Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Up In Smoke: Exposing the Smog of Pro-Pot Logic Part 2

By Pastor Mark Christopher

It should come as no surprise that there are those who claim that Jesus healed with marijuana. Those who assert this, maintain Jesus healed with oil made from cannabis extract. They further contend Jesus burned incense made from a similar extract. 

So what verifiable proof do proponents of pot-theology have for making such outlandish claims? None. It is pure, unbridled speculation blended with a copious measure of wishful thinking that drives this dagga dogma. Even if there was some validity to the claim, it is still an astonishingly long leap from anointing someone with oil to promoting smoking a joint. 

One can laugh, but given the mass appeal of all things hemp, Christians need to be able to biblically answer whether or not Scripture endorses the recreational uses of dagga. After all, there are professing believers who think that Genesis 1:29’s appeal for humanity to eat all seed-bearing plants is somehow tantamount to a green light for lighting up a joint — Never mind that this context is pre-fall and pre-curse (Rom. 8:18-23), and that eating, not smoking, is in view.

Regardless of whether or not the state sanctions the recreational use of marijuana, the Christian needs to consult the Bible first and foremost to honestly answer the questions related to dagga as a liberty issue. If the SA government should ever legalize the drug, does that mean it is permissible, under the guise of a liberty issue, to imbibe in moderation? 

In order to answer this, there are host of questions that must be asked and transparently answered before a categorical answer can be given: 

1. What is the motivation for smoking dagga? Scripture is quite clear on what the ultimate goal of life is about — to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). So can one light up a joint for the glory of God? Well, unlike the person who has the occasional drink, the motivation for smoking dagga is to get wasted. Even those who smoke occasionally do so to get stoned and feel the buzz. The motivation is to escape reality through momentary psychological and physical euphoria. This hardly agrees with the biblical mandate to find one’s joy, peace, and love by walking in the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:16, 22-23).

Given that today’s THC in a joint is at much higher concentrations than a few years ago, it only takes about four puffs of a joint (7mg. of THC) to reach research-tested levels of intoxication. So the notion that one can exercise their liberty and enjoy a joint in moderation is quite frankly a pipe dream.

2. Will smoking marijuana promote the Ephesians 5:18 command to avoid being controlled by any external influence beyond the Spirit of God? When one is in Christ, their life is to be one of being Spirit controlled, Spirit driven, and Spirit submitted. Since the Spirit of God inspired the Word of God, whatever else a Spirit-filled life is, it will be in keeping with the very word the Spirit inspired. All throughout the Bible drunkenness and intoxication is divinely condemned.  In final analysis, to be Spirit filled means one walks in the Spirit displaying some measure of fruit with its whole basket of ripened virtues. On this basis, Paul declared (1 Cor. 6:12c), "... I will not be mastered by anything."

3.  Are mind-altering drugs associated with godliness or ungodliness? In Galatians 5:20 one of the deeds of the flesh mentioned is “sorcery”, which according the Greek text speaks of witchcraft that is coupled with mind-altering substances of whatever kind. The Greek word for “sorcery” is pharmakia which addresses pagan religious magic practices that were aided by intoxicants in various magical potions or mutis. These concoctions were thought to put one into contact with the spirit realm. Interestingly, the book of Revelation uses the related terms several times (Rev. 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15), indicating the twin evils of the occult and getting loaded will increase prior to the return of Christ.

In the Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Old Testament, the commentary on Numbers 22-25 on the story of Balaam and Balak explains that the Moabites used marijuana-laced pastries to seduce Jewish men into cubicles with young Moabite maidens. While the story is probably apocryphal, it nevertheless illustrates the point. 

So rather than tending toward godliness, intoxicating substances, like dagga, lead one to the threshold of the occult, even if that is not the intended goal. 

4. Will smoking dagga encourage the disciplined mind required for living out one’s faith? We have already established that the pot of today is much stronger than in previous generations. Yet, the New Testament promotes a sober mind. The exhortation in the epistles is to be “sober minded”: 
  In relation to one’s sin and conduct (1 Cor. 15:34).

