What Would Jesus Do-obie?

"Mr. Simpson overrides the Bible’s core teachings about living the Christian life and true personal freedom in favor of a political philosophy that advocates libertinism."

Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) gets credit this week for attempting to remove the last real obstacle remaining in the way of stoners’ zeal for pot legalization: Christianity. Active in his Baptist Church, Mr. Simpson roots his opposition to criminalized marijuana usage in nothing less than the Bible.Pot is not God’s mistake for government to fix” reads the headline of his editorial in multiple news outlets across Texas. Simpson is, in effect, trying to remove Christian support of curbing drug abuse in the name of Christ. I’ll have to hand it to him, his interpretation has a certain degree of exegetical unity.

Unfortunately, Mr. Simpson’s skill as a biblical scholar is about what one would expect from a politico. If he were in a speech and debate class, he’d probably get a B+ for broaching the subject and laying out his position. If I were his professor in a theological studies course at a Bible-based seminary, I’d give him an F.

The trouble here with Mr. Simpson’s baptism of weed is not with his desire to reform drug laws, however. This is something that is needed. The legal MJ debate is a strange animal. It seems to suffer from being still born. Most lawmakers across the country are deeply reluctant to wade into the tall grass, and even in states with successful legalization efforts, there’s this I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-doing-this sense of things as well as a very apt experimental mentality. That said, earnest debate on this issue by those who are clean and sober is overdue, and Mr. Simpson is the first real attempt from Christian Conservatives in Texas to begin this.

But I am afraid that Mr. Simpson drifts into false teaching with his policy approach, and that is why his efforts should be rebuffed. Sadly, Mr. Simpson forfeits creative thinking on this issue because he feels the need that most in the TEA Party have to try and make himself out to be the most right of anyone according to the Libertarian-Fundamentalist syncretism that underpins the movement. There is no question our state and nation’s drug laws have created more problems than they’ve solved. Individuals like Mr. Simpson, however, struggle to think outside the box on reform because they are addicted to a shallow philosophy that will not tolerate deviation from its core ideas.

The crux of Mr. Simpson’s decriminalization argument is that God did not make a mistake when he created the cannabis plant; therefore, it is good (Gen. 1:11-12). But without saying specifically that a follower of God can smoke it, he flies to what looks like a Proverbs 3:10 or John 2 defense. Proverbs 3:10 describes the blessings of God as “vats overflowing with new wine.” John 2 is probably the most famous of all use-justification passages for Christians, as it is where Jesus performed the Cana wedding miracle and turned water into wine. Mr. Simpson makes an obligatory reference to the heavy biblical condemnation of overeating and alcoholic drunkenness in Proverbs 23, but really only as a fig leaf.

Based on these tenets, Mr. Simpson makes an expressly Libertarian defense of legalization. The bill he has filed in support of his views, HB 2165, is outright repeal of any marijuana-related offense; this bill literally expunges crimes for pot usage and possession from the state code. Mr. Simpson skips completely the normal stops along the way toward legalization at medical usage and regulated production and sales. Of course, there is no taxation, anywhere. If passed, HB 2165 would give Texas the most liberal marijuana use laws in the nation.

Mr. Simpson’s advocacy of free and uninhibited cannabis usage is a dangerous misreading of God’s word, and his theology has been hijacked by the libertine, anti-government, anti-Christian views of the Enlightenment. First, only wine-drinking – NOT POT SMOKING – is ever allowed in God’s word. Second, it is true that everything God made is good. God made the cannabis plant. He made grapevines, he made hop cereals. God also made lions, rattlesnakes and piranha.

Mr. Simpson overrides the Bible’s core teachings about living the Christian life and true personal freedom in favor of a political philosophy that advocates libertinism. It’s OK to debate the best way to balance freedom and order as enforced by government, but co-opting God’s word as Mr. Simpson has done in defense of Libertarianism borders on the heretical. His political views are exegeting his Bible, not the other way around.

Yes, Jesus turned water into wine, but it was new wine (John 2:10). New wine is non-alcoholic. And it is not recorded that Jesus drank the wine at the wedding. The only recorded time Jesus drank wine and instructed his disciples to do so was at the Lord’s Supper, which was to signify his death and outpouring. (NOTE: alcohol in wine is produced by fermentation, which is a process of decay and rot – a.k.a. death).

