Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Marijuana debate ….

 

A recent survey at the Public Religion Research Institute dated April 25, 2013, Survey | General Public, Christian Young Adults Divided on Marijuana Legalization:

Link to the article (survey):


Before I make any comments or thoughts on this heated topic I must make some of my personal demographics clear. I’m a 53 year old, white male, married (for 27 years) with two children (in their early 20’s), living in small town America (the Midwest). I hold a PhD in Psychology and Christian Counseling and I’m a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor-Clinical Supervisor, currently working in the field of addiction counseling (for over 23 years), and working with a small church in my community. As well as having written widely on the topic of addictions, grief, stress, and pastoral ministry.

·         This survey is showing that “50% of Christians between the ages of 18 – 29 said they “favor” or “strongly favor” legalizing recreational marijuana use. When you consider all Christians, though, 54% are against legalization while 39% support it.”

·         In another survey quoted by the article: “70% of American said that recreational use of marijuana is not a sin, compared to 23% who said they believe using the drug is sinning.”

Now with all that said, this article which quotes this recent survey scares me.  The arguments being used for discussion are the same ones that have been used in the church for centuries to justify alcohol use. “It is not that big of a deal, people that don’t use it don’t understand, it is given to us by God, it is good for my health, it can be taxed so therefore will be better controlled, and when are these religious fanatics going to learn to butt out of my business.”

There are physical and psychological effects of addiction to marijuana, even though not as defined and obvious as some other drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and hallucinogens. There is clear evidence that marijuana has negative consequences both physically and mentally.

Short Term effects of using Marijuana:  sleepiness; difficulty keeping track of time, impaired or reduced short-term memory; reduced ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car; Increase heart rate; Bloodshot eyes; Dry mouth and throat; Decreased social inhibitions; Paranoia; and possible hallucinations.

Long-term effects of using marijuana: enhanced cancer risk; decreased in testosterone levels in men, lower sperm counts and difficulty having children; increased in testosterone levels for women, also increased risk of infertility; diminished or extinguishing sexual pleasure; psychological dependency requiring more of the drug to get the same effect (referred to as tolerance).

As a pastor and drug and alcohol counselor I have dealt with the question for over two decades and to be honest this survey doesn’t surprise me as it has some of my pastor friends or professional colleagues.  When I did my doctoral research and wrote my dissertation in 2005 for my PhD in Psychology and Christian Counseling at Louisiana Baptist University, my research was on the “Alcoholism in relationship to the Doctrinal Beliefs of Assemblies of God and Scripture.” In that study I looked at the changing tide of thought concerning alcohol use and dependency over the course of several decades in America and compared it to scripture. Some would argue that the scripture has less to say about Marijuana.

As the church approaches this topic and has an open dialogue about the legalization of marijuana, I believe that it is important that we base the information on facts, and not personal preferences or assumptions.  Please avoid the preference among many to take scripture out of context in attempt to justify your point of view. I love the use of the scripture "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body," (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

As I talk with my clients I listen with an open ear to hear what they are saying, and share with them about how marijuana can have a negative impact on their lives. I attempt not to argue with them or condemn them.  I make it clear that I personally would not support the legalization of marijuana and that I believe that it is a dangerous road to walk down for the following reason:

·         It has a negative impact on the family dynamics of the home

·         It has a negative impact on the physical health of the individual using, as well as those around them as a result of the second hand smoke.

·         It has negative effect on the thinking process, and can interfere with the individual’s attempts to read and focus on scripture.

·         May have a serious impact on the individual’s perception of what they are reading and studying resulting in a misinterpretation or distortion of scripture.

As a closing thought …

I don’t believe that we should hide are head in the sand as a church and think this issue is going to go away. However, I do believe that we should stand tall, state the facts as we understand them from history, scripture, personal experiences, and not allow the world to dictate what the individuals in the church are taught.