By John Chandler
In July, the New York Times posted one of the most noted editorials in its history, calling for the national legalization of marijuana. Using the tired argument of anti-pot laws as akin to Prohibition, it made legitimate and reasoned arguments about the difficulty of federal enforcement of a ban when states vary on its legality.
But let’s not get caught up in the minutiae; the Times has seen where the cultural parade is marching, and is getting in front of it by trumpeting the inevitable coming legalization of pot.
What is clearly trending is the normalization of pot culture and usage. Upon legalization and the subsequent license for traditional media to advertise, this image will explode. It will be something akin to what I saw in the 1960s — the Rat Pack clinking around clowning and drunk, or tough guys ranging from Andy Griffith to the Marlboro Man smoking with masculine vigor. Get ready to see marketers capitalize on “pot sensibility” as an inside joke of shared lifestyle. Think of the possibilities to sell to the coveted 18- to 29-year-old demographic. Advertisers already are.
Let me pause for a moment to editorialize: I believe that the coming legalization of marijuana is both inevitable and absolutely catastrophic. Our nation is going to do this, and we will swallow a poison pill when we do. Go ahead and call me a Prohibitionist if you must (is that all you’ve got?), but count the current societal costs of legal tobacco and legal alcohol, and tell me how adding a third legal drug is going to do anything other than multiply those costs exponentially? If you want to put a face on it, think 20 years out and picture the brains of a generation of kids born to stoners. Or just think of your local highway. Is anyone comforted by this?
Once the script has completely flipped and we are in the new normal of pot approval, the church will need to gear up for responding in ways that are countercultural and persuasive. Are there ways we can speak of sobriety and temperance that are spiritually compelling? Will we be able to reinvigorate the biblical injunctions against drunkenness to where they shape lifestyle decisions? Can we champion mental clarity and bodily discipline as sought-after virtues? Will we be able to come off sounding not like no-fun prudes, but as exemplars of a clearer, healthier, more enlightened way of living? Can we still show “a more excellent way?”
Once pot is legal, will the church in North America be able to say that it is wrong?