But what about these plants that God gave us to relieve pain, like marijuana? Well, again, Mr. Simpson’s bill doesn’t go the medical route. He wants to allow full freedom of use – a holy roller of joints, if you will. But, would Jesus allow one of his children to smoke pot to relieve their glaucoma? Well, we actually have an answer to this in the Bible as well. In Mark 15:23, those involved in crucifying Jesus attempted to drug him with “wine mixed with myrrh” before nailing him to the cross. Tapped from a specific tree in the Middle East, myrrh has analgesic properties. According to some Bible commentators, this substance was a customary gesture to lessen the pain of crucifixion, similar to giving a death row convict his last meal. Jesus refused it, however, because he was obedient to the maximum suffering required by his Father to atone for the sins of humanity; he did not want his mind altered as he brought about salvation. And this brings us to the true aim of legalizing MJ (and all drugs for that matter) and all its policy implications. There is ONLY ONE MOTIVE for pot legalization: for people to get stoned out of their mind and not have any trouble with the law in order to do so. Who are they kidding when they claim to be doing this for “recreational users”? Why do people recreate with it? To get only recreationally stoned?

There is nothing Christian about getting stoned out of one’s mind, any more than there is about getting drunk. I don’t care if Yahweh or Charles Darwin grew the stem.

There is also nothing good for society when a sizeable chunk of its members are getting stoned and drunk. Yes, a disproportionate number of people – black males in particular – have been imprisoned for drug crimes. Yes, there are anti-American drug lords dialoguing with Islamic terrorists on our southern border. Yes, there MAY be some medicinal effects of toking (conversely, there are PROVEN adverse health effects of smoking pot; moreover, the FDA has already approved several pharmaceutical therapies built on the active agent in cannabis, THC).

But equally serious are steady increases in property crime around the country committed to support all drug habits. Also, almost half of all fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under the age of 25. Across the board, MJ has become a scourge that disproportionately affects young people. So what’s left for policymakers to consider then is, what’s the best way to deal with the negative consequences of drug (marijuana and alcohol) abuse that is consistent with personal freedom and fiscal responsibility? The first step is to collect a comprehensive and clear data set for Texas that breaks down drug offenses into those that are purely “drug-defined” – meaning those related to illicit enterprise – and those that are a regular offense “against one’s neighbor,” according to Simpson Theological Seminary. With this data, we can once and for all discern how much of the drug situation is truly criminal versus addict/poverty behavior (NOTE: According to the FBI, 1 million MORE Americans are arrested annually for offenses related to alcohol, which is regulated, than for all drug abuse).

Next, if we are able to remove the prohibition-style restrictions and perhaps commute sentences for non-violent offenders, we must nevertheless retain some type of stigma when it comes to public assistance.

For example, if you drive under the influence to get your chemical, or steal or engage in prostitution to support a drug habit, then you’re in trouble for DUI, stealing or prostitution – end of story. The larger issue is the culture of mediocrity that foments drug and alcohol abuse and all its behaviors (including the impact on blameless family members). It’s this culture of mediocrity that must have consequences if you think the taxpayer’s going to help you overcome them.

State law and public assistance need to consider if they’re being enablers when it comes to drug (not just MJ) and alcohol abuse. Just two years ago, the Texas Legislature required drug testing in order to receive Unemployment Insurance. This is the correct way to go about this issue. Texas lawmakers recently sent a letter to President Obama asking for Medicaid waivers that would allow our state to administer this out-of-control program with rules for personal responsibility. Similar rules can be applied to every area of public assistance, while at the same time preserving these benefits out of benevolence for those who really need them. This is true Christian conservatism.

Representative Simpson is like many other lawmakers with a TEA Party pedigree who are hooked on this need to present an ever-purer Libertarianism – a mindset which stifles creative thinking about serious problems. By definition, Libertarianism wants society to go to the dogs and allow the strong to survive. Christians who are trying to shoehorn their faith into this philosophy are anathema to anything that looks like government involvement, and therefore think a “free” Christian will become that strong survivor. This is neither Christianity nor conservatism.

In fact, it is error. To be blunt. ☺


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