Most Christians today would reflexively say that illegal drugs are sinful, but have no problem taking an Advil or a prescription medicine. Fewer would have a problem with a glass of wine or a beer, as long as they didn’t get drunk. But to suggest that there is only a difference of degree between a line of coke, a marijuana joint, a glass of wine, and a pair of painkillers is to somehow say that two plus two equals duck.
Well, if it looks like one and quacks like one …
Any Christian who questions the war on drugs must start somewhere in the Bible. For me, it comes down to a few key texts:
Let’s take each of those in turn.
Exodus 20:4-6 is the prohibition against worshiping objects created by God or Man. It is distinct from the previous verse, which prohibits the worship of other gods. Once I heard a preacher explain it as not worshiping living beings (like demons or people) or dead beings (like carved or grown objects). What does this have to do with drugs? Drug addiction is like worshipping a plant. Don’t get addicted and you won’t have a problem. The grayness comes from the fact that people become addicted after they ingest different amounts.
We’ll come back to Proverbs 16:4 and address Ephesians 5:18 next. “And do not get drunk with wine, [a]for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…” In the context of the scriptures around it this is a verse that advocates doing what draws you closer to God, suggesting that dissipation and drunkenness keep you from finding and feeling the Spirit of God. So don’t get intoxicated.
The verses in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1:7 apply the sobriety standard to church officials, while Titus 2:3 applies it to women as equally as it does to men. They all use the same language – addicted, enslaved, dissipated. But they don’t use words like abstain or refrain or avoid. Indeed, 1 Timothy 5:23 says to use wine for your physical ailments – that is, utilize the health benefits of something others use for sin.
Which brings us to Proverbs 16:4
The Lord has made everything for [a]its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.
Leaving aside the eschatological implications of the last half of the verse*, this implies there is a God-intended, useful, healthful, beneficial purpose for everything on the planet. Including wine. Including weed.
“But there’s no health benefits to weed!” Really? That’s what they said about alcohol a hundred years ago, and now we know otherwise – and what do we know? We know that alcohol’s health benefits are best realized with moderate consumption, like what is described in 1 Tim 5:23. Now consider marijuana. It is known to have anti-carcinogenic properties, and patients of various other ailments say it helps their infirmities. If there’s a good purpose for everything on the planet, how can you say there isn’t one for marijuana?
So why don’t we experiment and see what turns up? Because the government is too heavily invested in prohibition. They make money off the war on drugs when they seize the assets of otherwise legitimate businessmen (an act that under any other conditions would be called stealing). They use tax receipts to fund research into prohibition and then implement the recommended policies in a self-perpetuating cycle. And worst of all, they must continue it because of their hypocrisy.
They rattle on and on about how drugs are dangerous addictions that will ruin your life, but they fail to see their own addiction. The government spends millions to enhance and equip local domestic police forces to fight the war on drugs, then uses the proceeds to perpetuate the cycle instead of ending it. Over the course of time, the only thing that grows is their addiction to power – over the individual and over society as a whole.
Consider: despite a multi-decade decline in crime rates, our localities and states are not extracting a “crime dividend” from the budgets of police departments. Quite the opposite – they are accepting free equipment from the government to enhance their police forces.
“But Matt, that’s a potentially causal relationship. Police get stronger, crime goes down. What’s so hard to figure out about that?” The problem is that the crime rates were dropping across the country well before the advent of heavily armed SWAT teams in every crossroad hamlet across the land. The beginnings of the local police state, as far as I’m concerned, started with the early 2000s when the government made available surplus military equipment to any police department that accepted it. As a result, you see towns and small cities where no murder has been committed in decades equipped with Bearcats and other armored cars that require their own maintenance budget. Since they need more money, and the courts have allowed them to seize assets from drug dealers without trial, there’s then no force restraining government from becoming more powerful. The addict feeds his addiction and justifies his actions.
The fruits of this tree are poisoning our land. We must end the war on drugs and let people deal with the consequences of addiction to drugs the same way they deal with addiction to alcohol – through churches and support groups.
And if the churches aren’t equipped or capable of helping people walk away from their addictions, then why bother calling them churches at all?
* I know, I know, every Bible scholar out there is booing and throwing peanuts and popcorn at me for that, but I leave the deep theology questions to my wife, who is actually qualified to answer them (Masters of Divinity, Regent University, 2012).