The Legalization of Pot and Christian Freedom

Greg Strand – March 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, wrote an editorial on the legalization of marijuana and how Christians ought to think of this in light of Christian freedom. Crouch argues that as a Christian “You’re Free to Toke Up. But Don’t.”

Here is the editorial summary: “We at Christianity Today believe Christians are absolutely free to use marijuana (where legalized). And, when it comes to pot in our particular cultural context, we think it would be foolish to use that freedom.”

Crouch primarily approaches this issue through the lens of Christian freedom and what that means and entails, particularly in a cultural context.

In context, those who were raised in homes and churches in which legalism was the basis of ethics, morality, living a “good” Christian life and pleasing God, need to hear the message of freedom in Christ. As he notes, sharp structures and restrictions on what we can and cannot consume are indications of one who is weak, not strong (Rom. 14:1-12). And yet, even though all things are permitted, not all things are helpful, beneficial or fruitful. Furthermore, in that freedom one will not end up in being enslaved to it or dominated by it (1 Cor. 6:12). Our freedom is not to lead to indulgence of the flesh, but looking beyond oneself, through our freedom we are able and because of our freedom we will serve others (Gal. 5:13), and not become an offense to the weak (1 Cor. 8:9), those for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11).

As Crouch considers these ethical decisions of Christians, he notes that culture, context and history are important aspects to consider. These present-day decisions about our freedom are made in this setting which must be considered. He uses alcohol as an example of how this principle is understood and applied in various settings. He then draws the parallel with marijuana:

In our North American context, what is the function of pot? It is associated with superficially pleasant disengagement from the world. It connotes a kind of indolence and “tuning out” that is not an option for people who want to become agents of compassion and neighbor love, not to mention its association with all kinds of immaturity. Are these the eternal truths of pot, the only possible way marijuana can be used? No. But these cultural realities are still relevant for the discerning Christian.

Then there is the question of how Christians’ use of marijuana would affect those most susceptible to the idolatries of our culture. A great inequality of our time is between those whose affluence provides plentiful buffer zones for indulging in minor vices without major consequences, and those who are most vulnerable to consumer culture at its worst, tempted to depend on substances to numb the pain of lives robbed of dignity and meaningful work.

Crouch concludes in the following manner:

Is marijuana a cultivated celebration of the created world, one that enhances and sharpens image bearing in all its dimensions? Or does it merely substitute for the consolations and comforts of life lived truly and honestly before God and other people? In our cultural context, the answer seems pretty clear, and the way to true freedom is clear as well.

A few questions to ponder:

  • How do you think about this issue?
  • How do you understand it morally/ethically?
  • How do you understand Christian freedom?
  • How do these two issues relate to the legalization of marijuana?
  • How will you help God’s people to think about this particular issue?
  • How will you teach God’s people how to think about these sorts of moral issues more generally?

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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