Comedian Adam Ferrara has a very direct one-liner that he uses to define Catholicism: “Basically, if it feels good, stop.”
Depending on who you ask, Catholics may or may not qualify as Christians. The idea of preserving oneself, however, as a matter of faith, is present in both. The Bible says that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” A vessel that should remain pure to carry out the Lord’s work.
But as we know, many people of Christian faith practice some form of indulgence and don’t believe it to compromise their faith. So the fact that the Christian right takes such an issue with marijuana is a bit confounding.
Sin and Perception
“Everything in moderation,” is a philosophy that generally sits well with people, those of the Christian faith included. Despite the holy outlook on how one treats the body, even priests are allowed to imbibe alcohol without violating their holy vows. It might be a sin to allow oneself to slip into alcoholism, but the Christian view of drinking is practically the same as America’s societal view.
This makes sense because so many Americans are Christian. But many Americans have also changed their views on marijuana use in recent years, and it’s not just liberals. Support for the legalization of marijuana is up among conservatives thanks to better education about marijuana’s effects on the brain and nervous system. But this is not always the case.
Legalization Complicates Things
In the past, the difference between marijuana and other forms of indulgence was that marijuana was illegal. While our current administration is working against progress — for example, in the form of attorney general Jeff Sessions repealing the Cole memo — states’ rights are marching squarely in the direction of legal marijuana everywhere.
It’s one thing for Christians to hold that use of an illegal substance is wrong. Defying societal rules is frowned upon in the Christian community. However, pastors are now having to deal with the question of how to advise people who are getting high legally, and that has made things complicated. The Bible makes allowances for wine and feasting? Why not the occasional joint?
For one thing, it’s a sea change for a generation raised under the pretense that smoking marijuana is bad.; that it lowers one’s chances of getting educated or pursuing a good career and can lead to other, more dangerous drugs. But these views are relics of the “just say no” campaign that didn’t work and is founded upon falsities to begin with.
How many meth addicts out there do you think would flinch at the thought of smoking marijuana? Not many. But that doesn’t mean everyone who’s ever smoked a joint should go register at a methadone clinic tomorrow. The cause-and-effect relationship that’s being propped up doesn’t hold water.
Daring to Share
Greg Stier is the CEO of Dare 2 Share Ministries. In 2016, he published the blog post 10 Big, Biblical reasons Christian teenagers should just say “NO” to smoking marijuana. The piece relies on exactly these outdated proverbs — aligning them with actual proverbs from the Bible — to explain why Stier believes teens should outright avoid marijuana use.
It’s worth noting that the post is directed squarely at young people, and perhaps Stier deserves some slack for that. A mature adult can be expected to practice better self-control than a teen. However, in a religious community that is pushing young people away hand-over-fist, you have to seek new ways to present this message and the science just doesn’t back up what Stier is saying.
Everything in the piece is a fear-based argument about what could go wrong or how we’re not sure how marijuana affects people. The drug has been around for almost three thousand years, and Christians should have better things to worry about within their own religion than discouraging people from smoking because “it impedes a teenager’s ability to pray with a clear mind.”
Is that so? What about in the case of a teen with cancer, who can’t think straight because of the pain they’re in without using marijuana? What about someone who suffers from severe mental health issues and uses marijuana to calm down?
If you’re going to push an anti-marijuana agenda, get your facts straight and be up-to-speed on marijuana as we understand it now. Arguments based solely on fear hold no merit in today’s scientific community. A great deal has been learned since California first legalized medical use back in 1996, and fearmongering is no way to attract people into the religious community. It will only push more people away.