I’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