Is smoking marijuana a sin?
Well, it used to be that you could say, “Yes, because it’s illegal.” And that would be that.
But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin?
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Often, marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk; or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But, if you take one puff on a joint or a bite of “Aunt Mary Jane’s Special Brownies”, you get high. The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning.
While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)
But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us!
Yeah… there are plenty of poisonous plants you don’t apply that logic to.
Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?
1 Peter 4 says:
Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they’re surprised when you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:2-5)
The Bible says, Be sober minded. (1 Peter 5:8); and Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5); Set your mind on the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). You mind should not be mastered by anything else…
…when we understand the text.
I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
At the forefront of biomedical ethics is controversy over the experimentation that is now being conducted and might in the future be conducted with human embryos. A really interesting report came out last week on National Public Radio’s morning edition program by science editor Rob Stein. He writes,
“Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.
“‘As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas.’”
At this point Rob Stein said that Brivanlou was “perhaps only half joking.”
But this is where we need to understand that this kind of joke is pointing to a very deep moral reality that actually represents an urgent moral crisis, and that is the fact that those weird ideas that this researcher talks about is actually not just science fiction, something that might happen in the future, it’s about what is happening right in his laboratory as reported in this NPR story right now. Brivanlou, according to Stein, knows that some of his research makes people uncomfortable. Stein says that’s one reason he’s agreed to give the science editor at NPR a look at what’s going on. The summary of the research is very clear. In this particular lab and others they’ve now discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab conditions longer than ever before, at least 14 days. That’s the claim being made about Brivanlou’s lab and at least one other.
The big story here is the keeping the embryos longer than 14 days. And actually, the big story is the ability to keep those embryos available and alive for experimentation for over 14 days. Now why is that such a big story? Well, it’s a huge story as this NPR report makes clear precisely because 14 days had been established for two reasons. First of all, it was the point at which a moral boundary was thought to be crossed with what scientists at least had defined as “individuation.” But there was also a second issue, and that’s merely technological. It was not believed that laboratories would have the ability to keep those embryos alive past 14 days. To state the merely obvious, this is a human embryo that is in a laboratory situation and is not as embryos were intended to be implanted in a mother’s womb. But Rob Stein now reports Brivanlou in his lab and at least one other,
“Discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage.”
Now if you could see the story you would understand that there was a parenthetical statement there. Inside the parenthesis, speaking of this convention that embryo research could not continue beyond 14 days, we were told that this is one—a convention that is—that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S. Now that’s a very soon clarification, because not only is this kind of moral law not binding in the United States on medical researchers, but there are almost no legal restraints whatsoever in terms of human experimentation on embryos in the United States. Let’s be clear, at this point there is no law in the United States preventing experimentation on human embryos even to the point of attempting to clone a human being. That effort might be beyond our technological ability, but at this point it’s not actually against the law.
When Stein reports what’s going on in this laboratory and the pressing against current moral barriers, we are told that Brivanlou is using human stem cells to “create entities that resemble certain aspects of primitive embryos.”
According to the NPR report,
“Brivanlou doesn’t believe that these ‘embryoids,’” as he calls them in contrast to human embryos, “would be capable of developing into fully formed embryos, their creation has stirred debate about whether embryoids should be subject to the 14-day rule.”
So to cut to the chase, the key question at first is this, what would actually be the distinction between a human embryo, acknowledged by all persons to be a human embryo, and what this researcher wants to call merely an embryoid? Well, it becomes clear that origin is at least part of the explanation, because human embryos as they have been defined, are products of human cells, that is the male and the female reproductive cell. This particular entity he’s calling an embryoid would actually be the product of stimulating human stem cells to create something very much like an embryo. Of course, the question is, how much like an embryo? And the answer is that this particular researcher doesn’t think that these embryoids will be capable of developing into a fully human embryo, but there’s actually nothing biological that explains why they would not. This could well end up being a distinction without a difference.
