Did you see the election last week? While some Christians were thanking God for Obama’s reelection and others were preparing for the the seven year tribulation to begin, there was a much more interesting development – Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. While it is still illegal under federal law, which will prompt an amusing little State vs. Fed boxing match, there is a very real possibility that the legalization of marijuana will be upheld.
This is important for two reasons:
1) The legitimization of the “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” means John Denver was a prophet all along.
2) We have entered into a new era of Christian liberty debates.
Whether or not Christians have the freedom to smoke weed was a very easy issue to settle in the past, based on this reasoning:
1) Christians are to submit to the government (Rom. 13:1-7)
2) Weed is illegal.
3) Doing illegal things is not submitting to the government.
4) Therefore, Christians can’t smoke weed.
The issue was complicated a bit with medical marijuana, but now the bong water has spilled into the streets and a legal joint is being passed to Christians (to the left, naturally). And while it’s not legal in Nevada yet, we do live in a cash-strapped State that already allows prostitution, gambling, and UNLV to exist. Legalized marijuana is most likely an imminent reality for us in Reno.
So let’s play a game called “What if?” and envision the future of Christians smoking legal marijuana:
Daily devotionals would turn into this:
Have you ever heard worship with a sitar?
You finally will. Plus, “How Great is Our God” will now contain the 25 minute jam session it has always been lacking.
And sermons will be littered with Alice in Wonderland references:
But the question to ask is this: even if marijuana is legal, should Christians participate?
This issue will be discussed for years to come, (although it could be silenced altogether if the Supreme Court becomes the Supreme Buzzkill), and I can offer no definitive answer to the question. However, this is an important topic to address because the church will be affected to some degree, as we can assume that there won’t be fewer Christians smoking legal marijuana than there are smoking illegally now.
It is naive to think that Christians will only smoke it on rare occasions within the confines of their own homes, and that there won’t be broader implications as a result of its use. Therefore, here are some things we must take into account before we schedule ski trips to Aspen:
1) Marijuana and alcohol are not in the same league
The Christian community is instructed not to “get drunk with wine” (Eph. 5:18), so it seems simple enough to apply the principle of alcohol intake to marijuana use; that is, it is ok in moderation. However, you can drink alcohol and not be drunk (or even buzzed), but can you smoke weed and not be high? The differences between an alcohol buzz and a weed-induced “head change” are fundamentally different.
Marijuana is a hallucinogen, which by nature causes a distortion in perception, thought, emotion, and consciousness. Or, to put it another way, weed makes reality unreal. The fun of its recreational use is tied to the mind-altering effects it produces.
Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that acts as a depressant. It too can alter perception, thought, emotion, and consciousness, but, on the other hand, in small amounts alcohol can be enjoyed without reality getting distorted. You can drink beer for its taste, but who smokes marijuana for the taste? (Fine, Clinton, I guess you did).
Also, marijuana lends itself to being consumed throughout the day, whereas consuming alcohol like this makes you want to vomit (although it should be noted that alcohol is poisonous, whereas marijuana is not). The parameters for “moderate” use are harder to measure with pot.
2) What is the motive behind using it?
As with any Christian liberty, the motive behind its use must always be analyzed. Would it be smoked to escape reality? Would it be inhaled to pacify spiritual aching? Marijuana, even if legally permitted, poses the very real danger of becoming a functional savior. Other things in life can pose this problem as well, but marijuana can pretend to be your savior without forcing you to leave the couch.
3) How will its use affect Christian witness?
This is the most important issue to navigate in the wake of legal marijuana. Paul reminds us that while all things may be lawful, not all things are helpful (1 Cor. 6:12, 10:23). It is legal for Christians to buy ritzy cars and wear bling, too, but this can send the message that we are materialistic.
Even if marijuana use is legal, a gospel-centered approach (in certain contexts) may be to not exercise this freedom in order to remain as the distinct people of God (Rom. 12:2). Habitual marijuana smokers also exhibit a lack of motivation, so there may be some Christians who lose their zeal for mission.
However, since recreational marijuana use lends itself towards sitting with others in a circle and philosophizing (community groups, anyone?), it may actually foster a platform to deliver the message of the mind-blowing nature of God, the fractured state of humanity, and the power of Jesus on the cross to people with a heightened sense of wonder. There are many pot-head-turned-Christians out there. Marijuana may be a tool for evangelism, and this may be their mission field:
But, on the other hand, you might think you are eloquently articulating the gospel when in fact you sound like a moron:
Anyway, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado or Washington in the near future (or you live there), take these things into account and use wisdom. Whatever the decision is, remember that it must glorify God. God desires for us to enjoy his creation, but only as an extension of enjoying Him first.
Which brings me back to my original point – let’s play “Country Roads” backwards and see if John Denver predicted a meteoric rise in Taco Bell and Cartoon Network stock, too. There is definitely nothing wrong with Christians investing while the prices are low.