There is something about writing about marijuana that gets reporters a bit, well, dopey. You see, they think that marijuana, and its legalization, are just fodder for jokes. Perhaps it's because I'm a libertarian who believes in a very limited government, but I take discussions about what the government should concern itself with quite seriously. I'm sure marijuana prohibitionists do as well. Editorial pages have not shown a lot of wisdom in how they weigh in on this topic, as Reason magazine has chronicled over the years.
I've asked various pastors for their thoughts on weed and will never forget the one guy who told me, "Weed? Weed? Weed is a beautiful gift from God." He added, immediately, "Of course there are First Article issues for us." That referred to the First Article of the creed and our obedience and love for all of God's Law -- about which a whole book could be written.
Anyway, I had hoped for a bit more from this Associated Press article headlined "Holy Schism Emerges Over Pot Legalization In Colorado." It begins:
The stakes in Colorado's marijuana debate are getting much higher – as in, all the way to heaven.
A vigorous back-and-forth between pot legalization supporters and foes entered the religious arena Wednesday. A slate of pastors called on Coloradans to reject making pot legal without a doctor's recommendation.
"It's heading to a path of total destruction," warned Bishop Acen Phillips, who leads New Birth Temple of Praise Community Baptist Church in Denver.
About 10 pastors spoke at the event organized by the campaign to defeat the Colorado ballot proposal. If approved, the measure would allow adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Oregon and Washington have similar proposals before voters next month.
Colorado's legalization supporters responded quickly to the holy war on pot, releasing a list of clergy members who support legalizing the drug and ending criminal penalties for its use. Those ministers argued that religious leaders and parents should guide decisions about marijuana, not the law.
"I do not support smoking pot. I do not like the stuff," said the Rev. Bill Kirton, a retired Methodist minister in Denver. "But the harm it does is much less than sending more and more people to prison. And I think it's time to legalize marijuana."
What you'll notice is that there's very little "religion" in this "religious arena." These people could just as easily be random community leaders as leaders of religious communities. We learn that Kirton chuckled about "supporting an illegal drug as a man of the cloth" -- ha ha! -- and that he believes most clergy are with him. Then we hear from others who say they're worried about the problems caused by drug use and that attracting drug dealers is bad for a community.
It almost seems to me that we're dealing with an economic or cultural divide that may not have as much to do with religion as the headline and copy suggest. A sample of the depth to the piece:
The religious divide over marijuana is the latest arena in which folks are taking sides on Colorado's pot measure. The pro-marijuana and anti-marijuana groups have in recent weeks gone back and forth over who sides with them.
There's just not a lot of there there.
It's also worth noting how this story exemplifies the way that some religious groups are marginalized from news stories. Basically there are the types of churches that believe their doctrine indicates a particular legislative or policy approach. And there are churches that don't believe that policy prescriptions are within their wheelhouse. We tend to hear far less from the latter because the media love political stories.
I'm pretty sure that my church body would simply say Lutherans have the freedom to use their own reason to vote on this topic. That's an important viewpoint, too, and one shared by more than just Lutherans. Yet it never appears in these stories about the various political factions in the religious community. And in a state such as Colorado, it might be nice to find out what some less-mainstream religious communities think on this topic. Any Native religious groups weighing in? Any of the Eastern religious communities that have thrived there?
Anyway, I'm still interested in whether there is anything in Scripture -- or some other religious norm or framework -- that could inform how we vote on these matters. When saying that there is a "holy schism" and that the stakes go so high that it's all the way "to heaven" -- what an overstatement -- on this matter, it would be nice to have some actual religious content other than "bishop" or "the Rev." in the story.