This Bud’s For You (If You’re Sick) – Medical Marijuana in the Church

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Big budI’ll call him Pastor X for reasons that will soon be apparent.  A member of his congregation, an Elder who has served the congregation faithfully for many years, has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.  The doctors recommend an equally aggressive campaign of chemotherapy.  He is in his late seventies or early eighties and his prognosis is grim.  Nausea induced from his chemo prevents him from eating anything.  He is wasting away and is in incredible pain.

Pastor X approaches another member of his congregation, a man with a terminal illness that is less aggressive but just as deadly as cancer.  This man has a California Medical Marijuana card and legally purchases marijuana to help him cope with the effects of his disease and his medication.  Pastor X says “Elder ______ has cancer and is dying. It’s going to be ugly.”  The man quickly produces half a dozen cigarettes of medical strength marijuana and gives them to his Pastor.  When the Pastor next visits the Elder, he gives him the marijuana.

The preceding story is true, and I suspect happens more often than we might think in California and other parts of the country where medical marijuana is legal.

Another man, a personal friend of mine, has a constellation of illnesses that can leave him bedridden.  He is a devout and confessional Lutheran. He has a great job, a lovely wife and two great kids. He is involved in his congregation on several levels.  His physician had for years prescribed Marinol, a synthetic form of the active ingredient in marijuana, to help treat his illnesses.  Once California legalized medical marijuana, his doctor gave him a recommendation for a medical marijuana card, and he now buys marijuana from a legal dispensary.  It’s much cheaper than the Marinol and far more effective in treating his condition.

As more and more states legalize various forms of pot use, the church is going to increasingly face situations like I have just described.   California appears to be well on the way to full blown legalization.  One of the state assembly bills working its way through our state legislature is entitled AB420.  With a title like that, you can see how this is going to go. (420 is street slang for marijuana.)   Our state is broke, and our elected officials won’t be able to resist the avalanche of tax revenue and jobs legalization will bring.

What is, or what should be the church’s stance on these issues?  I have heard no public discussion in the blogosphere or anywhere else on how the church should deal with the subject.  Granted, it is a complicated and nuanced issue. Medical use and recreational use would seem to be two entirely different subjects.  Once the legal hurdle is done away with, will the church (at least some parts of the church) look at casual use the same way they look at the use of alcohol or tobacco? Is there merit in medicinal use in the eyes of the church?

It is my hope that our best theologians and thinkers will try to get out ahead of the curve and engage the subject in a wise and rigorously biblical way, or at least try to shape the conversation in a constructive way. This issue is running up on us quickly.  Some denominations will automatically be against any use at all. Others will be in favor of any and all use, just because.  I’d like to see the Lutherans engaging the issue. Pastors and theologians hammering out a biblical position, or maybe the CTCR doing a study and issuing a paper, even if it is only a preliminary study.

What do our readers think?  Here are a few questions to get the discussion started.

Do you think the use of marijuana for medical reasons has merit?

Is legalization helpful or harmful to our society as a whole?

If it is legal, is it right for Christians to work in a dispensary or otherwise be involved in the Medical Marijuana industry as a legitimate vocation?

Is Marijuana use sinful in a state that has legalized it?

What are some of the Scriptural passages that would be helpful in shaping our attitudes towards the whole issue?

You may be asking yourself what I personally think about the issue.  I have tried to be non-committal on the whole deal, but I do have several opinions on the subject.

About Pastor X; while he technically broke the law by appropriating marijuana legally obtained by one patient for use by another who was not permitted by law to receive it, I am not going to second guess a Pastor who is trying to help his friend and church member on his deathbed.  Here I would err on the side of mercy.

Likewise, I am not a doctor and would not insinuate my judgment into my friend’s health care decisions arrived at with the help of his doctor.  If the law of the land states that a medication is legal and his doctor prescribes it for him, in my book he is not guilty of sin in the matter.

I do have opinions on the subject of legalization, but they are an outgrowth of my political views, and both Ted and I make a conscious effort to keep our politics off this site in the interest of not placing stumbling blocks in front of the Gospel.  One of the main reasons for this post is to stir up theological discussion so that better minds than mine can shed some Biblical light on the subject and help me and others to have a more fully formed Christian view of the subject.

And no, I do not use marijuana, medical or otherwise, just in case you were wondering.

So, what do you think?

By Pat K

9 Comments

  1. [...] You can read the rest of this story here. [...]

  2. G to the Izzie says:

    “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Tim 5:23)

    “Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” (Mk 15:23)

  3. Rev. Joseph Eggleston says:

    “What are some of the Scriptural passages that would be helpful in shaping our attitudes towards the whole issue?”

    I can give you one:

    And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

    And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:29, 31)

    Therefore, it would seem that no plant, on account of its nature, is sinful. Only perhaps in regard to its manner of use or abuse that sin enters the picture.

  4. Kim-Marie says:

    Let’s talk law not scripture..because obeying the law of the land would be for us fulfilling scripture in this case….

    It’s illegal to give your prescription drugs to another person. Period. End of Discussion. It is for a Dr. to assess and perscribe. It for the Elders and Pastors to pray, not dispense.
    This isolated case though I am sure motivated in compassion, used very poor judgement.
    Very Poor Life Boundaries, possible little god complex too. Who is the savior? Could he have gone with a family member to the dr with the man to plead his special need for stronger meds?
    We need to trust those we love and minister to to the Lord….sometimes we are not to be the answer/solve the problem…God Is! ? More important though we understand why he did this, maybe it’s more important for this ONE person to understand why he did that? Would he do it again? Would there be any correction upon him by those he is accountable to? I don’t want any deacon, elder or pastor in my church giving out medication illegally.
    Kim-Marie
    Long Island, NY

  5. Kim-Marie says:

    1 Peter 2:13 “Submit yourself to every ordinance of man . . . to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors.”

