Friday, November 03, 2006

Legalize marijuana?

The evangelical community is reeling over the revelation that Ted Haggard has admitted to having purchased methamphetamine, even as Colorado voters are preparing to vote on Amendment 44, which would allow people 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Let me be clear: I am adamantly opposed to substance abuse. Dependence on mind-altering drugs has nearly destroyed several people in my family. My step-brother is homeless, broke and alone due to his addiction, having lost custody of his little girl. My mother was an alcoholic for many years before God miraculously delivered her. I have seen the effects of drunkenness and drug abuse, and I know God hates it. Nonetheless, this Election Day I am voting in favor of Amendment 44.

Why would I vote to decriminalize an activity that is sinful and destructive? Quite simply, there is no biblical mandate for the civil government to regulate and control the use of drugs.

While the Religious Right has a penchant for using the power of the state to force unredeemed people to behave in redeemed ways, nowhere is this tendency seen in Jesus or the apostles of the Early Church. When Jesus saw a person trapped in sin, his response did not consist in appealing to the Roman authorities to criminalize the sinner’s behavior. He did not call for a law prohibiting cohabitation when he encountered the Samaritan woman who was living with a man who was not her husband. Instead, he offered her the only means of overcoming the bondage of her sin—a life-giving relationship with God.

Although idolatry was punishable by death under the theocracy of ancient Israel, the apostle Paul did not lobby the government of Rome for a law against idol worship. Rather, he introduced idolaters to the One True God who could set them free. When sexual immorality crept into the church, Paul did not seek to make those sins illegal; he called the guilty parties to repentance.

The Word of God in Romans 13 pictures civil government as a God-ordained minister to “punish those who impose wrong on others,” writes Tom Rose, professor emeritus at Grove City College. “In short, the biblical role of civil government is to foster justice and to prevent people from engaging in acts of violence against each other” (“Should Christians Favor the Decriminalization of Drugs,” The Christian Statesman, vol. 129, no. 1).

While the Law of Moses contained numerous prohibitions against consuming certain foods, nowhere does the New Testament suggest that the state should pass laws governing what people can ingest. When discussing the role of government, neither Peter nor Paul called upon the power of the state to legislate holiness. Yet this is precisely what Christians are doing when they support laws against drug use. They are asking the civil government to force non-Christians to behave like Christians. The same can be said for laws against gambling, prostitution, pornography, and profanity.

“These Christians, in effect, tend to look at the civil authority as the ultimate guarantor of what they themselves envision as the ‘good life,’” says Rose, “and they end up turning civil government into a secular god.”

Not only is Christian support for the war on drugs unbiblical—it is also illogical. The drug war has clearly been a failure. Before drug use was criminalized, drug abuse was not the epidemic it has become today. Innocent bystanders weren’t killed in turf wars over drugs, and addicts didn’t have to steal to support their habit—because there was no black market creating the artificially high prices that are currently paid for drugs.

Our View of the Colorado Springs Gazette (11-3-06) describes the war on drugs as being “responsible for thousands of deaths, prison overcrowding and untold misery for a lot of people… A blanket prohibition on drugs clearly isn’t working.” Moreover,
“banning certain products on the grounds that they might be dangerous in the hands of some people shouldn’t fly in a truly free society. Government is in the business of protecting us from others, not ourselves. It’s true that marijuana use is not risk free. But very little in life is, and free people should be able to make their own choices. The drug war has been going on for decades and drugs are still readily available across the country, proof that current policy isn’t working. [Amendment 44] is a good first step toward forcing government to abandon an approach that just doesn’t work.”
In the past few years it’s been fashionable among Christians to ask, “What would Jesus do?” When I think about the price he paid for our freedom, I find it hard to believe he would use the power of the state to force people to abstain from drugs.


Anonymous Mithrandir said...

Miss Julie, I applaud your bravery! Most Christians don't have the courage to stand up for the truth when it involves so controversial an issue - especially when the evangelical world is so adamantly opposed to it. Sadly, many Christians (like most people, I suppose) don't bother to think for themselves when coming to decisions about where to stand on the major issues of the day - they simply follow the herd. "Herd mentality" is a pet-peeve of mine.

Anyway, I fully agree with your post and support the legalization of marijuana. Government has no business interfering with people's choices here - it should be an individual's choice. This is especially true at the federal level, because there is no constitutional authorization for our government to make drug laws. In fact, such laws are forbidden under both the 9th and 10th Amendments. Sadly, most Christians, like most Americans, are too constitutionally ignorant to know that. Sighhhhh...

November 08, 2006 1:12 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Thanks for posting again, Mithrandir! Believe it or not, I have known a few other Christians who oppose the drug war. We're a silent minority, I guess. Unfortunately, I think Christian support for the drug war stems from the legalism that is so rampant in the evangelical Church. We love to make rules about how other people live, whether or not they're Christians. It's a sad state of affairs

November 08, 2006 4:51 PM  

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