Stoned soul pastors?

As "old media" seek to reach new audiences through the use of online technologies, we've seen journalists, like the Boston Globe's Michael Paulson develop blogs (his is "Articles of Faith"). Sometimes these are a way of posting less formal comments on a topic. Sometimes they offer another place to discuss issues that journalists can't fit into the traditional news hole.

Which raises the question -- to what standards should we hold these blogs? (And yes, I realize that these questions can also apply to us at GetReligion). At a minimum, one would expect journalists to strive for accuracy and make corrections if they make mistakes -- those are also "old media" standards. But look beyond these fundamentals and the dilemmas get more interesting. Are reporters obligated, for example, to present more one point of view? Do they strive for objectivity -- or is the blog a haven for personal opinions?

I pondered these questions while reading Manya Brachear's post in her Chicago Tribune blog, "The Seeker" on a move by some clergy to back a Illinois bill decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana.

There's actually a very serious national discussion going on about the use of marijuana to treat the symptoms of illnesses MS and chronic pain. But per my headline, pot is a topic that prompts some truly terrible humor -- another reason to blame baby boomers, or maybe the Grateful Dead.

Brachear's lede, frankly, thuds. As those using this particular Gospel story often seem to forget, Jesus didn't only tell the aspiring "stoners" to cut it out, but told the adulterous woman to "go and sin no more."

When Jesus proclaimed "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," he was preaching compassion. Some Illinois clergy who support a different kind of getting stoned say they are urging compassion too.

More than 60 religious leaders in Illinois are calling on state senators this week to pass a bill that would allow patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation and without criminal consequences.

Brachear includes quotes from medical marijuana proponents, including clergy from the United Church of Christ and United Methodist denominations. But she doesn't quote clergy opponents -- who probably wouldn't be that hard to find. Nor does she identify who is promoting this bill in the State Senate and whether they have any religious connection.

Several studies suggest that marijuana can mitigate nausea, pain and anxiety for patients with illnesses such as HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Theological arguments are based on these findings.

"There is a moral obligation to heal and address suffering," said Rev. Al Sharp, executive director of Chicago-based Protestants for the Common Good. "Jesus lived his life healing those where he could and bringing those to the absence of pain. This is entirely consistent with that."

I would hope that those clergy who want to see marijuana legalized have a theological perspective on which to make that argument, rather than the other way around. The quote from Sharp supports that interpretation -- and it would have been really helpful to have seen more of that kind of reflection -- balanced by responses from opponents. At the end of her post, Brachear ask for reader response -- but doesn't give her readers nearly enough to work with. As a blogger, does she have to? What do you think?

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