Cannabis for churchgoers

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Cannabis, for some Christians, can be a conundrum.

Scripture makes no explicit reference to cannabis, nor implied acknowledgment of the plant’s existence. Yet there’s plenty in the Bible that can speak to the role of cannabis in health care, family life, society and spirituality, say two local pastors who delved into the subject and explained their interpretation in a new book.

“I think it’s important to have a healthy conversation about it,” says pastor Charlie Granade of Grace Baptist Church in Rogue River.

Sparking the conversation is “Jesus and Mary (Jane),” which Granade researched and co-wrote with pastor Barnabas Sprinkle, formerly of Southern Oregon. The self-published, 191-page book was released in June and is available on Amazon for $14.99, as well as at Grace Baptist. The subtitle “Navigating Marijuana & Cannabis in Light of Science and Scripture” has appeal beyond Christian congregations, says Granade, and hopefully will provide inroads for anyone inclined to dismiss church and cannabis as incompatible.

“We’ve really tried to not make it about liberal versus conservative,” says Granade, adding that he falls in the latter group while his co-author, who pastored Westminster Presbyterian Church in Medford for eight years, leans more toward the former.

“He started with more concern, and I started more permissive,” says Sprinkle, of New Jersey. “We both learned a lot and met somewhere kind of in the middle.”

Educating himself about cannabis, says Granade, was the project’s initial purpose. Lacking personal experience with marijuana upon arriving in Southern Oregon from Alabama, Granade found his church surrounded by cannabis farming operations and its congregation inclusive of members who “grow it, sell it and smoke it,” including for medical reasons.

“I know CBD is a great thing for a lot of folks,” he says, adding that he believes cannabis’ treatment of health conditions is more widespread in Christian congregations than members’ disclosures would indicate.

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand,” says Sprinkle, explaining his disappointment that anyone using cannabis for medical reasons would feel shamed into hiding it from their faith community.

Recreational enjoyment, however, constitutes the majority of cannabis use — about 83%, says Granade. And the detriment to children’s developing brains is the key point of the book’s first chapter, titled “What’s the Harm?”

Whether it’s a reduction in IQ or significant psychological disorders, the toll on teen cannabis users is well-documented, say Granade and Sprinkle. The impacts of secondhand smoke on younger children also are cited, along with illnesses linked to vaping.

“I kind of assumed cannabis had been the same plant for thousands of years, and — wow, that’s not true,” says Sprinkle, speaking of potency and potential for contamination from industrial farming and processing methods. Cannabis, he says, suffers from being illegal instead of being extensively studied.

“It’s sad to me that we know too little,” says Sprinkle, who holds a degree in physics and characterizes his as a “science-minded family.”
“God creates something good, and then humans do something else with it.”

Both the public and the cannabis industry, the pastors conclude, would benefit from more FDA regulation. Conducting his research primarily at Southern Oregon University, Granade consulted domestic and international sources beyond “big pharma.”

“We’ve even quoted from Leafly,” says Granade of a popular cannabis consumer website.

Quoting from scripture is prevalent throughout Part II of the book. In response to the question: “Is smoking pot a sin?” the authors respond with an exploration of defining sin, why sin matters and how God’s plan remedies sin. The next six chapters rest on the foundation of the gospel and, at the end of each, pose questions for small group discussion or self-study.

Ultimately, readers — Christian, secular and cannabis users all — should ask themselves if their choices are serving their “abundant life.”

“Sometimes seeking escape gets in the way of seeking true abundance,” says Sprinkle. “What God offers us is not a way of escape.”

“Anything can be used to try to fill that void,” adds Granade, citing alcohol, the Internet or humanity’s myriad other distractions and indulgences.

Cannabis as an introduction to the occult is chronicled in one of the book’s passages, narrated by one of several people the pastors interviewed. Drug use as a fun pastime became a nightmare for this man, who says he nearly suffered a psychotic break. The pastors venture that numerous other sources, from historical texts to modern articles in the mainstream media, confirm a connection between drugs and the “risk for demonic bondage.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the pastors decry any notion that cannabis or counterparts that shift consciousness could enhance one’s spirituality. There’s no record or tradition of either Jews or Christians using mind-altering substances to enter a spirit realm, as adherents to some other religions do, says Sprinkle. The everyday awareness that God granted humankind is ideal for worshipping him, he adds.

“He meets us there,” says Sprinkle.

“God wants us to have a truly abundant life,” he adds. “And we don’t need substances to have that.”

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