Sunday, March 1, 2015
Christianity, the Drug War, and Legalization
I have had my first complaint this week about my new website. On the Welcome Page there are a number of photos that are descriptive of this ministry and what it's trying to accomplish. One of them was a picture of a marijuana plant, and the caption read, “legalize, regulate and tax marijuana”. Since I've been pro-legalization since the 1970's, and since God made that plant along with all the rest of them (see Genesis chapter 1 verse 11) it was only natural that I include it in my website. But someone – I won't say who – complained about my posting that photo on the Web, so as of today I have replaced it with another. If anyone else was offended by that photo, then I will apologize for that, but not for my reasons why I posted it there. Inspired by this experience, I broke out and updated this 2012 posting about the drug war, which has become even more relevant today than it was when I first wrote it. So, read on and enjoy!
Are America's Drug Laws in Line With God's Laws?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
The Bible says in the Old Testament “Obey the laws of the land in which you are living, so that it may go well for you where you abide”. This is always good advice. Jail is no place for anyone to be, and it is that way by design to deter crime. But what if the laws we are duty-bound to obey run contrary to the Bible? Is it possible for a man-made law to be contrary to the Bible's teachings? And if so, should we still obey it? Is there an example of this anywhere in the Bible?
The answer to all of these is an emphatic yes. The most obvious example of this would be the crucifixion of Christ Jesus himself. If we take all the religious teaching in the Bible and set it aside for just a moment, we find that from a purely historical perspective Jesus was crucified as a criminal because He preached against organized government and organized religion. It is not well understood by many people that the teachings of Christ were revolutionary in their time, a fact that the modern church is not teaching (excluding mine), much to their discredit. When Jesus taught, he spent much more time with the common people than He did at the temple at Jerusalem, where His teachings were met with much consternation among the religious establishment of that time. He was viewed by the political and religious establishment as a threat, and so they put Him to death, not realizing that He would only be in the grave for three days. Another example would be in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. When Daniel refused to bow down to the god of king Nebuchadnezzar, the king had Daniel thrown into the lions den, only to emerge a few minutes later unharmed. When the king sentenced Shadrac, Meshac, and Abednigo to the firey furnace that was heated up to 7 times hotter than normal (see Daniel chapter, they too were unharmed. Instead, the king looked into the furnace and saw four men instead of three, “and the fourth man looked like the Son of Man”, which was Jesus Christ. Jesus stood with Shadrac, Meshac, and Abednigo in king Nebuchadnezzar's great furnace and protected them from harm. He did so despite the fact that they had been given a death sentence by the governmental authority of their day.
The most relevant question to ask at this point is whether there is an example of this in modern times, and how it applies to us. The unfortunate answer in this case is also an emphatic yes, and I am talking about the criminalization of marijuana (and its cousin, hemp, one of the most useful plants that exists with numerous applications) in this country. (Beg your pardon, pastor? Marijuana! Been smoking any?) Before anyone jumps to conclusions or judges me for my words, I have two Scriptural examples of what I am talking about. Just hold your thoughts for a moment for a quick check of God's Word. In the book of Acts in the New Testament, it says the following in chapter ten:
“About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up … to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him 'Get up Peter, kill and eat!'. 'Surely not Lord', Peter replied, 'I have never eaten anything impure and unclean'. The voice spoke to him a second time 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean'. This happened three times, and then the sheet was taken back to heaven.” (Acts 10, 9-16 NIV)
Now let's hold that thought while we go back to the book of Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament, to the very first chapter. It states in verses 11 through 13:
“Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds'. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with their seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning the third day.” (Genesis 1, verses 11-13, NIV)
And so, it really jumps out at us in Genesis that God made all the plant life and fauna on earth and then “saw that it was good”. And yet cannabis is outlawed as a dangerous schedule one narcotic, when in fact it is not. Never mind that nobody ever died or overdosed from smoking weed, while cigarettes kill 50,000 people per year and overdoses of legal prescription drugs kill 100,000 more, not counting suicides. On the other hand, medical uses for cannabis are well documented, such as being effective for glaucoma and chemotherapy patients as well as some (but not all) mental health patients, among other things. There are literally millions of others like me who are clamoring for legalization. Moreover, in a poll just released this week 52% of all Americans want cannabis (its proper name) and hemp (its cousin which has literally tons of commercial applications, including biofuel) to be legalized. If either or both were to be legalized, regulated and taxed, it would create an agricultural and industrial bonanza, creating several million new jobs, maybe even more.
