Discerning God’s will is always a tricky business, but Billy Graham seems confident that he has it down pat. Witness one of his “My Answer” columns in which he declares that it is not God’s will for anyone to smoke marijuana, even if they are a Christian and believe otherwise:
Q: A friend of mine gave his life to Jesus a few months ago, and I really believe he meant it. But he’s always been kind of a free spirit and says he doesn’t see anything wrong with continuing to smoke pot, just like he’s done for years. Is he right?
A: No, it isn’t God’s will for him to continue doing this. God doesn’t want us to cloud or confuse our minds in any way, whether with drugs, alcohol or anything else.
However, none of the verses Graham cites to back his position up are very definitive. The most relevant one urges believers to keep their bodies “holy and pleasing” to God, but this is irrelevant to the question of marijuana smoking unless one assumes in advance that drug use is unholy, which is what is in question. Graham seems to be on thin ice with this answer, scripturally speaking.
But we can go further than that. Even an evangelist as experienced as Billy Graham, it seems, can be unaware of scriptural passages that cast an entirely new light upon important issues, such as the following little-known Bible verse:
“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”
—Genesis 1:29 (RSV)
The language of this passage is clear: God has given humanity every green plant for food, and grants us permission to eat any of them which are edible. No exceptions to this grant are stated or implied anywhere in the Bible. But if that is the case, I would like to focus on three green plants in particular. Specifically, I am referring to Papaver somniferum, Cannabis sativa and Erythroxylum coca – the poppy, cannabis and coca plants that are the sources of opium, marijuana and cocaine respectively.
All of these drugs are natural chemical compounds produced by these plants. Although processing can yield a more potent version of the drug that can be smoked, snorted or injected, a user can readily get high by consuming the appropriate part of the plant in its raw, natural state. It would seem that a Christian or Jew, if they believe in the Bible, should therefore support legalizing these drugs. God said they were created for our use, and who are we to contravene his will?
A believer might argue against this by claiming that these plants did not originally contain intoxicating compounds, but gained them as part of the curse of the Fall. There is no scriptural support whatsoever for such an idea, but even if it is true, it is irrelevant. Nowhere in the Bible does God abrogate his initial blanket grant of permission.
This verse ties into the larger point of why, in the religious view, these plants and others like them exist at all. This must be an embarrassing difficulty for theists who oppose drug legalization: if God did not want us to get high, then why, according to them, would he make such plants in the first place? An atheist can believe that these compounds just happened to evolve in a way that made it possible for them to act on us, so that their existence is not necessarily an endorsement of their use, but religious people who believe that all things exist due to divine providence must have a much harder time explaining this.
Other posts in this series: