you for your response to this post, Andrea. I so agree with your point of view on the subject. May I add that in Jesus’ day they did not have the medical resources we have today. Therefore, drinking wine was a way of fighting disease. Not true in our country today. So the argument that Jesus drank wine doesn’t even apply. And to say “he enjoyed it” is purely an opinion.
      A man was killed the other day when someone ran a stop light. Let’s get rid of stop lights. That makes about as much sense as the arguments presented in the “interesting view” we read here today. And if anyone thinks common sense is one of the best guides to morality, they have none.

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      • Come on cazehner!:- “Therefore, drinking wine was a way of fighting disease.”
        Where DO such absurd ideas come from?

        Jesus didn’t miraculously produce bathtubs full of wine to bathe lepers in, he turned water into wine at a wedding feast ~ where the only disease was ‘marriage’.

        Ask Old Omar: the point of wine was ALWAYS to make people feel happier.
        ….Even today there are more old drunks around than old Salvoes…….and they’re mostly much happier with themselves, too.

        …and far less anal-retentive. 😉

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      • Wow dabbles. Your meanness never ceases to amaze me. You can tell yourself you are happy in you ignorance but your words reveal something much different.

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      • What “meanness”?? –> ( “Your meanness never ceases to amaze me.”

        I’m happy to discuss virtually any idea, no matter how ‘out there’ it is.
        But I balk at stupidity.
        Sorry if you take offence.

        But I balk at outright stupidity.

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    • The ‘Gateway’ drug leading to EVERY other human proclivity is ‘Oxygen’ ~ the stuff you’re dependent upon while you’re still in the womb. All else springs from there, and if the ‘authorities’ thought they could regulate it they’d tax it.
      (as, in some places, they’ve begun to tax sunlight vis-a-vis solar power)
      How much of the $1-per gram is sales-tax…or gst or ‘franchise fees’ or whatever?

      And let’s not forget that one man’s “mental illness” is another man’s nirvana ~ and yet another man’s religious ecstasy.

      ’twasn’t that long ago the schizophrenics were seen as being possessed of demons ~ or prophets of the god of all the universes. The world of human beings is notorious for forcing it’s ‘psychiatric’ solutions on others according to Big Brother’s current requirements. One day you’ll get locked up for killing your neighbours, and the next day you’ll get locked up for NOT killing the people in a neighbouring country.

      None of us get out of here alive, and the way of each individual’s going should be entirely up to him. Big-headed busibodies of ANY ilk have no business making rules as to how any person wants to live their lives or depart from it.

      And if individuals do that from a position of being too weak to control themselves it’s STILL not any self-proclaimed ‘authority’s right to ‘protect them from themselves’ or ‘for their own good’. Or to interfere with them for any other reason.

      Even the all-powerful and infallible gods realise they don’t have such authority ~ and consequently endow us with ‘free will’.

      But the organised crime connection is for real. And if anyone wants an intimate look at ‘organised crime’ at work on a grand scale they need look no further than governments….starting with the very principle of taxation. (which the mafia and other organised-crime gangs call ‘paying protection money’.)

      The whole drug question, from both sides of the argument, boils down to a turf-war between Gangsters.

      ……and the dill in the street pontificates about it as solemnly as he does about Collingwood’s performance on Saturday.

      ……gawd I’m ashamed to belong to homo-sapiens sometimes!

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    • …..and after much consideration —>> ” …who smoked marijuana and now, twenty years later, are still sitting on their couch playing video games and getting stoned.”

      ….I can’t but ask:- This is a bad thing HOW??

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  2. And the point is:- (“Jesus observes that people complained about John the Baptist fasting and “drinking no wine,” and then turned around and complained when Jesus drinks and eats with people, saying, “Look a glutton and a drunkard!”)

    …..that if ‘people’ can’t mind their won bloody business they should be absolutely ignored.
    Thus endeth the sermon. 😉

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  3. The main arguments about marihuana seem to be that smokers become ‘useless’, and that it leads to harder drugs and psych problems. I know a user who has suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome for many years prior to smoking. Yes, he does on occasions become useless, but that’s preferable to the symptoms of his condition. It’s a bit like self medicating.

    Smokers with psych problems may have mental health problems beforehand, and those for whom it is a gateway to harder drugs often would likely venture there anyway.

    I believe tobacco is worse for health, and alcohol worse for social aggression. Perhaps marihuana is useful to wean those users? I don’t use it, in case this seems to indicate I do! I believe it should be a prescription drug.

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  4. What sort of drugs is Huffington Post smoking Bryan?
    It is understood that the enemies of Jesus twisted His actions out of context to portray Him like a glutton and a drunkard. Thus they were only involved in a smear campaign against Jesus, and hence were questionable as a source of reliable information. Only a drug induced self indulgent “Christian” would use this case to legitimise pot.
    What Huffington Post have done is the equivalent of saying Julia Gillard is a witch because a placard behind Tony Abbott said “Burn the Witch”; or worse accusing Tony Abbott as condoning something that just happened to pop up behind him.

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