Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana
As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mormons Teach that God Has a Wife.

Mormon Temple in San Diego, California
One of the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) is that “All human beings, male and female, are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents, a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.” (Quoted from the LDS.org website.) They teach that God is a mortal from another world who was resurrected and Mormons are told they too will become gods. These teachings and many others of the LDS church are in direct contradiction to the Bible and the teachings of Christianity. They are also completely without justification. If you would like to learn more about how to counter the false LDS teachings for yourself or someone you know, we recommend getting a copy of The Salt Lake City Messenger of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry. You can check the article index at: www.utlm.org/navnewsletters.htm. You can also subscribe for free. These Mormon doctrines fly in the face of the Bible and deny the very nature of God. If you are interested in learning more about God, you can read our free pamphlets online at www.doesgodexist.org. A good place to start is with the pamphlet “Who Created God?” www.doesgodexist.org/Pamphlets/WhoCreatedGod.html
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Frillfin Goby–A Fish with a Built-in GPS

Frillfin goby
One of the most studied fish in the ocean is a three-inch long shore fish called the frillfin goby (Bathygobius soporator). This little fish has even gotten attention from the New York Times which ran an article about studies by Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on this fish and how it survives (May 15, 2016).

This fish lives in the intertidal zones in the Atlantic Ocean. When the tide goes out, the fish lives in small tidal pools which are isolated and free of the large predatory fish which pose a threat when the tide is in. The problem is that these small pools can be hunting grounds for shorebirds and crabs so sometimes the fish needs to change pools. The goby does this by jumping out of its pool and landing in a nearby pool that offers better protection. The obvious problem with making this jump is knowing where the next pool is to land in it and not on bare rock. In 1971 a study was done at the American Museum of Natural History to see how the frillfin goby learns where to jump and how far to jump to land in the pool. Their conclusion was that the goby swims over the area at high tide and makes a mental map of the topography of the sea floor. It can use this mental map 40 days later to escape from a predator. Essentially they have a mental GPS that allows them to make what would otherwise be a very dangerous escape.

This is not a chance driven device. Observers did not see any case where the goby missed its pool. The accuracy of the jumping is far beyond chance. This instinctive drive and the biological features that sustain it are an evidence of an intelligence providing for life in every nook and cranny of the world around us. For more information see the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 188 (1) : 378-392.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Resurrection Plant

Resurrection Plant
Resurrection Plant 3-hour Timelapse, Credit: Serych/wikimedia commons
An advertisement currently running on television for a lotion product says that it contains ingredients derived from the “Resurrection Plant.” After doing some research on resurrection plants, I found that several plants are called by that name. The thing they all have in common is that they can become desiccated (almost completely dried out) and then return to life when water is applied. Perhaps the best known is Selaginella lepidophylla which is sold as a novelty. The animation shows one of these plants going from dry to revived over a three-hour period. This resurrection plant is native to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico and western Texas. It is known by various other names including “rose of Jericho.” It’s also called “false rose of Jericho” because there is another species of resurrection plant called “rose of Jericho” that grows in the deserts of Asia and Africa.

Whatever you call it, the Selaginella lepidophylla has a special distinction. Early Spanish missionaries to the American desert southwest used it as an object lesson to teach the natives about the concept of rebirth. When the plant appears to be dead and without hope, water revives it to new life. This can be compared to a person dead in sin being revived to new life in baptism. However, it isn’t the water that gives the baptized person new life, but the power of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection plants are not really dead. Those desert plants are waiting in a dormant state until the rain returns. When Jesus was placed in the tomb, he was completely dead as verified by the Roman soldier who pierced his side with a sword. Then early on the first day of the week, he was alive again. That is a true resurrection and the most solidly verified event of ancient history. I don’t know if an ingredient from the resurrection plant will restore your skin. I do know that the resurrection of Jesus can restore your soul. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The apostle Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3,4).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report

Homosexual Lifestyle
Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Drug Alcohol–Worse than Previously Believed

Alcoholism
Christians are told to take care of their bodies because they are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit and we should not defile that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) We are also told to stay away from “all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) I am always amazed when I hear people who claim to be Christians trying to justify the use of alcohol when there is so much data to show how evil and destructive it is. A recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that “alcohol is the second most deadly drug in the United States, behind only tobacco.” Between 2002 and 2014 alcohol deaths increased by 37% in the United States. Alcohol now accounts for more fatalities than overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin combined. The Center also reports that alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Most people are not even aware that alcohol use contributes to cancer, but the data is very clear. Data from The Week, December 23/30 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheism and Translation Issues

Elisha’s Spring Fountain at Jericho
Atheists do their best to make the God of the Bible seem to be a heartless, ruthless, barbaric, evil God. We have reviewed many of their attempts over the years. Recently an example cited in an atheist blog demonstrates the difficulties that occur when an old translation is read carelessly. The story is in 2 Kings 2:23-24. The King James translation tells us that as the prophet Elisha was walking a group of “little children came out of the city” and mocked him ridiculing his bald head. According to verse 24 Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord” and two bears came out of the woods and tore up 42 of them. If you stop at this point, you could think that the God who caused this was heartless, ruthless, barbaric, and evil. Why should God be so vindictive when all the children were doing is making fun of an old bald preacher?