Right here in this story broadcast last week on National Public Radio we see how researchers keep pushing past not only previously unreachable technological barriers, but moral barriers as well. We are told at one time this will be the absolute moral barrier that will protect human dignity, and the next thing you know, once the technological barrier is crossed or at least it looks like the technological barrier might be crossed, you see scientists arguing that now we have to loosen the moral concerns as well. For example, Brivanlou says that he welcomes debates about human embryo research,
“But he hopes society can reach a consensus to permit his work to continue, so he can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”
Now that’s exactly the kind of devil’s bargain that we see again and again. If you just allow us to cross this moral barrier, we will cure cancer. If you just allow us to cross the next moral barrier, we will eventually defeat mortality and death. And here we are told that if you just allow this researcher to cross this moral boundary,
“He can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”
What are those questions? Brivanlou said,
“If I can provide a glimpse of, ‘Where did we come from? What happened to us, for us to get here?’ I think that, to me, is a strong enough rationale to continue pushing this.”
There you have a very straightforward claim being made by this scientist. It’s a moral imperative in his view that we simply have to allow him to keep expanding this research in order to answer fundamental questions, questions so basic as, where did we come from? He claims he can answer those questions if we will just allow him to expand the moral boundaries to create embryoids, as he calls them, and to allow them to pass that 14 day limit.
But even as Stein tells us, for decades scientists thought the longest an embryo could survive outside the womb was only about a week, but this has now enabled scientists to continue research pressing beyond that to study “living human embryos at a crucial point in their development, a time when they’re usually hidden in a woman’s womb.”
Now there’s an amazing concession. The embryo, in other words, would be exactly where it belongs, in a woman’s womb. The researcher said,
“Women don’t even know they are pregnant at that stage. So it has always been a big black box.”
There is an absolutely amazing testimony in this article to the wonder of God’s creation, not only of the entire cosmos and even of human beings in particular as the only creature made in his image, but every single human being and that includes, of course, every single human embryo. One of the most amazing things in this article is that the researchers explain that,
“Those willowy structures are what embryos would normally extend at this stage to search for a place to implant inside the uterus. Scientists used to think embryos could do that only if they were receiving instructions from the mother’s body.”
“The amazing thing is that it’s doing its thing without any information from mom. It just has all the information already in it. That was mind-blowing to me.”
Well to Christians, it should simply be an affirmation of the fact that God has implanted within this embryo the entire plan for its implantation in its mother’s womb, and of course God’s plan beyond that for the entire life of a single individual human being.
Scientism is actually one of the major rival worldviews to biblical Christianity in our age. Scientism holds that the experimental method of science, modern secular science, actually holds the key to discovering the basic knowledge of the universe outside of ourselves and inside of ourselves. Scientism holds that science is the authoritative form of knowledge, everything else has to conform to the norms of modern science, and furthermore, this creates a cast of specialists who are scientists who hold the upper hand in any kind of public debate. That’s exactly what we see in this article. The argument that we hear from so many scientists that if something can be done, it must be done and in the promise that if they are just allowed to do this they will bring about modern miracles. As Stein says,
“The two scientists think studying embryos at this and later stages could lead to discoveries that might point to new ways to stop miscarriages, treat infertility and prevent birth defects.”
Now just remember that Brivanlou a few paragraphs previous had promised to unleash and unlock the entire secret to the universe if only he would be allowed to proceed with this experimentation. Stein summarizes the report as telling us that Brivanlou and his colleagues now believe that they can encourage human embryos to live beyond 14 days, and thus to be subjects of human experimentation. They argue that this can be done so it must be done. It is acknowledged that the 14 day rule is actually in place for moral reasons. As Stein says,
“The 14-day rule was developed decades ago to avoid raising too many ethical questions about experimenting on human embryos.”
But Brivanlou now says it is time to rethink the 14 day rule. This is the moment, he says, and we are told that this debate is now taking place outside the United States.
Here we find another argument we will encounter over and over again, it comes down to this. If we do not conduct this research, then someone else will. Better we do it, comes the argument, given our superior morality than allowing others to do it, for perhaps nationalistic or even racial reasons. Another dimension is revealed when a bioethicist is cited from Case Western Reserve University, he also advocates revisiting the rule as it’s said here,
“It would allow more research to be done on embryos that are destined to be destroyed anyway, he says — embryos donated by couples who have finished infertility treatment.”
Well, what’s not acknowledged here is that we’re talking about a market in and experimentation on human embryos that are “destined to be destroyed anyway.”
