The "Plain" Drug Culture

How can anyone not notice?  It’s all around us, it’s in the news, it affects our neighbors, our towns, and society at large.   In 2013, 9.4% of the population over 11 years old have used illicit drugs in the last month, including 22.6% of 18-20 year olds.  With a prison population of over 2 million people, 1/3 of inmates report committing their current offense while high.  Drug overdoses are the number one cause of teen deaths in the USA.  In my neck of the woods, ED visits have nearly doubled over the last decade (2004-2011) to more than 5 million visits a year.  All the above statistics don’t even include the effects of alcohol.  We expect that it will worsen, as now 8 states have recently legalized recreational marijuana use, and only 5 states remain in which it is entirely prohibited.  (The remaining states have some form of decriminalization or medicinal use protections.)

Many of you, in your minds, are no doubt thinking that since these statistics are only a reflection of the state of worldly people, we really don’t have to worry that much.  While this might be true, it is also true that we don’t live in a bubble.  Consider what has been happening at the last place our family lived:  Dundee, OH in Holmes County.  The spring time not only ushers in greenery and signs of life that have long laid dormant.  It is also the time when this town of 300 swells to, at times, over 1700 youth - many of them Amish.  It was during one of these ritual rowdy rumspringa get-togethers on a resort of not more than 70 acres, amid numerous arrests of cocaine and meth possession, that one young lady lost her life due to a suspected drug overdose.  According to the county sheriff, "They absolutely don't believe the law applies to them.”  He was probably referring to the law of the magistrate, but it also apparently applied to God’s laws, including the laws of physics and biology.

Consider also a number of recent arrests of Mexican Mennonites that have occurred in Canada in recent years.  One such arrest involved 6 Mennonites from Mexico caught trafficking 11,000 pounds of marijuana and 30 kilos of cocaine from across the Canadian border.  Where were they headed?  To Grassy Lake, Alberta, a town of 649 people, 80% of which are Mennonite.  What could such a small town do with so many drugs?  The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has identified Grassy Lake as a distribution hub for the Juárez cartel, one of Mexico’s deadliest drug gangs.

OK, so you may be thinking, these are old order groups, and groups that are not born again.  That certainly wouldn’t be a reflection of our conservative groups that are born again - right?  I have personal knowledge of the fact that drug use does exist, albeit rarely, within the conservative, born-again community.  Even so, and allowing that this is exceedingly uncommon, wouldn’t it be good to know how a number of individuals in these other groups “fell off the cart,” so that we may avoid similar pitfalls in the future?  

Some reasons Christians engage in the drug culture are easier to identify than others.  What are some of these reasons?
  • Freedom - The rumspringa youth are exercising their newfound freedom.  The culture says, if it feels good, then “Just Do It (This is also the marketing slogan for a clothing and sneaker company popular with our youth.  If you don’t know which one, ask them - they’ll know.)  Yet the Apostle Paul says, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”  (Gal 5:13)
  • Coercion - One of the Mexican Mennonites that was arrested, gave testimony that when his crops failed, he accepted a “loan” from a neighbor that happened to belong to a drug cartel.  When the crops failed again, he was pressured to repay the money by smuggling drugs across the border - no doubt at the risk of death.  Was this foreseeable?  The judge found that it was not a significant factor, and he was sentenced to 7 years in prison.  The Bible says, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Cor 15:33)  and “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Cor 6:14).  These warnings would also apply to the rationale of Peer Pressure.

Here are some other readily identifiable reasons why Christians might enter into the domain of the use of illicit mind altering substances:
  • Physical Pain - The Bible says, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.”  (1 Tim 5:23) and “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish…” (Prv 31:6).  
    • So for routine non-terminal conditions that do not require the assistance of a physician, the operative word is “little.”  For many people, 2 alcoholic drinks within an hour would make them legally drunk.  A single marijuana cigarette impairs most people to at least this point.  Today there are specific medicines that treat the underlying condition without resorting to mind altering substances.  Curiously, there is a universally legal, purified prescription medicine derived from marijuana - it is called Dronabinol.  It is not a very popular medicine, however, possibly because it lacks a strong mind altering effect.
    • For life-ending conditions, a good physician should be able to adequately treat pain with powerful prescription medicines.  Scripture allows for the numbing of the mind if necessary to relieve suffering.  Still, it is good to remember that when our Lord was offered “gall” on the cross (wine mixed with Myrrh (Mk 15:23)), it was with this intent in mind.  Myrrh (aka “White Rock Opium”) would have had the effect of numbing His mind, with worldly men preparing Him for an Earthly death.  Yet, He refused it, so as to be clear of mind.
  • Emotional Pain - Solomon also states, “Give . . . wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.  Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” (Prv 31:6,7)  For proper context, read verses 4 & 5: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”  So here we are not talking about giving a depressed person a limitless supply of a mind altering substance, so they can self-medicate to the extent they think is best.  In dire circumstances, as a last resort, in controlled quantities, wine is permissible.  At the same time, He provides for a way out:  “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” (Ps 127:2)  Thankfully, we have been blessed materially, and it seems only natural that church brethren would seek to provide for each other, both physically and emotionally.  God additionally provides spiritual care: “ And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” (Eph 5:18)

