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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Cannabis Cans and Can’ts

Cannabis Cans and Can’ts

Last summer, during one of the relative lulls in the pandemic, Amber and I took a road trip down to Texas, where she had made plans to dig through some old fundamentalist journal archives housed at Dallas Theological Seminary. (COVID-19 restrictions were keeping most of those journals off limits closer to home.)

On the way, we passed through the Oklahoma town of Muskogee—a place where they don’t smoke marijuana, at least according to Merle Haggard’s famous ode to the clean-living, proudly patriotic “Okies” living there. As we drove through town—and especially as we parked outside a Starbucks that shared plaza space with the Lotus Gold Marijuana Dispensary—we could see that Muskogee’s reputation as a haven for upright squares needed updating, at least where marijuana was concerned.

Our experience in Muskogee is consistent with broader trends across the nation, as movements to legalize medicinal and recreational pot usage gain momentum, even in many red-state environments. Which makes a new book from Western Seminary professor Todd Miles, Cannabis and the Christian: What the Bible Says About Marijuana, a timely resource for churches in a cultural moment when getting high carries less of a stigma than it once did.

North Carolina pastor and writer Nathaniel Williams interviewed Miles for the September issue of CT.

“We’ve seen thus far,” says Miles, “that the more available marijuana is, the more people will use the products, including underage people. I think that’s problematic, and that’s going to have to be addressed.

“For churches, this means that as cannabis use becomes increasingly mainstream, it’s going to become more of a pastoral issue. Pastors have to educate themselves on the risks associated with marijuana, and they need to teach their congregations about those risks. No longer can we say, ‘It’s the law, just don’t do it.’ We have to give good reasons why.

“The dominant cultural message is that marijuana is not just something that’s okay but something to be celebrated. That’s the environment Christians live in. Pastors need to understand this messaging, so they can get ahead of it and coach their congregations up.”

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