At this point, the Christian worldview simply has to interject and say, here’s a huge problem when you’re talking about experimentation on human embryos, that’s one problem, and then destroying those embryos. Those who are committed to a biblical Christian understanding of human dignity and human personhood have to understand that what that means is the willful destruction of a human being, a human being at a very early stage of development.
I’m thankful that NPR at least quoted a bioethicist at Georgetown University who has very serious moral concerns. He said,
“Pushing it beyond 14 days only aggravates what is the primary problem, which is using human life in its earliest stages solely for experimental purposes.”
That researcher, Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, gets the issue absolutely right. Later in the article when Dr. Brivanlou tries to assure us that his embryoids that might become a human embryo would not actually become a human being. He offers us this comfort,
“They will not get up start walking around. I can assure you that.”
That is cold comfort, indeed, what we’re looking at here is the devaluation of human life, not only in the laboratory when we’re talking about a human embryo, but every single human life at every single point of development, every stage of life. It’s important for us to understand the major worldviews of the day, the rival worldviews to Christianity. Scientism is, as I said, one of the most important and powerful of those rival worldviews. And in this article we see exactly how the worldview of Scientism works. If it can be done, it must be done. If it might be done, we should be the doers. Technological barriers are meant to be crossed and if that means tearing down moral barriers, then so be it. The scariest aspect of this article is where the researchers talk openly about the need for another clear stopping point. What’s abundantly clear is that when it comes to the worldview of Scientism, there is no stopping point.
Next in recent days, a major research report on Muslims and Islam was released by the Pew Research Center, one of the most authoritative research institutions in the world, especially when it comes to understanding religion and religious worldviews across the globe. As the Pew Research Center tells us, in terms of the key findings of this research, perhaps the biggest is that Muslims are now the fastest-growing religious group in the world. Muslims are actually the only religious group in the world growing faster than the world’s own population. Every other major world religion, Christianity included, is actually falling behind the rise of the population. So the population rate is growing faster than Christianity is expanding, and that’s true of every other major worldview with the exception of Islam.
There are a couple of reasons given for that. In terms of the Pew data, one of the most important of these comes down to reproduction. In the Muslim world reproduction rates are extremely high, as is the average age of the population. Those two issues, by the way, go together. The younger the population, the more likely there’s going to be a high rate of reproduction. In terms of basic numbers, we’re told that Islam is expected to grow by 73% between the years 2010 and 2050, even as the world’s population is going to grow by 37% over the same period. When it comes to Christians, the expectation is that those who identify as Christians, in terms of the global population will increase by about 35% over the same period. So to get this straight, Christian growth about 35%, growth in the population at large 37%, growth in Islam, 73%. That’s a massive fact.
In terms of projections, in 2010 there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, 2.17 billion Christians. But by 2050, there will be 2.76 billion Muslims and 2.92 billion Christians, again, more Christians than Muslims projected by the year 2050. But if the projections continue, all that switches by at least 2070 when Islam will have a larger number of followers than those who identify as Christians.
There are many interesting dimensions in this research. For one thing, even though there are many Middle Eastern nations that are overwhelmingly Muslim, only a small fraction of the world’s Muslim population actually lives in the Middle East, only about 20%; 80% live elsewhere. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and in Africa. At present, the largest population of Muslims in the world is in the nation of Indonesia, but this research indicates that that country is likely to be eclipsed by India, which will remain overwhelmingly Hindu but still have the largest Muslim population of any nation on earth.
A final look at this research also tells us something really interesting. As The Telegraph reports,
“Atheists, agnostics and non-religious people will decline from 16.4 per cent of the world’s population to 13.2 per cent by 2050, the report added, despite growing in Europe and North America.”
So let’s just ask the question, if we’ve been talking about a resurgence of agnosticism and atheism, the rise of the so-called nones or those with no religious affiliation, how in the world can they actually be a declining portion of the world’s population? The reason for that is quite simple. The exception to that will be in Europe and in North America which are continuing a secular trajectory, but the other factors that will limit the growth of the total population of unbelievers is the fact that, well you’ve guessed it, they actually are the least likely of all of these religious groups to reproduce.
Atheists have lots of ideas and no shortage of theories, but it turns out they don’t have many children. One of the reasons we should also note that Christianity is at a falling birthrate is because so many Christians, especially in secularized nations, have made some peace with the secular worldview, and we also need to note that liberal theology is similarly tied to a fall in the birth rate among Christians. The research released last week is really important. It’s expected that it will be of great interest to political and economic leaders around the world. But to Christians it should serve as a wake-up call, a wake-up call about a vast change taking place not only in the global picture, but even more importantly in our mission field.
Finally, the issue of marijuana was back on the front page of several newspapers, two of them from California, yesterday’s editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Fresno Bee. First, we look to San Francisco, where it’s reported that,
“Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and her physician husband, Dr. Floyd Huen, are turning their talents from politics to pot — and not with the greatest of results.”
The Chronicle tells us that the former Mayor and her husband “are partners in a medical marijuana dispensary looking to be licensed in San Francisco’s heavily Asian American Outer Sunset [neighborhood].”
But it’s really interesting here that the neighborhood evidently doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary. It’s a sign of the times that one of the arguments being made in favor of this marijuana dispensary in this neighborhood in the San Francisco area is that it will be necessary in order to demonstrate the increased diversity of the cannabis corporate community. You can see that coming. The doctor husband of the former Mayor said,
“It’s important that Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities take positions of leadership within the cannabis business community to bring greater diversity to the industry.”
But here we simply have to note that the entire story is about a predominately Asian neighborhood that doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary down the street from their children.
The story in yesterday’s edition of the Fresno Bee is interesting as much for its headline as anything else. The article by Rory Appleton has the headline,
“Fresno Councilman’s column on pot misstates use by children.”
This is a fact check column in the Fresno Bee and Appleton writes,
“Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld announced his opposition Monday to recreational marijuana and said he will ask the City Council to impose a dispensary ban.”
We are told he’s the first councilmember in Fresno to call for such a prohibition. And then we are told that in a post he had written in order to explain his position, he made some claims, including this one,
“Since the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th and 12th graders across the nation.”
Fact checker says that’s false. He cites research from the very same organization, that’s the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which on its website says,
“Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders and remains unchanged.”
Now, which is true? Well, it probably has something to do with the actual subject category and whether it’s talking about a local or a national issue. But in any event, the headline was telling us that this Councilman’s column on marijuana misstates the use of marijuana by children. But what’s really interesting is that the article continues citing several other citations from the Councilman’s article, including the citation that,
“Proposition 64, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, not surprisingly passed statewide in November 2016 but wisely failed in Fresno County with 54% of the people voting against legalization.”
The fact checker has to say, well, that’s true.
“53 percent of Fresno voters were against Proposition 64. But what [the councilman] did not note: In the city of Fresno, 51.4 percent voted in favor of it.”
What exactly does that have to do with anything? Well, it tells us what we should already know and that is that those in urban areas are more liberal, more libertarian, more apt to vote for something like this. But you’ll simply note, it’s still only 51.4%. As the article concludes the fact checker looks at several other sections from the Councilman’s speech and basically in every case says true, true, true—true that these dispensaries can open for business if allowed on January 1, 2018; true that Proposition 64 now allows individuals 21 years or older to legally smoke marijuana; and to grow up to six plants in their home even if they are next elementary schools, it turns out that’s true; and true, additionally, Proposition 64 allows these dispensaries to advertise and promote marijuana on television, though commercials promoting smoking have been banned for decades. It turns out again that’s true. There might be some question as to whether the media will allow such advertising, especially since the use and possession of marijuana remains a federal crime, but there is no prohibition per se on such advertisements. And then finally what’s really important,
“The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the State of Washington approved legalization.”
The fact checker says,
“True. The foundation’s website notes that the deaths [from smoking marijuana and driving] doubled from 2013 to 2014.”
All that’s really interesting and sufficiently concerning, but what’s really most interesting to me is the headline in the article. It’s about where the Councilman was wrong or its claim was wrong talking about rates of childhood and teenage marijuana smoking. But when you get to the article, and there is the affirmation that indeed traffic deaths from marijuana use have increased by 100% in just one year, and when it’s found to be true, the big question is, why in the world wasn’t that the headline? And when you think about it, I think we actually know the answer. There’s no question where the major media on this issue really stand.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Recently, producer Jefferson Drexler and I sat down with a friend of mine, Chris, who is a police officer here in Southern California to get a Christian police officer’s perspective on the challenges Christians and other people of faith are facing and will be facing in the days and years to come. Part one of our discussion revolved around California’s Prop. 57. And today, we shine a spotlight on Prop. 64: the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative.
