Thursday, October 13, 2016

Does the Bible Guide Us about Marijuana Use?[1]

Today one hardly hears anything from the church or larger Christian community against the dangers of marijuana. This was not the case during the Jesus revival in the 1970s when marijuana first became popular.  We found constant statements against marijuana in the Jesus people newspapers. For example, “Veteran of over 200 Trips says: “I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be bored…,” a Baptist youth whose drug use left him “almost dead, physically and mentally.”[2]  The same issue included “An Open Letter to Timothy Leary,” from an “ex-follower,” responding to the ex-college professor drug pundit who became a poster child for the ‘60s drug movement, asking: “Oh, Dr. Tim, where have you gone? You and all your false prophets. You started a psychedelic revolution—a religious renaissance, or so you called it. You set yourself up as our great high priest….Where are all your prophets now? Now, when I need help?...I just wanted to tell you that your new religion of Tuning-in, Turning-on, and Dropping-out isn’t doing it for me….I’m losing a lot of my friends. They say I don’t communicate—in fact, they tell me I don’t do much of anything anymore. Do you still have any friends, Dr. Tim? Don’t bother writing me, Dr. Tim. A lot of my friends are turning-on to Jesus and I’ve been watching them carefully. They’ve got something that you or I don’t have, Dr. Tim. They’re full on the inside and they say that Jesus is with them all the time making them feel like that….They say they are resting in God thru Jesus Christ.”

Where is the church’s voice now?


The apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians challenges them to walk wisely and use their time well. Being filled with the Holy Spirit helps a believer understand God’s will. But becoming intoxicated with alcohol or marijuana is not the way to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

For this reason, we encourage you not to support the use nor legalization of marijuana.

The reason drunkenness and use of any mind-altering substance is wrong is because the ability to be filled with the Holy Spirit in users decreases, the ability to understand God’s will decreases, the ability to do God’s will decreases, with the result that ‘wild living” or “lawlessness” increases (Eph 5:16-18). “Wild living” (asotia, also translated “debauchery”) also occurs in 1 Peter 4:4. There Peter exhorts his Christian readers not to act as they did as unconverted Gentiles who live in “licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry” (1 Pet 4:3). He called these actions “excesses of dissipation” which cause blasphemy. Paul also warns elders they should strive to have “a faithful child,” not one “wild” or outside of their control (Titus 1:6). Drs. Janice Phelps and Alan Nourse explain in The Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free that within 15-30 minutes the person stoned on pot loosens inhibitions and loses awareness of time. There is definite loss of memory of the immediate past so that a person who starts expressing an idea gets halfway through a sentence and then can’t remember what he or she started to say.[3]

In effect, marijuana and alcohol reverse the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-25). The addicting substance overpowers the human will and excludes the Holy Spirit who genuinely frees the human will. Drs. Phelps and Nourse describe a dinner gathering where marijuana is produced. They observe that within 30 minutes the previous interesting conversations all disintegrated. People began talking with no one listening. Eventually, everyone gave up on conversation.[4] How can you love anyone if you cannot even listen? Joy and self-control decrease.

Finally, marijuana can become an idol. I remember one young man who had been a phenomenal evangelist but who never fully stopped smoking marijuana (“he could stop anytime,” he said) becoming so addicted that he revolved his whole life on its obtaining and consumption. He told us: “I love everything about it—the way it looks, the way it smells, the way it feels.” As Drs. Phelps and Nourse observe, he had arranged his whole life to fulfill his addictive needs, and “absolutely nothing—pride, economics, health, or relative values—was allowed to get in their way, ever”.[5] Marijuana slowly results in less and less desire to please God. The person appears more and more self-centered, but in reality increasingly focuses on centering his or her whole life on using marijuana like “communion.” Marijuana users become a new “church.” Instead of the body of Christ bearing more and more fruits of the Spirit---love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- the body of Cannabis bears more and more works of the flesh: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, use of drugs, hatred, strife, anger, quarrels, drunkenness, carousing (Gal 5:19-22). For example, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national drug control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between drug use and crime. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug found in 54% of those arrested. Marijuana was the most popular drug used by men who’d been arrested in New York, Denver, Atlanta, and Chicago.[6] The Apostle Peter describes such people as “those who indulge their flesh in polluting desires, and scorn authority” (2 Pet 2:10). They are “waterless springs and mists being driven by hurricanes” (2 Pet 2:17). The drug precipitates a “hurricane,” a powerfully controlling wild force making the human will in contrast a “mist”—a weak and insubstantial breeze. Peter observes “those who scarcely have escaped living in error, being slaves themselves of corruption, are promising so-called freedom. However, the freedom is actually slavery because one is enslaved to what one succumbs (2 Pet 2:18-19). Therefore, use of such a harmful drug is specifically included as a work of the flesh along with idolatry and hatred and other actions which, if kept up and never changed, according to Galatians, can keep us from inheriting God’s kingdom (Gal 5:21). Behind this and other drugs enters an unwanted guest, the Evil One.