  6. Babylon's Dread says:

    My friend integrate your politics and faith…no separation of categories… and man of the Word is a political man and a man of the Spirit. When one has named Jesus Lord he has become decidedly political.

    So change your politics so they do not need be hidden.

    Now would you give narcotics to a man in misery to relieve his misery? I suspect you would. This holds very little difference in my eyes. Relieving our friends suffering is a good thing.

    I would vigorously minister healing to these folk until I could gain no advantage over the illness and then I would add comfort to ministry and alleviate the suffering by all means possible to the degree that the patient’s conscience would allow it.

    Peace to you

  7. Patrick Kyle says:

    Babylon’s Dread,

    Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy your wisdom and commentary over at PP.

    My politics are informed and shaped by my theology.Being a Lutheran I subscribe to the doctrine of the two Kingdoms, God’s rule in the Church where He governs through the Gospel, and His rule in the World where He governs through the secular authorities.

    Long contemplation on the Scriptures has led me to adopt some political positions, that given the current political climate would be considered highly offensive in many circles. To express disagreement on certain subjects is viewed as ‘hate’ or ‘racism.’ I am not adverse to debating and defending my views in any other forum. We created NRP to bring the Gospel to the broken and disaffected, and to share the treasures of the Reformation that have been forgotten or ignored. Therefore we choose carefully the hills we die on here at the blog and on the site, and the political stuff is something we have chosen to de-emphasize in the interest of gaining the widest possible hearing. Angering people over our disagreements with the policies and tactics of whichever administration is in power would place a stumbling block in the way of many who would hear what we have to say about Jesus.
    For the record I am a socially liberal, fiscal conservative, strict Constitutionalist, pro life libertarian. Theologically I am a very conservative confessional Lutheran.

  8. dewd4jesus says:

    **”Let’s talk law not scripture..because obeying the law of the land would be for us fulfilling scripture in this case….”**

    **1 Peter 2:13 “Submit yourself to every ordinance of man . . . to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors.”**

    At first glance one might interpret this passage in this way. But only if this simple statement stood alone with no other context. But in the context of the passage and most certainly in the character of God we find throughout the entire cannon of scripture, it just doesn’t fit.

    First, you’d have to say that the government of this country is illegitimate by God’s standard because it was formed in rebellion against those governing them at the time.

    Second, be able to agree that young boys in African nations should submit to the authority of the soldiers of their governments and go ahead and shoot their parents and the rest of their families because they are of a different religion and then go fight for them as well, rather than running and escaping the country with the aid of people who should be tried for their crime in aiding them as well.

    Third, concede that Jesus was then sinning when He healed on the Sabbath which was against the laws of man in authority over Him at the time. Therefore, being a sinner He cannot possibly be the Messiah. He is not worthy of being the unblemished sacrifice. And that leaves us doomed.

    So you see, it just cannot be so, if in fact Jesus is the Son of Go and Messiah.

    I offer a different interpretation of it, based on the surrounding text and my experience seeing the Lord’s heart working through many of His vessels over the years to bless people who could be helped in no other way than to break the law to do so. And as I pondered some of the actions I’d seen to get food and supplies, the Word of God etc. in to countries they weren’t supposed to and even the question at hand within the Marijuana legality issues and it’s use medically. So this is how I guess I would state it:

    In as far as possible, even to the extent of personal loss or restriction of personal liberty, obey the ordinances enacted by those in authority within man’s governments over you. But the relief of suffering, whether from illness or oppression through force or denial of food or basic human rights is certainly a place we see the Lord step over that line as well as the Apostles on many occasions. And that would include the preaching of the Word, which brings Life to the outcast, downtrodden and lowly. I’ll even go so far as to say Paul says it extends to everything. All things are lawful, but not all are profitable. We have liberty in Christ.

    But just here our eyes go to the condition set forth in the 2 Timothy passage. “Submit yourself to every ordinance of man”
    When you choose to drive over the speed limit and you get a ticket, are you willing to pay it? When you returned the DVD late to the rental store did you pay the late fee? This is submitting to the ordinances of men just the same as if you had returned the DVD on time or not sped and gotten the ticket. There are risks involved. I entered a contract that says if I return the DVD late, I pay a fee. My driver’s license is a contract that I will obey the traffic laws or there may be a penalty if I don’t including taking away my privilege of driving.Disobeying God’s Law – Sin/Disobey man’s law – be willing to submit to their authority to punish you.
    So, certainly in this case as long as the pastor is/was willing to deal with the possible consequences and has a clear conscience before God about it, the absolutely right thing to do was to follow the Spirit’s leading and relieve the elders suffering.

    Just my not always as humble as it ought to be opinion :)

  9. Invisiblefornow says:

    Interesting topic. Touchy. Sensitive. But I like what and how Babylon’s Dread said it. Our pastor personally went with a member of the congregation (who lives in a wheelchair) to get his medical marijuana. I live in a province that is somewhat highly open to this option of medicine. Not necessarily politically, though not necessarily not politically either. We’ve been labeled as having the least church attendance, while being the most open spiritually. (B.C. and I live on an island – the big one.) So it’s kind of a no brainer around here… Just be aware of who is in attendance when the subject is brought up…

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