The American Police State
The United States is turning into a Third World country. Warrantless searches, paid testimony, and confessions through intimidation (plea bargaining) have become rampant. Police departments have taken to outright theft of property using the mechanism of “civil asset forfeiture.” Poorer neighborhoods are being turned into literal war zones. Respect for the laws of the land has sunk to the point where people choose which laws they want to obey when they can get away with it, without guilt.
The main cause for this breakdown in our legal system is the War on Drugs. Drug dealing is extremely hard to eliminate through police tactics because when drugs are used responsibly there is no victim to report the crime. Therefore, warrantless searches, spying, paid informants and the like are necessary to even attempt to reduce illegal drug use. Further, unlike theft or violence, there is a large fraction of the populace who do not consider drug consumption to be a criminal act, so law enforcement officers fail to get full support from the community. It is for these reasons – not the desire to get high – that Libertarians insist on ending the Drug War, despite the high political cost.
Alas, this position causes Libertarians lose a lot of votes from many Christians. Christians rightly want to see a more moral society and there are many instances where recreational drug use causes people to fall into sin. But is it sin itself? The distinction is important. Jesus lists money as a thing that leads people into sin, but banning money would be a disaster! And there is no call in the Bible to do so. The call is for Christians to control their love of money. Likewise, Jesus warned against looking with desire at a woman who is not your wife. Does this mean that Christians should mandate burkhas?
So should Christians treat drug use as an issue of personal morality, leaving each person to choose which drugs to enjoy? Or do Christians have a mandate to force others to have more self-control by taking away substances that can weaken self-control? Do Christians have the mandate to do this even though this requires a great deal of violence to accomplish even tiny amounts of success?
Let’s go back to the time when God did call for his people to enforce quite a bit of personal morality in order to create a nation to be an example to the rest of the world. What did God say then?
In my search of the Bible I can find only two mind-altering drugs explicitly mentioned: mandrake and alcohol. Mandrake is mentioned only as an aphrodisiac in Genesis 30. Mandrake is also mentioned in passing in the Song of Solomon [7:13]. Alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, are mentioned…just about everywhere. There may have been other mind-altering drugs implicitly mentioned in the “spiced wine” that is in some Bible versions translated as “drugged wine.” If such wine was in fact drugged, my case is even stronger that we should treat all mind-altering herbs in the same fashion as alcohol.
As to what the Bible says about alcoholic beverages, it says a lot, both good and bad! If you think of alcohol as a drug, then the Holy Land was a major drug producing region. Grapes were a major crop. Wine-presses were standard household items. Wine was a common beverage. It was praised repeatedly.
Was wine production legal? You bet! It was mandatory!! No, not everyone had to produce wine, but someone had to because wine was part of several mandated sacrifices [Ex. 29:40, Num. 28:7].
Wine is listed as a blessing to be granted to the people of Israel should they obey the commandments [Deut 7:12-14, 23:27-28]. Wine deprivation is listed as one of the many bad consequences of not obeying the commandments [Deut 28:30, 28:39].
Wine drinking was a standard part of religious celebrations. You could use money from the second tithe to purchase wine and/or “strong drink” when you went to the three annual gatherings. This was wine for enjoyment, not pouring on a sacrifice [Deut 14:22-26].
Even the poor were to be given wine. When a debt slave was to be released, he was to be given food and wine on exit [Deut. 15:14].
Were there restrictions on alcoholic beverage consumption? Yes, but they were few and reasonable. Priests were not to drink wine while serving at the altar [Lev. 10:9]. While I can find no law as such, it appears that it was also bad form for lay people to be buzzed when attending religious services. At least, Eli accuses Hannah of being drunk when she makes her silent prayer [1 Samuel 1:10-17].
However, priests were allowed alcohol at other times. The priests were to be given wine offerings from the people [Num. 18:6-12]! And as I already pointed out, the people were encouraged to have wine at the three major feasts.
Yes, there were those who did dedicate themselves to the Lord by denying themselves alcoholic beverages. This is the Nazarite vow given in Numbers 6 [see entire chapter]. Note that this vow included all grape products, fermented and unfermented. Those who drink pasteurized grape juice are not following the Nazarite discipline.
Usually the Nazarite vow was of limited duration. The Bible specifically mentions wine being allowed after the end of the term of the vow. There were a few exceptions mentioned. Sampson was a Nazarite for life [Judges 13:7]. Samuel may have been as well – at least he is mentioned as never having a razor touching his head (another component of the Nazarite vow). John the Baptist may have been as well; he never drank wine or strong drink [Luke 1:15].
I have no quarrel with those Christians who desire to add this restriction to themselves as an extra dedication to God. And for those who have trouble with alcoholism, such abstinence is mandated under the command to avoid things which cause one to fall into sin. I will quarrel with those who think it necessary for being a Christian in general, and have a greater quarrel yet with those who would impose this discipline on others through the might of the state. The Nazarite vow (with a few exceptions) was a voluntary vow of special dedication, not a general prohibition on enjoying that mind-altering substance known as alcohol.
This is not to say that the Bible endorses drunkenness. Proverbs makes it clear that excess wine (and food!) is a bad thing [Proverbs 23:21-22] . The prophets use drunkenness as a metaphor in many unpleasant analogies [Isaiah 19:24, 24:20,28;1,19:8-10, Jer. 25:25-30,48:25-26,51:6-9]. St. Paul goes so far to say that a drunkard cannot enter the Kingdom of God [1 Corinthians 6:10].
But there was no enforceable law against being a drunkard, per se. The only punishable offense that mentions drunkenness is actually a law against rebellious teenagers [Deut 21:18-21]. The violation was that of disobedience to parents, not that of drunkenness per se. And note that gluttony is mentioned in the same breath as drunkenness. Shall we take this as a mandate to outlaw being fat? Shall we outlaw food?
Since there is no mention of other drugs, the only Biblical guidance I can find for recreational drug use and production is to generalize the treatment of alcohol. And here, legalization is the clear mandate. Moderation and/or abstinence are personal choices, not points of law.
One can quibble that I am stretching an analogy by suggesting treating recreational drugs in general the same as for wine and strong drink. Well, the alternative is to state that the Law of Moses is completely silent on the subject. The only other way I could extract a ruling would be to extend the prohibition on sorcery to the use of all mind-altering drugs. While it is true that some modern sorcerers use such drugs, it is also true by far that most such drug use is not for magical purposes. (And to extend such a prohibition outside the Holy Land violates the mandate Jesus gave his followers: to peaceably make converts of the heathen, not kill them.)
If we consider the Law of Moses to be silent on the subject, do we as Christians and Jews have the right to make up new laws to handle the modern problem of drug abuse? The Bible indicates otherwise. Consider from Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 12: