Christians & Cannabis
It came in the mail. Wrapped in innocuous brown paper packaging, it could have been anything. But I opened it with trembling 7-year-old hands because it was my long-awaited WorldBook Encyclopedia that was going to answer all my questions on “How Things Work”.
Apparently, growing up, I liked to ask the question “why”. Like a LOT. So much so that my parents ordered this fascinating book to help provide pre-internet answers to some of my imponderable and precocious questions. Why did clocks keep the right time? Why does the nervous system work so quickly? Why did Canada Post take so long? If the only answer provided to my question was “because I said so”, my questions didn’t disappear, they simply went underground.
We are entering a new era here in Canada with the legalization of cannabis on Oct 17. One conversation I haven’t heard a lot about is “how should Christians respond?” (for a good primer, see The Gospel Coalition Canada’s article https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-should-christians-think-about-the-legalization-of-cannabis/)
The traditional argument touted in answer to the question “why not smoke weed?” has been fairly simplistic: “because it is illegal and Romans 13 says we should obey the laws of the land.” But once you take away the legality or non-legality of the question, what are you left with?
While the Bible doesn’t speak specifically about the modern category of drugs (legal or illegal), it does speak to a few of the issues underlying this conversation.
A Theology of the Body
One of the first things for a Christian to consider is that our bodies are a gift from God and they are the primary way in which we experience the world and interact with God. If we put anything into our bodies (foods, medicine, addictive substances) that affects or alters this fabric of relationality, we need to pay careful attention and ask he question “why”. What is driving me to alter my mental and neuro-chemical stasis? For some, it might be the avoidance or minimization of pain (this is the case with medical marijuana). For others, it might be an attempt to escape the harsh vicissitudes of reality or experience a temporary high. Dulling our senses or embracing escapism should sound a cautionary note, however, for us. Because “the Lord cares about our bodies” (I Cor. 6:13). Embracing and indeed pursing a lack of self-control is warned against all over the Scriptures.
A Theology of Liberty
The church in Corinth seems to have written Paul with a whole much of “why” questions. One of their inquiries centred around whether or not they were permitted to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. “It’s just meat” they argued. “What’s the harm of putting a little protein in my body?” Instead of making this an issue of legality, Paul lays out a helpful groundwork to draw us in to the tension between personal liberty and communal responsibility.
“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” (I Cor 10:23-24).
When you apply this to cannabis, Paul’s argument here is quite helpful. Yes, as of Oct 17 you might be allowed by law to do quite a bit of things that are currently prohibited (except display your pot plants in the window, apparently), but not everything is good for you. Asking not only “is this beneficial for me?” but also “how do my actions impact those around me?” needs to drive more of our thinking. If I am a youth sponsor or teacher, for example, how will my exercise of freedom impact those who look up to me? If I am a parent, what does my use of cannabis model for my children about how to engage with the world?
Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is beneficial.