Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marijuana and Christian Freedom: Not as Simple as It Once Was

Christianity Today released a timely article addressing the up-and-coming issue of the Christian conscience and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

They write,

With the recreational use of marijuana now legal in Colorado and Washington (and the Obama administration disinclined to enforce federal laws against it), it's only a matter of time before it is completely legal coast to coast to toke up. This is a great opportunity—not to use pot, but to reflect on the true nature of Christian freedom.

I think they are on point. Issues regarding the recreational use of marijuana are not as simple as they have been in the past.

Previously, if the issue had come up in a conversation, I would default to its legality, and that participation in its consumption would be a violation of Romans 13. There will soon be a time when this is not the case and Christians will begin to have to deal with this on a more basic ethical level. So, I wanted to trace some of the things that I think will play into up and coming discussions.

Legal Loopholes: Certainly, as same sex marriage laws are currently, this will become an issue of legal loopholes. On the issues of same sex marriage, our nation is in a situation where it is federally legal, but it is meeting its hurdles at the state level. Recreational marijuana is kind of a reverse situation. It’s legality is being tested at the state level, with the goal of eventual federal approval. It’s “illegality” at the federal level certainly belongs in quotations.

Demographic Divides: The stances on this view seem demographically predictable, and those in the church may stand in more than one demographic. Politically, this already seems to be gaining quicker support in democrats than republicans. Likewise, “blue” states are likely to legalize the recreational use of marijuana more quickly than “red” states. The West Coast is already leading the way, and it seems likely that the Northeast will follow suit much faster than much of the South. Likewise, we can probably expect to see the younger generation in the church to be more persuaded by the cultural shift. The older generation, who have lived through the drug-culture of the sixties, may be a little more hesitant to live through that. Although, the experiments in CO have proven to revive much of that generation.

Historical Examples: An historical point that is bound to play into this discussion is that of the prohibition. It was tested to be a failed experiment for the US. From what I understand, organized crime in the United States can be traced back, in many ways, to the prohibition. The lesson learned is that people will get what they want no matter the cost. The proposed solution is that legalizing what people want stops them from seeking it in crooked ways. We see the same arguments for abortion as well, especially recently, following Gosnell trials.

Ethical Debates: The focus of the ethics of the debate will depend on one’s viewpoint. Those who are for recreational marijuana are going to focus the ethics of the matter on the thing itself, probably drawing a tighter comparison to issues of alcohol and tobacco. Some will argue that marijuana is healthier and less dangerous than alcohol. Expect many pseudo-scientific Facebook posts in this regard. Science, as in politics and legislations, is not immune from pop-culture.

On the other hand, while proponents will focus on its responsible use, those against its use will demonstrate examples of the havoc of its abuse, as well as long-term medical examples of its dangers.

So, proponents will focus on the mere ethics. Those against will focus do the same, but put more emphasis on ends that result from the means.

Biblical Debates: Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 will be key texts that will be discussed.

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