Jefferson Drexler, e2 media network producer: The legalization of marijuana is a hot topic sweeping across the nation. Several states have disregarded the federal legal stance on it and have legalized it within their state borders. Proponents equate regulated marijuana with alcohol and tobacco – “vices” that can be regulated and taxed for the community’s overall good. Many also say that it is less harmful than alcohol, as people who get high from smoking a joint are too mellow to get behind the wheel of a car.
But, Chris… you’ve seen the truth.
Chris, Southern California Police Officer: First off, I think that there is greater truth in people who are willing to admit that they just want to get high versus someone with an actual medical need for a medicinal marijuana recommendation card.
Joel Fieri, Big Picture Podcast Host: It’s not just young adults. I know several people in their 50’s and 60’s who have their cards and claim to “medically need” their pot.
Chris: Right. It’s a complete scam.
But, from my perspective, I have no choice but to see marijuana as a gateway drug to harder drugs. It’s almost unheard of to talk to someone who is addicted to heroine, meth or cocaine and to learn that they went directly to the hard drug. Almost 100% of the time, they started their drug habit with pot.
I have written hundreds of affidavits in support of search warrants for all kinds of drug investigations, and marijuana is known by a lot of different names, in regards to street vernacular: cannabis, pot, Mary Jane, weed, ganja, even the devil’s weed. That’s right, “The Devil’s Weed” is actually written into official affidavits. And, as a Christian, I believe that marijuana is one of the many tools used by the devil, himself.
Jefferson: And ever since Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, pot has been labeled as a gateway drug. But, what do you tell all those people who claim that a vast majority of pot smokers stop there? They may have a beer and a joint… and that’s the end of it. They don’t end up addicted to heroine. How do you balance that equation? Or does it even matter?
Chris: Well, I often answer with a question of my own… especially to other Christians who might be contemplating to either vote to legalize marijuana or to use it themselves. How does smoking pot comport with the Bible? What would be the Biblical view on taking a substance into your body – a temple created by God – that will have mind-altering effects?
Joel: It’s not just mind altering, but mind damaging, too… right?
Chris: It absolutely is. There have been all kinds of studies. Scientists have learned that even up into your 30’s, your brain is still forming and its development can be hampered by smoking pot. It’s stereotypical, but there is truth to it as well… but, you don’t need to look any further than Sean Penn’s character, Jeff Spicoli, to see how pot can damage your brain.
Jefferson: But, if you look at recreational drug use as being similar to having a glass of wine, does that change the argument at all?
Chris: I think, as humans, we can justify a lot of things. But, that doesn’t make it the right thing. The fact is that with alcohol, you can have a glass of wine or a 12-ounce bottle of beer or a shot of harder alcohol and, because alcohol is so tightly regulated, odds are you can still be within the legal threshold of being allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. But, in the case of marijuana, this type of regulation simply doesn’t exist. The potency, or THC content, of a single joint will vary greatly depending on how it’s grown, what variety it is, and how it is ingested among a plethora of other variables.
So, depending on if it was smoked, vaped, or blended into edibles, the potency and the length of time that it stays in your system will vary greatly.
This is why states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon – states where recreational marijuana has already been made legal – have had to go back and make changes to their laws in order to reduce the likelihood of tragedies such as children mistakenly getting into their parents’ edibles and dying.
Joel: I have heard several stories coming out of Colorado, but what have police officers actually seen since the state has legalized recreational pot?
Chris: Instances of Driving While Intoxicated have certainly gone up. And, it’s a misnomer to assume that they are all under the influence of alcohol… many of them are intoxicated by pot. Roadway fatalities have increased.
And, just because marijuana is made legal, this does not mean that you’re going to have a decrease in criminal activity associated with it. In fact, there have been a number of armed robberies at Cannabis retail locations as well as medical dispensaries.
