Viewpoint: What if drugs were legal…

The debate about whether or not to decriminalise recreational drugs rumbles on.  Just before Christmas, Bob Ainsworth, Labour MP for Coventry North East, raised the issue yet again in a House of Commons debate, arguing that past drug policies have not worked and that a new approach is needed.  

What if, one day, the drug legalisation lobby wins the day and the use of mind altering drugs is no longer a criminal offence?   What would this mean for Christian attitudes towards them?  After all, the Bible gives us no guidance about any mind altering substance except alcohol and it doesn’t prohibit that.  

It is hard to believe that no psychoactive substances were used (apart from alcohol) in Biblical times and that Bible writers were completely unaware of them.  Certainly a quick search of the internet reveals that there is archaeological and historical evidence that the use of mind and mood altering drugs has been around for a very long time.  In the Middle East, the Sumerians were using opium from 5,000 BC.  Yet the Bible is silent.

So, if the use of recreational drugs was decriminalised so that it was not illegal to use them; and in the absence of any Biblical prohibition on their use; would/should Christians feel free to experiment with cannabis, cocaine – even heroin?  If the answer is ‘no’, then why the double standard with regard to alcohol?  It is a psychoactive drug just as cannabis and crack cocaine are – and its widespread use has equally serious consequences.  In fact, Prof David Nutt, former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, famously pronounced alcohol the ‘most dangerous’ drug when compared to other drugs that are currently illegal, using criteria that measured harm to individuals and harm to others.

Yes, it is possible to drink in moderation without doing much harm (except when you are pregnant, driving, flying an airplane….) and it might be possible to use cannabis or cocaine moderately and occasionally without doing yourself or others any real harm.  But why would you want to when Christians claim to have an abundant life that is a free gift of grace?  And when there are so many people out there who are unable to do anything pleasurable in moderation.

In a pleasure and sensation-seeking generation, the Christian life has to stand out in all kinds of ways.  We are called to be salt and light in this dark world.  “If the salt has lost its savour, how can it be made salty again?” (Jesus)

Hope UK is not ashamed to say that it has its roots in the temperance movement of the mid-nineteenth century.  The Band of Hope was one of the many initiatives taken by Christians of the time who saw how alcohol was ruining the lives of men, women and children and wanted to raise up a standard against it.  This they did to spectacular effect as illustrated in a speech made on June 15th, 1933, by Sir Edgar Sanders, Director of the Brewers’ Society.  He said, “The chief customers of the public-house today are the elderly and middle-aged men.  Unless you can attract the younger generation to take the place of the older men, we shall have to face a steadily falling consumption of beer.”  

Band of Hope members willingly gave up their freedom to consume alcohol in order to encourage others, for whom it was a real problem, to do likewise.

Are there Christians who care enough about the many who are destroying their lives through their addictions, and blighting the lives of those who care for them, to give up one of their Christian freedoms to demonstrate by an unequivocal example that an abundant life is possible without the use of any psychoactive drug?

Marolin Watson
Hope UK

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