I know a few people who have the card – a medical marijuana card. Yes, I said ‘a few’. From my observation there appear to be two types of card holders. The first are those whose sole purpose is to find some relief from an ailment or to supplement some another type of treatment – like chemotherapy. One friend is having very good results using cannabis to help with the nausea and appetite loss that chemo causes. Then there are those that may have a legitimate illness but seek more the euphoria or high that marijuana provides and use the opportunity to get it ‘legally’. In the latter group the goal seems to be more about the high, whether or not it addresses the ailment. These observations caused me to think about a few things this week.
First, let’s consider the whole concept of legislating behavior when it comes to consumption. We have all heard the term, ‘everything in moderation’, normally good advice. I personally have come to the conclusion that there is nothing on this earth that is inherently evil, and that would include drugs like marijuana. If you took a field of pot and just let it sit there, nothing evil would happen. It would grow, bloom, seed, die and go back into the earth where it came from. The same would go for tobacco, coffee beans, cocaine, and the poppies used to make heroine. Like all things created, God’s creations are good. He even says so:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food….God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Gen. 1:29
So, all of creation is not only good, it is very good. And I believe it is very good, not just because He said it, but God created it, and He created it all to serve man, His greatest creation. Here’s the point: Evil is simply a by-product of the free-choice God gives us – primarily to choose to love Him and be with Him. And, giving free-choice is quite hollow if it is given selectively. So then, it is not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that leads us to evil. (By the way that saying is nowhere to be found in the Bible.)
Well then how do we take a divinely created ‘good’ thing like pot, or tobacco, or coffee, or cocaine, sex, food, alcohol, etc., etc., etc. and make it evil. At some point we choose to take that thing and make it our god so to speak. We worship it by giving it an extra-ordinary place in our lives. We make it the goal we seek when we get up in the morning. We make it much more than what it should ever be in our lives. We literally use it to replace what we are lacking – God Himself. I love these two quotations, the first from Blaise Pascal, 17th Century mathematician, physicist, inventor and philosopher:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?…This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”
And, maybe a little more eloquently stated by St. Augustine from the Fourth Century: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
If you get this you now understand that there is no solution to any of mankind’s great social issues unless God is placed at the center of our lives. None. We can write all of the laws, build endless prisons, institute countless social programs, but if the goal in not to get God in His righteous place – nothing of any true worth will ever come of it. The amount of resources that we expend in denying this simple reality is itself staggering. (Conservatively speaking over $100 billion dollars is spent globally on the ‘war on drugs’ – that would buy a lot of meals for starving people.) Then, I recently read this passage in the book, The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser, which puts some of this misplaced effort into perspective:
Once upon a time there was a town that was‘ built just be yond the bend of large river. One day some of the children from the town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the river. One body was dead so they buried it. One was alive, but quite ill, so they put that person into the hospital. The third turned out to be a healthy child, who they then placed with a family who cared for it and who took it to school.
From that day on, every day a number of bodies came floating down the river and, every day, the good people of the town would pull them out and tend to them–taking the sick to hospitals, placing the children with families, and burying those who were dead.
This went on for years; each day brought its quota of bodies, and the townsfolk not only came to expect a number of bodies each day but also worked at developing more elaborate systems for picking them out of the river and tending to them. Some of the townsfolk became quite generous in tending to these bodies and a few extraordinary ones even gave up their jobs so that they could tend to this concern full-time. And the town itself felt a certain healthy pride in its generosity.
However, during all these years and despite all that generosity and effort, nobody thought to go up the river, beyond the bend that hid from their sight what was above them, and find out why, daily, those bodies came floating down the river.
…maybe if they had done so they would have seen the same thing missing from those poor souls floating down the river was the same thing missing from theirs – God in His righteous place at the center of their (and our) lives. Lastly, Jesus gave us this vision when He reminded us of these two commandments, the greatest and the only ones we would ever need:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:38
Once we do that, the rest will take care of itself…