And that’s not exclusive to Colorado. Here in San Diego County, there have been multiple burglaries and armed robberies, including a shooting just this last year at a local medical dispensary.
So, wherever marijuana is legalized, there is definitely an increase in crime… even violent crime.
Jefferson: Then there is the argument of “Bad guys are going to do bad things. If they weren’t knocking off the dispensary, they would have been holding up the local 7-11.”
Then, the other side of this coin is to look at all the tax dollars. If we really did this right, and tax the snot out of it, we could really make a difference!
Chris: That’s a little Machiavellian, though, don’t you think? The ends justifying the means?
Joel: Not to mention the societal cost. Is it worth that societal price?
Jefferson: But, if we tax it enough, then it will make it just out of reach of the casual stoner and we would be able to raise money to do greater good with.
Chris: Well, but you also perpetuate the black market. If you tax it, there will be a black market so that it can be procured at a lesser price, and the government isn’t going to get their cut.
Joel: Plus, do the potential taxes raised outweigh the social cost of having a state full of stoned people? I’ve read that in Colorado, there are droves of people going there with no other purpose but to get legal pot. And now there are scores of “lost souls” on the streets who just want to get high all the time.
Chris: I think most residents of San Diego County have seen first hand the increase in the number of homeless people on our streets. And sadly, the vast majority of our homeless population have mental health related issues and/or chemical substance abuse issues. Often times, the two go hand-in-hand.
Jefferson: So, this crosses us over into the medical side of it. There has been study after study that reveal medical benefits of cannabis. From ease of pain or appetite control for cancer patients to aiding with glaucoma to PTSD… the list goes on and on. There are even reports of cannabis oil being used in a diffuser for children suffering from seizures, autism, ADHD, or anxiety issues… and the kids are seemingly miraculously cured. Is there any room in our society for regulated medical marijuana?
Chris: I believe that there is… or at least, there should be. Back in 1996, California was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana with or Compassionate Use Act. Sadly, this law was completely perverted in favor of the people who wanted to get rich and today, there are more people who have stuffed their pockets with cash by manipulating this law than there are people who have compassionately benefited from using marijuana.
And let’s be honest, there is no medicine that is smoked.
The Compassionate Use Act’s original intent was pure, but it is nearly impossible to regulate. Plus, if pot is truly effective enough to be referred to as medicinal, why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration begun regulating it? There is no set criteria for testing… not just potency, but its overall safety. Unlike regulated medicines, there are all sorts of variable components that go into growing marijuana that no one who ingests it really knows what they are putting into their system.
Jefferson: So, it all boils down to truth, right? There’s the original intent of something like the Compassionate Use Act… but then there is the truth of how it has been contorted… and thirdly, there is the law that you, as a police officer are called to uphold. How do you fight that battle over truth? If you see a scenario where on one side of the street are druggies getting high and on the other side of the street is a well-intended mom who wants to do whatever she has to do to make her sick child well again… what do you do?
Chris: That’s a great question. And, I have served several search warrants at homes where there was legitimate use of medical marijuana. You see, for medicinal purposes, the law allows for not only possession, use, and ingestion, but also cultivation in limited quantities. So, I have served search warrants where a neighbor noticed that someone on their block was growing pot – and cultivation of marijuana is a felony – and the person growing the weed has their paperwork all in order.
Now, at this point, I have to set the record straight… when we serve search warrants like this, it’s not like what the public thinks. There is no SWAT team or sirens and bullhorns. Most of the time, it’s people in civilian attire simply knocking at the door – very low key – speaking with the residents, going inside, and securing the premises. Many times, we are in and out in less than ten minutes. If people simply comply with the law, then there shouldn’t be any fear that law enforcement will make an arrest or things will get escalated.
Jefferson: I like that… if you simply obey the law, then you’re going to be fine.
Joel: We have reasonable laws, and if you don’t like them, you can always petition your legislatures.
But, getting back to our Christian perspective, we should be compassionate and try to be understanding, but we cannot allow ourselves to be intentionally naïve. That’s the thing that I see too much of these days. There is a fine line between trying to understand what the other side has to say and truth.
Now, I grew up with potheads… people who just wanted to get high. And, so much of what I see in the movement to legalize marijuana is that very thinly disguised desire to have a society where anyone can get stoned whenever they want.