The truth is that God is not any of those things. The Hebrew word translated “little children” in the King James Version of the Bible is also used to describe Joseph when he was 17 and Joshua when he served in the tabernacle. It is also used to describe David when he fought Goliath and Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7, even though he was married. We aren’t talking about a bunch of six-year-olds, but rather a large group of young warrior-like juveniles who could have done great harm to Elisha. The city they were coming from was Bethel which was a center of idolatry in Israel. In 2 Kings 10:29 we read that Jeroboam established golden calf worship in Bethel. In this story, 42 young thugs come out to attack a prophet of God. That is a far cry from innocent children making fun of an old man. Another important fact in this story is what the young men are saying, “go up you baldhead,” is not about Elisha’s hair line. In verse 11 Elijah was taken up into heaven, and Elisha was left to carry on. In verse 3 the pagan prophets had jeered Elisha because his mentor was going to leave him. They said, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” They were saying he would be powerless because Elijah who gave him his authority would be gone.

The rest of the story is that Elisha showed his authority by using the abilities given him by God including miraculously purifying the water from the spring at Jericho. Whenever there is a biblical event that looks foolish or contradictory, we need to examine it more closely. We need to consider who wrote the account, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day would have understood it. If you do that, you will find that the Bible is a true, factual, and logical guide that we can rely on. We also learn that the God of the Bible is patient and shows His wrath only when humans refuse to accept anything else.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is an Eyewitness Account and What Isn’t?

Kids Riding a Triceratops
The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry tries very hard to focus on evidence, and not scientific or biblical speculation. In 1 Timothy 6:20 Paul tells Christians to “avoid profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called…” The Greek word used here for “falsely” is pseudonumos which has a close connection to the modern phrase “pseudo-science”. So much of what dominates the headlines of the media today is not science at all, but wild speculation much of which is not testable or falsifiable. There is no way to test most of these proposals, and so they fall outside the realm of science. String theory, brane theory, multiverses, parallel universes, and even some versions of quantum mechanics fall into this category. These areas of study rely on equations and interpretations of those equations. In string theory, for example, there are 10 to the 500th power different equations to choose from, and no one can maintain that one equation has been observed to work.

This same problem occurs when one looks at the fossil record and what we can observe from the fossils or from the remains of human drawings and accounts. There is no valid evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, but some apologists continue to crank out claims that eyewitnesses of the dinosaurs exist. Andrew Snelling who works with Ken Ham in his amusement parks in Kentucky claims that Norwegian and Chinese writers provide eye witnesses of dinosaurs and humans living together. To do that he makes references to Chinese scrolls showing dragons pulling the chariots of emperors, and a Norwegian fictional story called Beowulf in which a king slays a dragon.

The reason that these are not eyewitness accounts is that the scrolls and fictional stories cited also have stories and pictures of centaurs (horse bodies with human torsos), and a variety of spirit creatures. Superheroes are not a modern invention. Characters that would make our video game and movie heroes look pale in comparison dominate all of these ancient cultures. Claiming that these records contain “accurate historical information” as Ham does in his Creation Museum is very misleading and certainly not what should be called “an eyewitness account.” We set up children to have their faith destroyed when we give them bogus information that an informed atheist can quickly refute. We have solid evidence for what the Bible actually says, but not for denominational claims of things the Bible doesn’t say.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheists Use “Satan Club” to Counter “Good News Clubs.”

Kids After School
Since 2001 there has been an effort to establish Christian after-school clubs in public schools. In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that religious groups could use public schools buildings after hours as a part of their right to free speech. There are now over 3,560 of these clubs in operation mostly in elementary schools. Doug Mesner and Ann Merlan of the Satanic Temple are offering “after school Satan clubs” to oppose what they say is “the oppressive form of Christianity full of sin, guilt and ‘God’s wrath.’” The Satanic Temple says that Satan Clubs will actually “involve science lessons about evolution, some educational arts and crafts, and a healthy snack.” The term “Satan Club” is used as a “metaphorical construct to promote a non-superstitious world view,” and primarily to draw attention since “Reason Clubs” already exist.

The “Good News” clubs that we are familiar with do not teach children that Christianity is about “sin, guilt, and God’s wrath.” They do offer kids guidance on dealing with sexuality, substance abuse, wholesome recreation, and the need for good moral choices. Attendance is voluntary in these clubs, and parental permission is required. The collateral damage from all of this may be huge. The real issue here is that school officials are likely to close the public school facilities to all outside use, including non-religious clubs and service organizations. Having school facilities sit empty and unused when tax dollars are footing the bill seems to be poor management of resources. For more on this subject see The Week, August 19, 2016, page 17.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A “Christian” Congress?

US Captial

The recent election is unpopular with lots of people for many different reasons. Atheists are unhappy because the percentage of elected officials who call themselves “Christian” is the highest it has been in many years. All but three members of the Senate call themselves “Christian” when asked their religious faith, and the same percentage applies to the House of Representatives. Atheists in their blogs are not very excited about that.

When prisons release the faith preferences of inmates, “Christian” dominates prisoner choices. In most prisons over 90% of the prisoners say they are Christians. The number of atheists is in the single digits. Atheists like to brag about that, but there is a simple explanation of why prisons have so many “Christians” and so few “atheists.” First of all, in most prisons the information cards the inmates fill out do not have “atheist” as a choice. They are forced to check a Christian denomination, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim. The more important point is that prisoners are anxious to please the warden or powers that can facilitate their release, so they will check whatever they think will get them out sooner.

Politicians are prisoners of the dominant religion of the people voting for them. The fact that some politicians might not know the difference between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians could be a clue as to how much influence their faith has on their votes on social issues. We’ll see if any Christian values show up in the next two to six years.
–John N. Clayton © 2017