·        In relation to end times and return of Christ ( 1Thess. 5:6, 8).

·        In relation to all things (2 Tim. 4:5).

·        In persecution and trials (1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).

The term itself, “be sober”, references a self-controlled thinking that approaches reality reasonably and biblically, rather than responding irrationally and erratically. 

Therefore, straight thinking and unclouded judgment are requirements for the Christian. If one is honest, the use of dagga is antithetical to the sobriety being a Christian demands.

5. Will it harm my body? Paul reminds the Corinthians that as blood-bought believers, the body is a temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20) housing the indwelling Holy Spirit. As such, the body is reserved for glorifying God, not for doing as one pleases. Temple maintenance is, therefore, necessary. Given both the negative short term and long term effects of marijuana, use of the drug violates the temple principle and destroys that which is meant to be a vessel for God’s glory. 

6. Is using dagga for medicinal purposes okay? The Bible does record instances where the use of drugs for medicinal purposes is condoned (Ezekiel 47:12; Rev. 22:2). The balm in Gilead (Jerm. 8:22; cf. 46:16; 51:8) was a drug used because of its healing properties. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to take some wine for his stomach’s sake. Thus, when the motivation for using a drug is palliative (alleviating the ill effects) or curative, it does not pose the same ethical dilemma as recreational drug usage does. This does not imply care should not be exercised when legitimately using prescription drugs.

Finally, the Christian must ask himself/herself what the goal of the Christian life is. As stated in the previous article, we are called to be holy, not high. The child of God should strive by grace to imitate Christ, not conform to the drug-laden culture. The believer is to be characterized by the transforming grace of God rather than conforming to the spirit of the age. For in this is found the sum of being in the world, but not being of it!  

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Up In Smoke: Exposing The Smog of Pro-Pot Logic

 By Pastor Mark Christopher

It has been said that the first casualty of war is the truth. I was reminded of this recently when I turned on the TV late one night, and caught a recent  episode of Special Assignment singing the laurels of legalizing that whacky weed, known in SA as “dagga”. True to form, the Special Assignment   report was anything but unbiased and objective as they confused the issue by co-mingling two different aspects of the debate — homogenizing medical marijuana with its recreational uses. In truth, while related, these are 2 separate ethical issues that Christians need to approach differently.

Ever since the US states of Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of dagga, there has been a full-court press by the world’s media and pro-pot advocates to push for legalization of the wizard weed for more than medicinal purposes. In part, the issue came to the fore here in SA when IFP MP Mario Oriano-Ambrosini, who has stage four lung cancer, told parliament he uses dagga oil for its palliative properties to help manage the ill-effects of his treatments. 

As the issue of legalizing dagga ramps up, one can already anticipate the truncated logic and blatant propaganda that will be trotted out in hubbly — bubbly fashion to portray legalization of dagga as a Peter-Pan panacea. We can expect the same old worn out arguments that have been in vogue since the 1960s, when the counter-culture took Timothy Leary’s advice to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Sadly, many who took Leary’s advice failed to ever surface back to reality.  

So what kind of smoke-screen logic will be presented endlessly as the pro-pot lobby marshals its forces, in effort to convince the public of the benefits of recreational dagga? What follows is just a sample of what is in store:

1. “Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favour of legalizing dagga”: But is this really a compelling reason to swing the gates wide open and legalize dagga? If public opinion overwhelmingly decides that laws related to reckless driving and speeding are “archaic” and “ineffective”, should lawmakers throw up their hands in defeat and concede to public sentiment?  

2. “The war on drugs has failed”: This famous dictum is normally the first salvo fired in the debate. But the premise is flawed because it assumes, without any empirical data, that legalization will not be attended with any negative consequences. By the same line of reasoning one could just as easily conclude, based on current crime stats in SA, that the war on car-jackings, rape, violent crime, and murder have all catastrophically failed. So why not channel money used to fight crime into more positive pursuits like social up-liftment? Since poverty supposedly causes crime, this would reduce criminal activity. Right? 