The Bible admonishes us to “not call anything unclean that God has made clean”. Peter, who was the equivalent of an orthodox Jew in today's world, protested to God against breaking the religious laws of the time. He was forbidden from eating the meat from certain animals based on the Law of Moses, the Jewish religious doctrine of that time, which is known as the Old Testament today. But God told Peter in his vision that it was okay, that His laws superseded the legal system of the day. This is noticeably consistent with the teachings of Christ, who taught that His teachings were a new agreement between mankind and God that replaced the Old Testament. Today, being a Christian means being “born again” and receiving a new life in Christ, with all our sins against God, our mistakes and character flaws, our personality defects and moral shortcomings of our past being canceled out by the blood of Christ. And so we become fortunate enough through our newly found favor with God to not be charged with any penalty for the sins and errors of our past, provided we turn away from evil and focus ourselves on dong good so we may honor the holy name of the Lord.
Let me be absolutely clear that we are being lied to by our government about the “dangers” of marijuana use. Cannabis, as it is called in much of the rest of the world, is erroneously classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a schedule one narcotic. A narcotic is defined as a barbiturate (downers) or an amphetamine (uppers). It is a manufactured substance made up of certain chemicals which can be physically addictive when abused. Yet these two classes of drugs are legal in spite of their inherent dangers. The USDEA, on the other hand, has classified marijuana as a dangerous narcotic when in fact it is neither. Marijuana is nothing more than a plant. It is not manufactured and it contains no added harmful chemicals or physically addictive tendencies. God put the marijuana plant on this earth for mankind's use. It has medicinal properties that are well documented. I use (on a part-time basis for financial reasons) medical cannabis because it cures or alleviates the symptoms of my bipolar disorder, my post traumatic stress disorder, and my chronic back pain. It is beneficial and never dangerous provided that it is used responsibly. AIDS patients use it because it helps them regain their appetite. There is study after study published in various medical journals going back decades that prove that marijuana used for medical and recreational purposes is harmless when used in reasonable quantities. That's why we should, as in times of old, “not call anything impure that God has made clean”. Who do the abusive authoritarians think they are to criminalize God by outlawing that which He created? All this proves is their colossal arrogance and their extreme closed-mindedness.
So do I think everybody should start smoking pot? Of course not! But this does not mean it's for everybody. For example, certain individuals may be allergic to weed, or they may dislike the smell of the smoke, or have other personal or legal reservations about its use. As Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial”. What's good for one person may not be so for another. Many people drink and have no problem with it while others abstain by choice, and each is equally entitled to their opinion. Is this a contradiction in the Bible then? Not at all. You will recall that I stated that Christ replaced the Old Testament with the New when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead after three days. So if we obey the new law, the law of Christ, obeying the laws of the land should come naturally without effort. But the criminalization of marijuana that calls pot “dangerous” and “a narcotic” makes something “unclean” of a part of God's creation that He has “made clean” (by its very creation). That's why the marijuana laws in this country run contrary to God's laws.
What should we do? If medical marijuana ever comes up for a vote in your state, vote yes. In the meantime, try to be a law-abiding citizen, understanding that not all of the laws on the books are good ones. Some, like the drug laws, are there for the wrong reasons because they are protecting the wrong people. That's why the drug laws are bad ones. We live in a world that is basically evil, but there is still much good despite all that. The Bible can teach us to learn to differentiate between the two for our own benefit.