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I grew up in a fairly typical American Protestant household who attended a fairly typical American Protestant church. Which means, a good portion of my worldview included this: Humans are bad. What we are by our nature, bad. What we do with and put into our bodies, bad. And if we don’t someday get things right before we die, the place we end up in will be very, very bad.
The technical theological term for this view is “total depravity,” and while it has longstanding roots in the Christian tradition—thanks Augustine—it’s a doctrine that, at the end of the day, does far more harm than good.
Case in point: Take a look at the cannabis issue. For nearly a century now, the United States has been battling a war on drugs that has ended up being a total catastrophe. A disaster of the highest kind. And where have Christians typically landed on the issue? On the affirming side. Not all of us, but a good majority have blindly supported this failed agenda.
A part of this is political, of course, but I believe a part of the issue goes back to how Christians typically view themselves and others. Here in the States—at least in the Protestant tradition—we have a very low view of humanity. Totally Depraved, you might hear. The reason for this, among others, is that we don’t start our anthropology where it should—with Genesis 1—but where we shouldn’t.
For some reason, we start in Genesis 3, with the fall of humankind. This is ill-advised and needs to change.
The Franciscans get this, which is why they start where we all should: In the beginning (pun intended). Novel concept, right?
When we start here, we don’t forget about the fall, about sin and our supposed sin-nature, we just get to see a glimpse of humanity prior to succumbing to sin. And what we’ll notice is fourfold:
God is the creator of all things Genesis 1:1–2:3
God is good Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31
Humanity is made in the image of God Genesis 1:26–27
Therefore, humanity is good, indeed very good Genesis 1:31
On top of this fourfold insight into humanity’s relationship with the divine, Genesis 1 also tells us, (in verse 29), us that God specifically made every seed-bearing plant, every fruit-yielding tree, indeed every shrub and herb, and then gave humanity the authority over it all.
In other words, the creation is our playground and our home, and as such we should enjoy playing in it while, at the same time, taking care of it. And for some, that might include enjoying cannabis.
Why shouldn’t it? Cannabis may not be “very good” for everyone in every time and place, but given that it was made by the “very good” God of Creation, it has to be “very good” in some sense. Heck, even all the so-called “evil” plants have their beneficial uses. Poison ivy, for instance, while being highly problematic for a lot of folks—myself included—has been shown to also be medicinal in nature, especially when treating skin problems and musculoskeletal injuries.
When it comes to cannabis, however, the positive uses for the herb are quite numerous. For example, not only has there been a growing number of people testifying to the amazing healing properties of CBD oil, which does not contain hallucinogenic substances, there are currently a handful of large beverage companies who are planning to release a product line of CBD-infused drinks for public consumption. One of those is Coca-Cola.
So, is CBD safe for public consumption? It would seem so. Especially since the FDA just recently approved Epidiolex, the first-ever cannabis based drug, which contains CBD, to treat seizures.
Furthermore, there are some scholars out there who have suggested that one of the ingredients used in the anointing oil from Exodus 30 was cannabis. You heard that right – cannabis!
Now, I’m no Hebrew scholar but if the kaneh bosm used in the holy anointing oil is in fact cannabis, then that means that all throughout the Judaic religion, cannabis played an important role. From anointing the tabernacle and all that was in it in Exodus 40:9–11, to consecrating Aaron in Leviticus 8:12, even to using it as a healing oil for those who are sick and suffering in James 5:13–14. Whatever it may be, kaneh bosm was a very significant plant in the scriptures and was given to us by our “very good” God.
Now, regardless of whether kaneh bosm is cannabis or some other plant, both are deemed to be good in Genesis 1. This cannot be denied.
What also cannot be denied is that when it comes to human beings—our behaviors, our actions, even the things we put into our bodies—it makes a difference as to where we begin the conversation.
If we start with the fall, with Genesis 3, and begin by talking about how wretched we are, we are going to have a distorted view of ourselves and God. We are probably also going to have a distorted view of how we are to relate to the creation and everything in it.
If, however, we start in Genesis 1—the place we should be starting—then we are going to have a much more holistic view of ourselves and our relation to both God and the very good creation.
But this should just be the start of the conversation. It should not be the end of it.
As Christians, no matter what we believe about the goodness of creation, we have to discern whether something is good for us or not in our specific time and place in the cosmos. Paul emphasized this a number of times throughout his epistles (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23). So too did Jesus when he stated,
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matthew 15:11
Again, what’s important is personal responsibility, not based on the law or on prohibitions or on what is perhaps culturally taboo at the moment, but based solely on the law of love and with a mind to respect our bodies and the bodies of others—indeed even the whole of creation.
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