The reasonableness of the movement gets lost in all this. There may be honest people with honest intentions behind it, but I have known far too many stoners who will lie and twist truths and push boundaries in order to get their pot.
That’s why I think we need to look at the truth – especially from those like you, Chris, who deal with this regularly – and consider the real social cost we will have to pay, regardless of any amount of tax dollars that might be brought in.
Jefferson: But, isn’t that the same logic that preceded and then was overturned with Prohibition?
Chris: I think that it’s interesting to note that as recently as this summer, our Federal Government maintained the classification status of marijuana. It has been, and continues to be, a schedule one controlled substance. And, words have meaning. It’s not a narcotic – that’s a completely different arena. But, as a schedule one controlled substance, it is defined as being addictive and has no known medical benefits.
Now, there is probably some room for argument in regards to its medical benefits, and some people maintain that it’s not addictive… and it’s true that there are people who can use it once or twice without growing addicted to it.
But I, personally, have known people who are absolutely addicted to pot… and I have seen it destroy families. So, there may be some analogy between marijuana and alcohol, but just because alcohol has been legal for several decades, this doesn’t mean that we should legalize a substance just so people can get stoned.
And, the truth is that you don’t see a whole lot of violent crime from alcoholics who are needing to get alcohol. Yeah, there are liquor stores that get robbed and people are killed in those robberies, but there is a significantly greater number of people who are willing to commit violent armed robberies so that they can get marijuana – not just for themselves, but so that they can sell it to other people. It’s a huge commodity.
Joel: Yeah, liquor store robberies aren’t usually for the liquor; it’s usually for the cash in the cash register.
Chris: Right… whereas marijuana, they want the cash, but they also want the product so that they can resell that.”
Again, let me stress that we, as responsible citizens, need to do our own due diligence and vote as our faith and our consciences lead us. With so much at stake for our communities, our state and our nation, as Christians we should do no less.
Join us next week as we continue our discussion with Chris, as he shines a Christian cop’s light on more vital issues.
Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we examine healthy ways to stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable or convenient and into what is intentional and purposeful in regards to raising your kids. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and just like you, I want my kids to be accepted and viewed as “normal”, without compromising an inch of their integrity and values.
Which brings me right to this week’s topic: should good Christian parents allow their kids to participate in yoga?
I have seen one article after another basically saying, “Absolutely not! It’s the ‘gateway drug’ to all things ungodly. Spiritually speaking, you may as well dance with the devil, himself (or at least Ganesha).”
On the flipside, I have spoken with several others who say, “I know the origins of yoga, but we don’t ‘go there’. We ignore every utterance of “aligning your chakra” or “centering your chi”. We don’t truly ‘empty ourselves’, because there’s simply too much on my todo list to ignore it all.”
So, what’s the right answer? Both? Neither?
I tend to view things like this from a much broader lens. Lately, my wife and I have been much less concerned about the specificities of what we are allowing into our kids’ live, and more concerned about what is being “normalized” in their lives.
In other words, we look at the things what were once outside of their day-to-day lives, or even considered “taboo”, by their understandings of our rules and family culture, that are now being questioned whether or not they should be moved into the “normal” category of life.
We easily see this in American entertainment.
Once upon a time, any “bad words” at all were kept from all television programming airing before the 11:00 news.
Then came Hill Street Blues.
Hill Street broke ground by showing an intense gunfight where an officer was caught saying “Son of a Bitch” by New York news cameras.
Suddenly, it was normal for “bad words” to be aired in the 10:00 time slot.
It didn’t take long at all before you started hearing more and more previously banned swearing in the 9:00 slot, and even earlier. Now, with hundreds more channels available 24 hours a day, you never know what words you’ll hear as you flip from the Disney channel, through Nickelodeon, past Cartoon Network and into Esquire or AMC.
And no one cares.
It’s become normal.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all channels should be censored. I’m merely pointing out that what was once taboo in American broadcasting has been redefined as normal.
The same thing applies in movies in regards to language, violence, and partial nudity. I mean, when I was a boy, there wasn’t even a separation of full nudity and partial nudity. If clothing were removed from where they once were, the movie got an R rating. If they kept their underwear on, it got a PG rating. Now, with the advent of PG-13, the lines are blurring and different standards for what is considered “normal” is ever changing.
