Previously, a pastor could explain the sinfulness of smoking pot by highlighting its illegality. But what do they do when the laws change in favor of it? North America is seeing this shift with recreational marijuana legalization on the rise, soon to affect Vancouver, my home city. Now, “Don’t do it. It’s illegal,” doesn’t feel as strong as it once did. The sudden influx of other reasons to discourage pot-smoking feels more like a scrambling fear of the unknown than faithfulness to the Bible. Evangelicals, is it possible that smoking pot recreationally is okay?
Arguments Against Pot-Smoking
When we say, “Smoking pot is harmful,” we are usually referring to the effects on the brain. Pot can affect your memory negatively. It can hurt your motivation levels and your mental-health. However, these effects are caused by excessive use or use by an underdeveloped brain (ie. young people). These aren’t the consequences of a full-grown person’s occasional toke.
“Well,” they say, “It’s also bad for the lungs to smoke or vape anything. The Bible commands us to take care of our bodies.” And it’s true, caring for the body is a command in the Bible. But this is grossly hypocritical when you consider that most Christians will continuing eating McDonald’s half-food-half-enigmas, to their own detriment. Many of us make careers of sitting in front of a screen 37.5 hours a week — a cardiovascular sin which all Church admins are guilty of. And what about that hit of dopamine you get from scrolling on your cellphone and the related mental health issues? Each of these are examples of poor health choices made by Christians. If health is that big of a deal in the Church, then I’m curious at what point we draw the line. The appeal to better care for our bodies would be much more persuasive if head-shakes of disapproval were directed at more than stigmatized activities like getting high.
“Getting High is like Getting Drunk”
Having a drink isn’t sinful but getting drunk is. The Bible is clear that drunkenness is a sin. Getting high, some say, is just another kind of getting drunk. However, what isn’t clear is what constitutes drunkenness. The Bible does not measure intoxication by the .08% blood-alcohol level cops do. More likely, when the bible talks about drunkenness, it’s talking about someone notably drunk. Thus, there is a spectrum of intoxication. From relaxed, to buzzed, to loosey-goosey all the way to sloshed, hammered, plastered. The anti-pot camp says no such spectrum exists. When you smoke pot, it is argued, you smoke to get high. There are no stages. Regular users note however, that this is a false assertion and that there exists a spectrum. They will even measure their high with phrases like ‘I’m feeling good’ or ‘I’m relaxed,’ to ‘I’m hiiigh,” or “I’m stoned” or “I’m f*****d (marijuana’s equivalent of being sloshed).”
In the famous Galatians 5 passage on the fruit of the Spirit, the word used for self-control can be translated ‘temperance’ or ‘moderation’. Drinking can be sinful in excess but in moderation is something to be enjoyed. If there is a dosage of pot, relative to the user, where one is effectively sober and in control, where exactly is the sin? Can we not enjoy responsible use as we would with a darn good IPA?
It may sound silly, but calling pot-smoking sorcery isn’t so far-fetched. The word translated “sorcery” in the New Testament is the greek word “Pharmakeia” from which we derive the word ‘pharmacy’ and ‘pharmaceuticals.’ Does that mean then, that popping a T3 when you have a migraine makes you a sorcerer? No. Ancient sorcery was a large field of study whose practitioners used pharma to do magic, to poison, to connect with the metaphysical (or the demonic) and was mostly related with idolatry. For a Christian to engage in magic, poisoning, spiritual elevation .or the worship of demons would be regarded sinful. Assuming we aren’t engaging in any of the aforementioned acts when we smoke pot, wouldn’t there be uses — both recreational and medicinal — that are legitimate under the searching eye of God?
Evangelicals Need to be Careful with their Prohibitions
It’s amazing what a change in law will reveal. All of a sudden, you have Christians scrambling for new reasons to denounce the recreational use of pot. A reaction which reeks of intellectual dishonesty. It feels very much like the rigorous work of a Pharisee trying to eliminate all possibility of moral failure. To use the prohibition era as an example, it would have been common for a minister to denounce drinking alcohol and later, once the liquor-ban was lifted, to retain a viciously negative view on booze. Now, a century later, pastors everywhere will have an occasional drink, maybe two (or three!). Isn’t it interesting how moral, ethical standards change with the passing of one generation to the next? We should be careful to absolutize what’s immoral. Of course, there are certain lines we shouldn’t cross because the Bible is clear about them, but there is a lot of grey area in the Christian life. Evangelicals need to be careful with their prohibitions when the answers are not-so-clear cut.
Evangelicals Need to be Careful with their Liberties
What I’m writing here is not the Bible. This article is not your authority. I am not your pastor. I’m only seeking here to uncover what I believe to be an unfair, undue antagonism towards recreational pot in the church.
Christians need to be careful about the liberties they take. We need to bookend our freedom with a healthy and godly desire for holiness — without which we will see the Lord . We shouldn’t smoke pot if it spurs on addiction or invites unhealthy life practices to us or those around us. We shouldn’t be smoking pot and hiding the evidence from our fellow believers. And yes, we should neither have to fear being honest about something biblically approved. But it could be that our totally legit pot enjoyment takes second place to the priority of the Church’s overall health, even with her unnecessary and overblown antagonism towards good, God-given, Christ-redeemed weed.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Converge Magazine.