Which brings us to, what I believe is the biggest problem with illicit substances:  That of emotional pain or emptiness - too easily hidden, and also too often self medicated or self-treated.  It is here where we make ourselves the most vulnerable to Satan’s snares, and where we are at the highest risk of being led astray.

The clearest way to illustrate this, is by introducing you to an up and coming drug, though it has actually been around for thousands of years.  It is an extremely potent hallucinogenic that has recently been discovered by Western man, and its name is Ayahuasca (pronounced Eye-a-hosk-a).  It comes from an Amazonian vine, and it can only be properly administered by a Shaman, or Witch Doctor - a High Priest of the forest.  It is given as a sacrament, and the experience it provides is often given in profound spiritual terms:  “Life changing,” “Great awakening,” “Rebirth,” “God(s) is(are) Love,” etc.   Miraculous healings are attributed to it: depression, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and . . . cancer.  These emotional, spiritual, and physical purges are predicated on other physical purges of the body - violent retching and uncontrollable diarrhea.  It is alternately called “The Vine of the Soul” and “The Vine of Death.”  

If you noticed that it sounds more like a religion than a drug, you are right.  In the (immodest) words of the shamans themselves:  “I've read, that it isn't the tool but the mechanic you should praise for fixing your car. So maybe only the shaman can cure?” and “This drink doesn't work without the doctrine. It's not worth having a Ferrari if you don't have a road to drive it down. Our doctrine is our road.

So in the case of Ayahuasca, while I don’t think any of our readers will be flying down to Peru any time soon, it is quite clear to see how Satan uses one such drug to appeal to the need of some to heal spiritual wounds and emptiness.  And then finally, this  is how he sets the snare:
  • Often, a person commits a sin that (unknowingly) opens a door to demonization. 
  • He drinks Ayahuasca asking for a cure. 
  • The demons stop their assault on him for a time and the patient believes he is cured.  [Temporary gratification.] 
  • Trust and faith is developed in the powers of Ayahuasca, the shaman and the spirits. 
  • The participant continues to drink Ayahuasca (thus inviting more spirits into his body). 
  • The spirits put on a good hallucinogenic show so the practitioner believes he is becoming spiritually powerful. 
  • He becomes a missionary for the spirits.
  • More people drink Ayahuasca, unknowingly become demonized, and then carry out their own (evangelistic) missions! 
(From Thomas Carroll)

Now try something: go back up to the 8 points above and take out the word Ayahuasca, and substitute in the things that perhaps have the potential to keep us from putting God first:  The over utilization of vitamins, herbs, or prescription medicines; the idolization of and primacy of physicians or chiropractors; work, real estate, money, food etc.  Be brutally and spiritually honest - these, brothers and sisters, are potentially your illicit “drugs,” just as much as anything you could get off the street.

So how do we know if these things are our “Ayahuasca”?
  1. Does it thrive in the darkness?  Ayahuasca grows in the dark, on the floor of the rain forest.  The things of God do not thrive in the darkness, whether it be bingeing on food in the dark of midnight, or viewing unsavory internet pages in secret.  “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”  (Jn 12:46)
  2. What is the cost?  Volunteer Shamans do not exist.  Likewise, when work, “things” and earning money becomes drugs, relationships suffer.  "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth.”  (Mat 6:24)
  3. Is it temporary?  Ayahuasca and other drugs only satisfy for a short period of time before the user craves for more.  When we don’t feel well, do we first reach for the vitamins, supplements, or prescription bottle?  Do we first consult our physician or chiropractor?  Or do we first seek healing from the Great Physician?  “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”  (Jn 4:14)
  4. Does it bring forth life and fruit or death?  Ayahuasca is also known as the “Vine of Death.”  Users prepare for it by regurgitating, not by repenting.  Does your Ayahuasca enhance or detract from the fruits of the spirit?  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”   (Gal 5:22-23)
So in conclusion, it is likely that there are currently few in our circles that will succumb to the usual list of illegal sedatives, stimulants, narcotics, and hallucinogens.  At the same time, if we accept similar mindsets that have allowed Satan to trap others into lives of bondage, we can’t expect to come out unscathed.   We need to prayerfully assess and neutralize those things that rob vitality from our life and relationship with the Lord, or we risk falling into the same pitfalls as street addicts.  

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12) 

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