A while ago I was involved in an excellent conversation between several Christian men on the place of The marijooanna in the Church. That night we hung out drinking scotch whiskey and smoking tobacco from a hookah (!), but spoke of pot only theoretically. The discussion began with a question from one of the men wondering how much thought their Reformed denomination had given to the inevitable church disciplines sure to arise due to the legalization of pot in Washington state and Colorado, and likely other states soon. Of course, the conversation soon evolved beyond legality and ecclesiology to cover the Christian virtues and vicissitudes of the sacred-to-some yerba.
I want to raise what I think are the two most compelling questions for Christians when discussing pot use. You may think I've totally missed the boat, that other questions are more important. If you do, please do not hesitate to say so below.
First, full disclosure. Because the questions do require some experience with the plant, I will here confess that I have near zero experience. Near zero, but not zero.
I smoke tobacco frequently, never cigarettes, usually a pipe, sometimes a cigar, even more rarely, a hookah. I used to say that I'd never smoked pot in my life. Now that's only kind of true. A couple of years back a friend, who rolls his own tobacco cigarettes all the time, unbeknownst to me sprinkled some pot into one of his roll-your-owns. Then he offered it to me and I took a couple of puffs before being told what was in it. NOW MY SOUL IS TAINTED FOREVER.
Well, not really. I don't even believe I sinned, which some brothers might take issue with. But I can't really say I've never ever smoked pot anymore. There was that one time.
I will now describe my position, as a Christian, on pot. I will, like a dainty fairy dancing from petal to petal, glancingly proceed through a pot progression, then land upon the full flower of my questions.
In some towns it is illegal to neglect your lawn and let the grass grow three feet high. This is silly, and probably immoral, but I do not pick up a rifle to resist the state.
In various times and in various places the great vices of the West have been more or less illegal: alcohol, tobacco, even coffee (a group of "buxome" women in 1674 petitioned King Charles to get their men out of the coffee shops to attend to their wives; according to them these men risked being "cuckolded by dildos"). I am an enthusiastic enjoyer of tobacco, but if the state outlawed it I would not pick up a rifle. I would submit. There are, of course, shades of disobedience. Some things are worth picketing for, still others worth chaining yourself to buses for. Outlawing tobacco or coffee is a gross overstepping of the state's bounds, but so are many other things we as Christians live with, even as we await the Lord's judgments and mercies.
There is a beverage that I would pick up a gun to protect: wine. If wine were outlawed that would infringe on Christ's commands, and the Church's prerogative. Not only because of the sacrament on Sunday, but because the sacrament of the Lord's Supper extends from Sunday throughout the week. It is for that reason that Prohibition is not a laughing matter, but is a national disgrace and a sign of godlessness. This is a point which deserves further development, but which I here elide past.
Because God endorses wine and beer in Scripture, and commands us to drink wine to celebrate and memorialize his salvation for us, I believe that alcohol holds a more sacred place among God's gifts than others might. A place that caffeine or THC might not deserve.
The fact that pot has been illegal ought to have been enough for Christians to abstain. It is not difficult to argue that the state had no business making it illegal, and it is even easier to argue that, business or no, it is dumb to make it illegal. But disobedience to the law for our right to smoke pot, unlike our right to go to church, marry, have children, and drink wine, is not worth the candle. And if our elders wish for us to abstain from pot because it's against the law, that should be more than good enough for us.
But now the legal situation is changing. Hopefully church leaders around the country will recognize the danger in banning pot per se from churches. If marijuana use causes predictable harm to users, under full legalization we would have a better control group from which to be able to document that. But for now, such scholarship is lacking. Meanwhile, the church can discipline for the fruit of a sinful life, pot or no pot. After all, we do not excommunicate a man for being an alcoholic. We excommunicate him for unrepentantly neglecting his wife and children.
Because of the place that marijuana holds in our culture now, justly or unjustly, I think the onus ought to lie on Christians who wish to use it to defend its use. There is, of course, no scriptural command to take or abstain, so without question it is not unlawful. But it is fair to say that Christians should not do stupid things, and that Christian elders ought to be able to say to their sheep, "please avoid that stupid thing".
So, what is the point of taking marijuana? If it is a good, Christians should welcome it, whether they personally use it or not. Why take marijuana? Is it salutary? Is it pleasurable? Why is it pleasurable? What do you take it for?
Christians should not drink to get drunk; they should drink for joy. Being given to drunkenness is a sin, even while an alcohol-induced merry heart is celebrated by God.
This is where I leave the realm of my own experience and ask that my brothers who know enlighten me and make their arguments. Because it seems to me that a marijuana high is an escape, not a joy. Yes, go ahead and quote C. S. Lewis at me. Only jailers oppose escape. But the key to escape is what you're escaping and where you're going. Remove vexation from your heart, and take away pain from your body, and drink your wine with a merry heart.
So my first plain question is: does pot make your heart merry? That is to say, according to the dictionary: very happy and cheerful, feeling or showing joy and happiness, causing joy and happiness full of gaiety or high spirits, mirthful, marked by festivity or gaiety. Wine does that. Does pot?
As I mentioned, while we were having the excellent conversation that sparked this post, we were all tasting fine whiskeys. My whiskey palate was clearly outclassed by everyone there, which only made the whiskeys more enjoyable to me. The alcohol certainly made my heart merry, but none of us were there to drink alcohol. We were there to drink whiskey. We don't drink wine or beer or scotch to get drunk. We drink because those things are delicious. Now, the alcohol is a big part of why these things are delicious. This is especially so with liquor. Although many things are done to liquors to make them delightful, without alcohol they would be nothing. I am willing to grant THC the same place when it comes to marijuana.
This is the second plain question: is marijuana delicious? Tobacco is. Perhaps pot is. I don't know.
It has been suggested to me that marijuana is not supposed to be as strong as it is, that the illegal market has led to the production of strains with exponentially higher levels of THC than pot would have had fifty or even twenty years ago. Would a Christian pot smoker enjoy different strains as a pipe smoker might enjoy virginias or balkans? Would a Christians pot smoker prefer a particular strain as a whiskey drinker might prefer an Islay? Would he sit on a front porch and discerningly comment on the excellencies of his smoke? And if he did so, would it be because of the THC, or because it is legitimately a delicious delight?
If the Christian's answer to these two questions is honestly "yes", then I believe he may and even should enjoy a smoke. But I'll ask that Christian to convince me. Because I am very skeptical. Is pot delicious?