In the US, the pro-pot forces have been using this rationale to great effect. Yet, when one looks at the war on poverty that began with President Johnson’s “Great Society” 50 years ago, it has epically failed. After 50 years, 20 trillion dollars in welfare distributed, the poverty stats today are comparable to those at the beginning of poverty alleviation. It has amounted to a zero-sum game — if 20 trillion dollars spent is a zero-sum game. But I don’t hear any liberal-like voices declaring, “The war on poverty has failed.” Why not?

3. “Smoking dagga is no worse than smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee”: Such logic is stratospherically stupefying. Cannabis is well documented to promote numerous negative side effects — some short term, some lasting: memory impairment and cognitive function for starters as it induces speech impediments, dulls thinking, limits knowledge retention, affects problem-solving, and hampers complex motor skills — all of which is hardly the recipe to promote safe, responsible drivers, innovative thinking, or productive workers. In a small percentage of cases dagga produces psychotic responses like when 19 year old Levy Thamba, who was visiting friends in Colorado, ate a cookie laced with dagga. He went berserk and leapt off a balcony to his death. 

Dagga smoke has more cancer-causing toxins than cigarette smoke, damaging both brain and lung cells. Where is the anti-smoking lobby now? 

In short, let me ask you, would you rather board an airplane knowing that the pilot just smoked a cigarette and drank two cups of coffee, or that he just toked two refers? Which scenario would make you feel more comfortable as that plane barrels down the runway for take-off?

4. “People are going to smoke anyway”: In a fallen, sin-cursed world, people are going to do many things that are harmful to both themselves and those around them. This is precisely why we need government and law enforcement.  So do we really want to make this rationale the cornerstone for practical ethics and morality? 

5. “Prohibition on alcohol didn’t work, so we should legalize dagga for recreational purposes”: This argument fails to acknowledge the staggering effects fuelled by alcohol abuse, alcohol related crime, domestic violence, and deaths on the streets and highways. In effect, pro-pot logic tacitly endorses, even if unintentionally so, more destruction of lives, the further demise of the family, the negative fallout on children, and the economic impacts of all this. In pro-pot logic, two wrongs make it a right.

6. “Legalizing dagga will reduce social costs”: No doubt some crime-fighting related costs could be reduced. But this will be offset by expenses related to enforcing government regulations legalization will require. Then, when one calculates the price-tag placed on the social consequences of legal dagga — dagga related crime, drugged driving, welfare costs associated with familial breakdown, and the costs on state-sponsored rehab for the legion of new addicts — the tax revenues harvested from this new cash crop will hardly cover society’s THC induced coma. Can we really afford the unstated, unintended fallout from the recreational uses of this drug? 

While a case can be made for the therapeutic and industrial benefits of dagga, it must be acknowledged that the pro-pot forces use medicinal marijuana as a backdoor entrance to recreational legalization. It has become a THC Trojan horse for dishonest proponents of the weed. My home state of California legalized medicinal dagga in 1996. According to my many law-enforcement friends in that state, the laws surrounding the implementation of medical marijuana are so porous and poorly enforced that California has no need to legalize pot for recreational purposes. Californians already enjoy recreational use of dagga by default of medicinal marijuana.

When you add it all up, what pro-pot lobbyists advocate will only serve to extend use of the drug. But if one dares to confuse them with the facts, they will use the media to take pot-shots, ridiculing their opponents in a haze of disinformation. 

The sum of pro-pot logic amounts to placing a large, red juicy Washington State apple in a barrel of rotten apples hoping for the rottenness to be reversed. The sum of this equation is really quite predictable.

 As Christians, we must remember we are called to be holy not high! 

(Note: In my next submission I will specifically address the biblical response to pro-pot thinking.)