Pot or Not? Christian Pastors Weigh in on the Marijuana Debate

Apr 03, 2014 12:48 PM EDT

In the midst of a nationwide debate over marijuana legalization, many Christians are left wondering on how to respond to the issue. Various pastors give their perspectives in a series of blog posts and interviews as public opinion shifts increasingly in favor of decriminalizing the drug.

In an article titled "Don't Let Your Mind Go to Pot," theologian John Piper offers Biblical reasoning for why marijuana should be avoided. He references a study conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for legalization of marijuana, which is categorized in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

"The short-term effects of marijuana include immediate, temporary changes in thoughts, perceptions, and information processing," reveals the study. "The cognitive process most clearly affected by marijuana is short-term memory."

Piper quotes 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which states "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" The theologian says that this verse has been an "an immovable barrier between me and self-destruction."

Christians need to ask, "Is this making Jesus look like the treasure He is?" Piper writes. "I would ask this that about smoking, about drunkenness, about recreational marijuana, about sedentary indolence, about overeating, about banal TV watching, and lots of other things."

Nine states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults, according to the Daily Beast. Twenty states have passed legislation to allow medical marijuana since 1996, while 16 states have begun to allow the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

According to a 2013 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, 58 percent of white mainline Protestants and 54 percent of black Protestants favor legalizing the use of marijuana. On the other side, nearly seven-in-10 (69 percent) white evangelical Protestants oppose it.

Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for several prominent evangelicals including Franklin Graham and Hobby Lobby founder Steve Green, says he believes marijuana is not the most important issue leaders should be discussing.

"When 50 percent of our prison beds are occupied by nonviolent offenders, we have prison overcrowding problems and violent offenders serving shortened sentences, I have a problem with incarceration for possession of marijuana," he said.

"None of that's to say I favor free and rampant marijuana use. I don't think it's the most serious blight on America...I'm not in favor, but I think we should address how high of a priority it should be. "

In a blog post titled "Puff or Pass," Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle based Church Mars Hill, takes an alternative stance, saying that while recreational use of marijuana is not illegal or particularly sinful, it is unwise.

"... Eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful - it's just foolish," he wrote. "This explains why the Bible speaks not only of sin, but also folly, particularly in places such as the book of Proverbs. There are innumerable things that won't get you arrested or brought under church discipline, but they are just foolish and unwise."

Referencing 1 Corinthians 13:11, Driscoll makes the argument that smoking marijuana is indicative of immaturity among young men. He says he fears that "young men are the most likely to smoke weed and, by seemingly all measurable variables, are immature, irresponsible, and getting worse."

A public poll released earlier this week reveals that three-fourths of Americans say it's inevitable that marijuana will be legal for recreational use across the nation, whether they support such policies or not.