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One toke over the line, sweet Jesus?

Posted By Joel Miller On 07/20/2000 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Christians aren’t stoked on the idea of drug use. Don’t believe me?
Try waving a joint under a preacher’s nose someday; you’d better be
prepared to hear about how warm your eternal lodgings in the great
hereafter will be. On the sin scale of most Christians, doing drugs is
pretty close to doing sheep. WWJD? Not dope.

The problem is that, for most, the position is kneejerk, based upon
as much critical thinking as bumping into a wall. And, like
face-planting the plaster, the results are less than desirable.

Uncritical thinking leads to muddling issues and slipping into sloppy
conclusions. For the Christian and the question of drugs, this
typically involves making no distinction between immoral and illegal –
going all gung-ho for escalating the war on drugs, leading the choir in
“Onward, Christian Soldiers” as we rush to jail the junkies, desolate
the dealers and spray defoliant on half of South America to ruin the
coca crop.

This uncritical jiggle of the brain flab is, however, not good
enough. True Christians don’t operate on gut feelings, societal
impulse, cultural conditioning or whether Aunt Margaret boxed your ears
as a teen-ager for saying smoking crack was cool. As “People of the
Book,” the overriding question for Christians should be, is smack
scriptural? What, after all, does the Bible say about dope?

The moral question: Is gumming a bong bad?

Holy Writ is riddled with condemnation for drunkenness. Harsh words
against getting sloshed are so plentiful and obvious that even a
one-eyed inebriant should be able to spot a few references on a drunken
thumb-through. And prohibitive and condemnatory statements against
elbow tipping and booze bibbing are just as severe as they are
plentiful. A few verses in no particular order:

  • And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation
    (Ephesians 5:18)

  • Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and
    drunkenness (Romans 13:13)

  • Woe to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the
    fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is at the head of the
    fertile valley of those who are overcome with wine! (Isaiah 28:1)

  • Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality,
    impurity, sensuality … envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things
    like these … those who practice such things shall not inherit the
    kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19, 21)

Some may object that these passages condemn alcohol, not drugs.
Forget about it. Two principles in Scripture blow a slobbery, wet
razzberry in the direction of this objection. For starters, notice that
word “dissipation” in Ephesians? This falls in the same category of
taking things to excess, about which Christians are continually warned
in Scripture. Dissipative behavior is pursuing indulgences — like
doping or drinking — to the point of harm. Many drugs, without doubt,
bring harm upon the user. LSD-induced flashbacks, for instance, are
evidence of lasting mental harm — not a brain upgrade.

Those that don’t bugger your gray matter usually run afoul of the
second point: sobriety.

Drugs do funny things to your mind — why else do you think folks
drop acid, snort lines and tap veins? It sure isn’t to feel normal. If
so, it’s an extremely expensive way to feel as lame as you did five
minutes before toking that bong. The whole point of drugs is tweak your
perceptions — and they do.

Drugs can make you feel euphoric (pot), jazzed (meth), invincible
(PCP), mellow (heroin). Much like Dumbo’s visions of dancing pink
elephants, drugs can make you hallucinate. Someone I know who suffers
the odd LSD flashback sees walls bend around her. Another woman I know,
sitting doped on morphine, saw large ants the size of 1950s B-movie
horror flick monsters marching around her room.

Likewise, a friend’s dad tells the story of when he was big into
drugs during the ’60s. Once, while stoned like Gibraltar, he walked
into the bathroom and saw what he described as a demon staring at him
from inside the toilet. A definite spooker if you ask me. The solution
was twofold. First, not having George C. Scott or a suitable exorcist
nearby, he did the next best thing and flushed the john; second, he
cleaned up. (Eventually, he also converted to Christianity and flushed
his wife’s herbal pot down the porcelain one, resulting — as the story
goes — in his first experience of being persecuted for the faith.)

Perhaps confirming all those stereotypes of being a celestial
party-pooper, God is undeniably concerned with level-headedness.
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober,” writes Peter in
his first epistle. Checking my interlinear New Testament, that word
“sober” is “nepho” in the original Greek, which means “self-possessed”
and “having control of your mental faculties.”

