Monday’s Doing Theology meeting was really an inspiring and stimulating time for me. One of the reasons that we “do” theology, is because we have all been given something from the Spirit and we can contribute to our common good together. Rod led our discussion, but we spent the bulk of our time sharing our own ideas and thoughts. We are learning about God together. We are not having political or philosophical debates; we are trying to see God as the Spirit is represented in the body.
Drugs, both recreational and pharmaceutical ones, was the subject at hand. In Philadelphia, the latest discussion surrounding drug use involves the decriminalization of marijuana. Jim Kenney, former Councilperson at-large along (now mayoral candidate) with some activists have led the way for Philadelphia to decriminalize marijuana. I think it’s a good move for the same reason that I think legalizing most narcotics are a good move. It keeps people that need health care to treat their addiction out of prison. I’ve written a lot about the war on drugs and how it contributes to the prison population in the U.S., and what Angela Davis calls “the prison industrial complex.” Legalizing drugs keeps black people, who are predominantly imprisoned in the U.S. for minor drug offenses, out of jail and gives them the opportunity to overcome their oppression.
One of the big questions the politicians the billionaires that employ will need to answer is: what is more profitable? Taxing drugs and selling them in the free market? Or continuing to support the prison industry with unjust laws? Both are major industries and they are competing. If drugs are legalized, what will companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer say? All of a sudden the chemicals they are making billions off of are available, in different forms, to people. That will further complicate it. It’s my contention that conservative morality is not what has prevented legalizing drugs, rather many of the other factors I listed above.
It’s problematic that the conversation around drugs has to do with individual expression and rights, and not the public good. Rarely is the discussion around legalization surrounding social justice, it is more a libertarian matter of individuality. That’s a problematic end because I’m not sure that one’s choice to consume drugs should happen in an individualistic vacuum.
But why would we think that we shouldn’t operate in that way? These days we get prescription drugs directly advertised to us. The commercials tell us to ask our doctor about a medication that we think we need. We are having the trust dialogue with the television. Our doctor, who may not be qualified to offer a behavioral drug may prescribe us an inordinate amount in the five minute visit. We don’t even need to consult a therapist or a shrink, who may know one thing or another about our mental health condition. The drug, which is supposed to be used to give us a starting point to start our recovery becomes the end.
If we haven’t been consulting with the TV, we may just be choosing to self-medicate. Caffeine, alcohol, weed—all of those drugs are usually abused to alleviate stress or fatigue, or any number of things. They are a form of technology that help us overcome the limitations of our body in, frankly, unnatural ways. Rod argued on Monday that we use drugs to progress through the oppression of creation. We use them to overpower our bodies to succumb to our wills. We use them to become free of pain and suffering.
What does all that do to our spiritual life? Drugs can offer us things that replace what God can offer us. We ca
If we are not listening to our body’s plea to exercise, rest, and turn off the blue screen, are we also ignoring God? If we are making these decisions by ourselves, are we listening to the body? Are we building up the body? Are we avoiding questions that need to be answered?
Fueled by for-profit interests, pharmaceutical companies and even advocates for legalization have ulterior motives that are not nearly as holy or as innocent as their commercials and speeches would have one think. I don’t want to have a “drug policy.” Call me a fundamentalist, but my doctrine is fundamentally dialogical. There are reasons to use medication, to be sure. It is a helpful technology for some people who are suffering and need help to take steps in the right direction. Medication may be the thing that motivates you to start going to therapy, which in turn might lead you to a cell, and a full life in the Body of Christ. But that’s, unfortunately, not always the case. I think we need to discern. Paul, in Romans 8, tells us to look after the weaker brother. For some people, drug use is going to be a major inhibition, for others, it won’t be. You are free to do as you want, but I think we need to consider what is best edifies the body.