The Facts on Marijuana, Part 2: Health Concerns and Biblical Thinking


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)
When Paul addresses the Ephesians, he calls them to a sober-minded approach to their Christian walk.  They must consider whether they are walking in love, and that includes examining their speech and behavior toward others.  In Chapter 4, he ties this to unity in the church, and later in this chapter he'll tie it to believers  submission to one another.

In the midst of that discussion, Paul says, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another...." In light of his context, he is not stopping to remark specifically about alcohol, but on the lack of wisdom in giving one's mind and will over to the things of the world when the Holy Spirit should be in control.   We cannot live a fruitful Christian life when we are ensnared by the fruit and herbs of the earth.

Thus, this passage implies that we should not only consider alcohol, but all things that demand our time and minds.  Obviously,  modern Christians should also consider television, the Internet, social networking, and other inventions that may rob us of our day.  In this post, however, let's consider the implications of pot in light of the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.  Is the seeming consensus accurate that this drug is relatively harmless?  Does it affect the mind less than alcohol, therefore making it less a concern than the wine Paul mentions in Ephesians 5?

This past Wednesday, I shared a video from Steven Crowder.  Discussing how marijuana affects the brain with Crowder was Dr. Phyllis Boniface, who has her MD in Neuropsychiatry.  She argues that comparing the drug to alcohol is invalid, as the human body is designed to metabolize alcohol whereas the cannabis is stored in fat, such as the fatty tissues of the brain.  She claims that the drug can therefore have long-lasting effects on the nervous system after it is absorbed, even creating "higher incidence of psychosis and psychotic disorders" in young people who smoke it.  She continues to explain that, because the brain is continuing to develop into one's mid-twenties, storing pot in the brain at young ages impacts the myelination of the brain - "altering the way your brain will function for the rest of your life."

With that in mind, consider now this recent New York Times article, "Legalizing of Marijuana Raises Health Concerns" by Roni Caryn Rabin.  The author of that story points us to some very important facts:
  • Marijuana today is more potent than in previous decades: "The mean concentration of THC, the psychoactive ingredient, in confiscated cannabis more than doubled between 1993 and 2008."  That renders many adults' fond memories of their youth invalid for present discussion.
  • One in six teens who try marijuana become addicted, and those starting early "tend to smoke much more, and more often, than those who start in their later teens."  
  • The THC mimics natural chemicals in the brain that "affect pleasure, memory and concentration ...  even after the 'high' dissipates."  Thus, even if the drug fails to ensnare the teen, it will play with his brain long after he smoked it.
  • We already noted that the brain continues to develop well past the teen years.  Note here that those "who started smoking pot regularly before they were 16 performed significantly worse on cognitive tests of brain function than those who had started smoking later in adolescence. They performed particularly poorly on tests assessing executive function, which is responsible for planning and abstract thinking, as well as understanding rules and inhibiting inappropriate responses."  In other words, it makes kids more impulsive by visibly altering "the frontal cortex white matter tracts of the brain."
  • In addition to reduced abstract thinking, the story also notes a drop in IQ among regular teen pot smokers.
This information should even be enough to disturb unbelievers.  But why should Christians worry about these kinds of issues?  Shouldn't we assume that Christians know not to do drugs?


First, Christians, on the whole, do not seem to know such things anymore.  American Christianity, in the name of higher experiences (pun intended), has been abandoning as many roots as possible, both morally and theologically.  For instance, Christian groups attempting to reach a postmodern culture, advertise things like so-called Pub Theology ("Faith, Hope, Love and Beer").  Others liken the Christian experience to a mystical drunkenness, inviting people to join an "intoxicating ride as we drink deep from the River called Pleasure," even pretending to get high on the Holy Spirit.  Given the Evangelical marketing machine and general disdain for reason, it won't be long before smoke lounge Bible studies sell Genesis 1:29 Grass (patent-pending) and invite the lost to partake of the "glory cloud."  Christians who love the Holy Spirit and His Book should be ready to combat such foolish and unwise thinking.
Second, as Christians filled with the love of God, we must take even greater care of our children and the lives of young people in our churches, guiding each in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4).  This includes the effects of substance abuse upon the body God gave them.  Unfortunately, the current polling data shows a generational gap; the youth of America believes marijuana to be harmless.  Moreover, with legalization upon the American landscape, our problem may be compounded with the fact that marijuana may well become as available to young people as cigarettes and alcohol.

Considering this, we must lovingly educate the young souls God gave us and graciously pray and walk with them through times of each temptation.  In doing this, we are helping them to develop their own Christian worldview so they can evaluate for themselves whether a substance helps or hinders them in honoring God with their minds.  Even if some enter rebellious times, they will then (hopefully) be wary of such substances, leaving fully functioning minds and hearts the Holy Spirit can one day convict.

Third, for the safety of our kids our general love for our neighbors, we should vocalize our opposition to any attempts at legalization of such substances.  While the Bible should be the central theme of our pulpits, Christians should also carry their godly compassion and sound knowledge to the voting booth.  Youth, collegiate, and campus ministries do not release parents of their obligation, but pastors should also be aware of such practical implications in texts like Ephesians 5:15-21, Galatians 5:19-21, and Romans 13:1-2.

In this way, they build that consistent Christian worldview in the next generation of voters.  After all, that is what a worldview does - it informs every area of life, including one's politics.  Let it be a biblical one.

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