The Apostle Paul uses the same word, “nepho,” in his first letter to
the church at Thessalonica: “… they that be drunken are drunken in the
night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the
breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of
salvation.”

God doesn’t give a hoot how a person gets tweaked — be it crank,
beer, wine, paint thinner, bourbon, crack, ganja or glue. He doesn’t
care if a person is just nursing a gentle buzz or getting flat-out
fit-shaced. For the question of Christian morality, if two tokes on the
bong rob you of your “nepho,” that’s one toke over the line.

But here’s where the issue of puffing skunk bud gets really stinky:
just because something is immoral, does that mean it should be illegal?

The legal question: Should junkies be jailed?

Adding new meaning to the expression “holy smoke,” Rev. Oliver Daley
of the United Church in Jamaica recently came out in favor of


legalizing marijuana.
While receiving cautious support from fellow Jamaican ministers, if the nations and persons were switched and it was Billy Graham calling for legalization, doubtless fellow preachers would be questioning St. Billy’s salvation. For American Christianity, is there any better clue of a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Because of genuine religious convictions opposing the use of drugs, Christians fall into the trap of assuming that because dope is bad, it should therefore be illegal. They get blinded by the blight, so to speak.

In a discussion of things like prostitution, pornography and drugs, Christian economist and legal theoretician

Gary
North
(yes, that

Gary
North
) argues that there is no such thing as a victimless crime. He cites fellow economist F.A. Hayek as saying that laws against victimless crimes are an illegitimate butt-in into people’s private life, “At least where it is not believed that the whole group many be punished by a supernatural power for the sins of the individual. …” Hayek holds to no such being. North, on the other hand, does.

Objecting to Hayek, he writes, “But that’s the whole point: such a community-threatening God does exist.”

While North’s position is tied to an elaborate and well-detailed covenant-oriented theology, the Cliff’s Notes version of the idea is this: Snorting coke is sin, and God will punish the community collectively for it. Basically, everybody gets hammered, in one sense of the word, because one guy wants to get hammered, in another sense of the word. As such, North argues that there is biblical justification for the state to oppose drug use.

North is, however, exposing an interesting prejudice. He is writing in an attempt to show the relevancy of Old Testament law applied to modern life. The problem here? While Scripture has clear civil injunctions against buggery, adultery, getting to “know” the livestock and other sorts of debauchery, there is no civil injunction against drunkenness — or, for our argument, dope.

There is a moral injunction against it if, as I’ve argued, Scripture’s commands against drunkenness apply to getting blitzed on angel dust. No doubt getting stupid on tequila as opposed to THC is a distinction over which God does not split hairs. A fried brain is a fried brain, no matter what kind of oil you cook it in.

But North takes his moral abhorrence for drug use — which as a Christian he should have — and lumps it, without scriptural justification, into the same stack of things the state, according to Christian doctrine, should hate and act against. In short, he lets his distaste for drugs color his application of what the Bible actually says about them.

It cannot be said enough that Scripture condemns dope — to the extent that it harms the user or inhibits his sobriety. But to say that it also provides justification for legal sanctions against popping pills and shooting smack is a stretch. With all the many warnings about drunkenness scattered throughout the Word, two things are obvious: 1) that God is concerned with it, and 2) that Israel and the Church have a real problem with it. But does God ever command civil punishment for insobriety — caused by either alcohol or dope? No.

God treats some sins differently from others, and for Christians to support a measure that even God does not comes close to saying we are wiser and even more moral than God.

Given the monumental failure of the drug war, its ever-increasing violations of individual liberty, egregious injustices, and the fact that there is no biblical mandate to back it up, Christians should seriously — and scripturally — reconsider their support of it.

Related items:

“Yakkity yak, don’t talk smack,” a column about the drug war’s recent attacks on free speech.

“The problem with drug raids,” a piece about sacking the Bill of Rights to pursue drug offenders.


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