Supporting laos ministry ...

the Christian ministry of the whole people of God.

Cannabis (part ii)

Last time we tried to think through a Christian position on alcohol (go to the archive if you missed it), and follow a process that might be useable in other situations.  Let's try it on tobacco and (recreational rather than medicinal) cannabis.

What does the Bible say?  Very little directly.  There is a lot of smoke: try Exodus 29:18 where the burnt offering is turned into smoke, “a pleasing odour … to the Lord” or Psalm 66.  Revelation 8:3-4 gives a New Testament picture (the coming of Christ did away with the need for burnt offerings) - incense represents prayer rising before the throne of God, an evocative image today in worship from ‘high church’ to ‘alternative’.  But there are no references to the inhalation of smoke, nor is it easy to think of any big themes or aspects of the character of God that shed light.

What would Jesus do?  It is always risky to argue from silence, but nothing suggests that he smoked or used any other sort of drug. He refused drugged wine on the cross (a Bible dictionary tells us that the “anodyne offered … during his crucifixion was a diluted wine containing stupefying drugs”).

Are tobacco and cannabis natural?  Yes, but not world-wide like fermentation and thus alcohol.  And these drugs are harmful to health (remember St Paul in 1 Cor 6:12-18 - “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. … your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you … you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.)  The risks attached to smoking tobacco are well known; for cannabis visit, for example, the BBC web site.

Making comparison, the Encarta Encyclopedia tells us that nicotine is a “mild nerve stimulant … promoting the flow of adrenaline and other internal secretions” while cannabis is psychotropic (mind-altering).  “Many users describe … altered perceptions of time and space, and of one's bodily dimensions.  The thinking processes become disrupted by fragmentary ideas and memories.”  Does tobacco help users to cope with life as it is, while cannabis offers an escape from reality?

There appear to be strong arguments against cannabis use and some at least against tobacco.  But the law of the land is there to be obeyed (see, for example, Romans 13:1-4), cannabis is illegal but tobacco isn't, and it is hardly a Christian characteristic to berate tobacco smokers when they are probably more aware than you of the deleterious effects.  Rather, perhaps, look to how you can help them cope while using fewer stimulants (Gal 6:2 rather than Mt 23:4, and Mt 7:3-5 if you are a coffee drinker!).  Likewise, the church can help with tackling the causes of drug use (boredom, poor self-esteem …).  Publications such as Street Credo (ed M Simmons, Lemos and Crane, 2000) and Dealing with Drugs (Durham Diocese Board of Social Responsibility) will help you explore the issues.

Yours in Him

Peter Nicholls

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