Combining these two situations, where it was once racy to see married couple Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport merely talking about their day while in bed (again, Hill Street Blues, after 10:00) – now the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is primetime and promoted like it’s the Super Bowl.
All this to say, there has been a shift in what broadcasting companies and television viewers determine as “normal”.
So, what does this have to do with yoga?
Well, firstly, let’s look at what yoga is “normally” defined as: It’s exercise and core muscle toning through a variety of stretches and poses. Under that normal definition, I see it as totally harmless. Good for you and your kids.
But, wait! There’s more!
It’s really no secret that yoga is derived from an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism. It’s traditional poses and origins all point to Hindu gods, rituals, and ideology. One technique that often accompanies the stretching and poses is mentally emptying oneself in order to center and balance oneself.
So, as Bible-believing Christians, do you want that to be a part of your weekly fitness diet? Or, if you would forgive yet another metaphor, can your diet consist of fast food, so long as you don’t partake of the fries, shakes and soda? In other words, can your fitness diet consist of yoga, without the “focusing your id”, “cleansing your aura”, or “bowing before Ganesha”?
Most people would answer yes!
However, then there are those who point to yoga’s origins and protest, insisting that its very foundation is steeped in Hinduism, so therefore has no part in a Christian household.
That’s a tough argument, assuming consistency is a priority in your life. Especially since so many of our Christmas and Easter traditions are steeped in paganism and other non-Christian practices.
You’re wondering why I’m on the fence.
Here’s the deal: I believe that the Bible is very clear on having no other gods but the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, hallowed be Thy name” to. That’s the only God – no exception.
Therefore, if the yoga you are working out to hints to any acceptance (or normalization) of another god – run!
Don’t make even the acceptance that there are other gods “normal” in your workout routines, much less in your household.
Likewise, the Bible tells us that we should fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. How does this look? I believe “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is evidenced by your life showing examples of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, anything that instructs us to “empty ourselves”, or “empty your mind” runs against this Biblical teaching. We’re not created to be empty. We are meant to be filled!
So, my bottom line on yoga is this – if you work out at home, at a studio, at the beach, at a park… wherever, and you do it in such a matter that doesn’t “normalize” what the Bible clearly defines as out of bounds – stretch away!
However, if your instructor, or studio, or video, or app brings anything into the mix that God wants us to avoid, not in a harmful way, but in a neutral or even helpful way… run!
And my main point is this – I’ve been using television, movies and yoga as simple illustrations of a larger issue facing parents today.
The major question is: What are you “normalizing” in your house? What are the areas that you know were once considered taboo, but because of a shifting culture outside your home’s walls, are now considered “normal”? These things may or may not be harmful to you and your kids, but I guarantee that once they are accepted as normal, they take residence in your home and change the direction of your home’s moral compass.
Am I saying that all television is bad and only hell-bound families subscribe to HBO? Absolutely not!! I am saying that if you allow your kids to watch certain programming because everyone else is, the next level of “questionable shows” will be queued up much sooner than you think. Therefore, maybe you should even reconsider what you and your spouse view as “normal” things to be watching.
Am I saying that Godly homes never have any alcohol except rubbing alcohol and Nyquil?
Absolutely not!! I am saying that the Bible is very clear on not getting drunk. If you want a beer or two at a backyard barbecue, knock one back! If you enjoy a fine glass of Georges Latour or even two-buck-chuck with your steak, swirl and sip away! But if you’re drinking for the purpose of getting buzzed, much less loaded… run!
(You know, now that I think about it, there seems to be a common thread here… maybe we should all just take up running!)
Anyway, the same thing can be said about medicinal marijuana, recreational pot, trashy entertainment, horror flicks, fifty-shades of whatever books… the list goes on and on. Ask yourself what you consider “normal”, what you consider “out of bounds” and how do these boundaries measure up against what Scripture says?
I’m not saying we should all be monks. I am saying that we need to be perpetually on guard to what is being defined as “normal” in the lives of our family and continually discuss with our kids what the Bible says about filling our minds and our bodies with such things.
That is how my wife and I Parent Like We Mean It!