Drugs and the Church

by michaelbhall

Virtually every member of the Church of Christ that I have met believes that using drugs is sinful.  Most of the arguments they offer to prove this have serious flaws.  Here’s a list of many anti-drug arguments are bad.

Bad theology:  Some Christians argue that drugs are inherently immoral. However, God created everything, and everything he created was “good” (cf. Gen. 1 and 2).  Now, certain synthetic drugs would be excluded from this theological consideration, but organic drugs like tobacco and marijuana were most certainly created by God, and therefore have his stamp of approval.  This does not mean that God expects man to get high, but the claim that drug use is wrong because drugs are inherently immoral is simply absurd.

Double Standards Regarding Drug Use: Some Christians disapprove of certain drugs because they are illegal (think LSD, Marijuana, Ecstasy, etc.).  However, these same Christians readily approve prescription drugs simply because the government has approved of their (limited) usage.  That the government approves of one drug but bans another is not proof of the morality or immorality of using any given drug.  The government is not the arbiter of morality, God is.  As such, the ultimate standard for the morality of using a given drug is not the government but God.

Bad Terminology:  Some Christians argue that drugs are wrong because they are mind-altering.  There is simply no way to prove this, except tautologically. Even then, any given tautology could only apply to the one asserting it.

Bad Science:  Some Christians recognize that a more-provable assertion is that drugs are brain-altering.  This assertion is predicated on a false assumption.  Namely, that the brain is a static organ.  Neurological research indicates that the brain is very much a dynamic organ (cf. The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge), changing its structure on a daily basis.  Its function also varies second-to-second.  This means that the assertion is based on the assumption that there is a “normal” (or static) state of the brain that drug use causes deviation from.  There is absolutely no evidence for this view.  In fact, most evidence suggests the exact opposite.

Double Standards Regarding Drug Effects:  Some Christians argue that drugs have a measurable impact on brain function, by the way they stimulate the brain.  This argument is hypocritical in a variety of ways.  First, all stimuli have a measurable impact on the brain (eating food produces a sort of high, drinking a soft drink produces a sort of high, standing in sunshine produces a sort of high, etc.).  Second, some drugs impact the brain in the same way certain God-approved activities do. For example, ingesting crack is neurologically identical to having sex.  Are these same Christians now going to condemn any and all forms of sex because it has a measurable impact on brain function?

Bad Statistics:  Some Christians claim that drug usage is a gateway to other sins (e.g. smoking pot leads people to participate in crimes unrelated to drug use, like theft).  A simple statistical analysis shows this claim to be false, for it is reported that around 41% of adult Americans have tried pot.  Yet, less than 22% of all adult Americans have committed some sort of crime.  For those who are bad at math, 22 is less than 41.  This means that, at best, there is a slightly better than 50% chance that a drug user will also be a criminal.  50-50 odds just aren’t that good.  Thus, there is minimal positive correlation between drug use and other crime, and so this assertion is also false.

Term Conflation– Many Christians have a tendency to treat all drugs the same.  However, there is simply too broad a range of drugs to lump them all together.  Hallucinogens are different from depressants, from stimulants, from amphetamines, etc.  Not only that, they also fail to consider the difference between organic and synthetic drugs.  Different drugs have different purposes and uses, and these need to be considered when addressing the issue of drugs.

When all is said and done, it appears that many in the church have failed to think through this issue as they ought.  This failure to consider the issue of drug use has led to sloppy thinking, sloppy argumentation, and bad doctrine.  We need to do better.