The Apostle Paul specifically tells the Galatians not to use drugs. Pharmakeia in 5:20 is often translated “witchcraft” or “sorcery,” but Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon defines it first as “use of drugs” then as “poisoning or witchcraft.” Pharmakeia is not Wicca per se, rather it is ancient witchcraft, especially Satanism, that would use drugs to poison or induce altered mental states.

What can you do to erode away the magnificent calling we have from God? Take marijuana or become drunk. Then the Holy Spirit can no longer fill you up with good fruits, you will lose the ability to use your time well or to understand and do God’s will, slowly poisoning your body so the Evil One can slip in and become a controlling hurricane, your free will becoming merely a mist, your life wild, directed by forces other than God. 

Is this what we want to promote in others? Is this what we want America to become? As Christians, we should be a positive influence in our society. We can at least use our vote responsibly. Our ultimate goal should be to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness, as Paul explains in Galatians: “brothers and sisters, if even someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you, the spiritual ones, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourself lest you also be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens and thus fulfill Christ’s law” (6:1-2).  To “restore” is to repair such a person back into the fabric of Christianity. “Restore” is also used in ancient times for mending fish nets (Matt 4:21). People addicted to alcohol or marijuana do not have a fully free will or a real sense of reality. Reasons may not work with them. Rev. Joseph Kellermann says: “It is not true that an alcoholic cannot be helped until he wants help.[7] To save a life, restoration may include mandating addicts into an in-house program until their will is free. (Massachusetts has a chapter 35 law that helps family members do this.) Do not simply criticize someone wallowing in their weakness. Help them out— consistently -- trying to respect their wills, but gently. At the same time, be careful that you yourself do not become tempted. The Miracle Grow treatment is God’s power, which is ours through prayer and a loving Christian community. For example, over 75% of Adult and Teen Challenge graduates remain drug-free permanently, versus 4% of non-Christian program graduates. Christian programs are effective because they create environments where people are encouraged to be filled with the Spirit and be guided by the Spirit. We have a great resource in our God, but let us do what we can that is preventative so that many people do not get trapped. That is what our ability to vote against legalizing marijuana will help ensure.

Aida & Bill

[1] Image is taken from images google: accessed 5 October 2016.
[2] Mark Lindley, “Veteran Of Over 200 Trips says: ‘I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be bored,” Hollywood Free Paper (vol 3: Issue 7, 1971), p.3. “An Open Letter to Timothy Leary,” p. 4.
[3] Janice Keller Phelps and Alan E. Nourse, The Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), 151-54.
[4] Phelps and Nourse, Hidden Addiction, 147.
[5] Phelps and Nourse, Hidden Addiction, 23.
[7] Alcoholism: A Merry Go-Round Named Denial, brochure. See also letter to the editor in the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle, 12 October 11, 2016.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Queen of Katwe Wins

It is not often we stop at a theater service desk and thank them for a movie. But we loved the movie Queen of Katwe that much! It deserves an Oscar! We recommend you go see this movie while it is still around.

Jesus’s brother James told his listeners that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27 NRSV). Queen of Katwe is about Phiona Mutesi, the daughter of a poor widow, who is coached by Robert Katende, an orphan who himself has worked hard to become an engineer in Uganda. However, not having familial connections, he is working for a Christian ministry as he waits for a position. In this ministry, he serves children they call “The Pioneers.” We are pleasantly delighted to see the group and individuals regularly praying. The widow Harriet is a strong woman who remains poor because she chooses to be moral. A poor woman, she is urged to seek a man who becomes (temporarily) her “Sugar Daddy” or else she will have to continue to persevere in a life of great difficulties. Although her oldest daughter succumbs, the widow steadfastly maintains her ethical standards in her worst of times, and eventually forgives her daughter who has fallen. In contrast to her sister, Phiona is able to rise past her circumstances by excelling in chess. Chess strategy becomes an archetype for life strategies: teaching one to plan ahead, not give up too soon, learn how a small person can become significant, and not be intimidated by opponents. God has gifted Phiona. As a result, the Pioneers’ ministry supports her determination and hard work, thus, in the end, enabling Phiona’s success. The message the ministry and her chess prowess underscores is she belonged not in poverty, but where her capabilities could take her. This is a woman’s empowerment movie that will also be enjoyed by men. Queen of Katwe is a magnificent and truly encouraging movie and is based on a true story.

For Aida, it was also a memory journey back to her early years in the Dominican Republic. Although she has never been to Uganda, she recognized many of the practices in the movie from 60 years ago in the Dominican Republic, apparently having come from the African context: poor houses with tin roofs and dirt floors, deep gullies by the sidewalk to allow passage of sudden heavy rains, women carrying food to sell on their heads, outside markets with sellers of fruits and vegetables, vendors coming to car doors. For a few hours, the viewer enters into a different but intriguing world (without having to pay thousands of dollars for airfare and hotel and then merely seeing tourist sites in the guide’s places adapted for tourists). We are reminded that visiting orphans and widows may be a costly cross-cultural enterprise, as it was for the coach. The poor orphan and widow may be living in another environment than their wealthier Christian sister or brother. But, without entering this other world we cannot practice a worship that is pure and undefiled. This movie helps us see that truth.

Aida and Bill