Christian Beer and the Question of Weed
This week I’m in Amsterdam for the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Yes, that’s right, a Bible conference in Amsterdam. I can already say that this city is one of my favorites. It is absolutely wonderful. The canals and architecture are picturesque and make me wish I intended to stay longer. Of course, there are some sketchy bits to Amsterdam as well. The infamous “Coffee Shops” house copious amounts of weed that can be smelled all throughout the town, and within the Red Light District (where my Christian hostel is located) prostitution couldn’t possibly be made more accessible (or commercialized). Now, I’m from Las Vegas — Sin City — so the dark side of Amsterdam is not too startling (it’s sad, but I’m hardly shocked).
After this conference I’ll be studying French at the Catholic Institute of Paris for the month of August, so my travels from Amsterdam will lead me through Belgium: the land of delicious chocolate, waffles, and (most importantly) beer! Within Belgium there is a rich tradition of beer-brewing monasteries. The monks who make the delicious brews are known as Trappists. Their mission within the Catholic church is to brew beer to support various charities. The six famous Belgian monasteries known for brewing exceptional beers are Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Achel, and — the very best — Westvleteren (which I’ll visit on the 28th!).
As I reflect upon the Christian tradition of making beer in Belgium, I’m curious about the integral nature of Marijuana in the culture of Amsterdam. Since it’s legal, there isn’t the same cultural aversion to it as there is in the States. I’ve wondered how local Dutch churches respond to this. Do they participate? Would this be an opportunity to be ‘all things to all people’? Or does the local Church become unflinchingly strict? I’m not sure what the answers would be to these questions, but I’m quite curious to know.
Personally, I have no interest in trying Marijuana. I’ve never once used drugs nor have I ever smoked anything (and I don’t intend to). But of course, it’s legal here. In the States, we’re in a position where the legalization of Marijuana plays a substantial role in political discourse and so naturally I’ve been reflecting on these issues both in an Amsterdam context and an American context. I can remember having dorm-room discussions around the question, “If it’s legal, would you try it?” It’s an interesting question, but I’ve often wondered if the legality of Marijuana is really the key issue. If so, then smoking Marijuana in the US is just a matter of being disobedient to the State. But is there more to this issue?
So, beer and weed. As I reflect on it, I don’t think there is an analogous relationship between the two. In the Trappist tradition we have an example of “Christian Beer,” but could it ever be possible to speak of “Christian Weed”? What’s the difference? Is there one? Obviously the Bible never addresses drugs, but there is indeed a principle of sober-mindedness that applies to drugs. With beer I appreciate the subtle craft and the artisanship involved in each individual brew. I love the variety and nuance of the beer world. However, because I value my mental health and a good functioning liver, I do not over-indulge in beer consumption. I certainly don’t enjoy beer for the effects of alcohol but simply for the taste. As a former professor of mine once said, “I like it too much to abuse it.” Now as far as weed is concerned I’m unsure. Is it possible to enjoy the craft of weed and avoid getting “high”? It seems to me that one does not smoke weed for any other purpose than to actually get “high.” Maybe I’m wrong. I simply don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care to know from personal experience. But I do think we should approach the issue of weed the same way we approach alcohol. As I outlined in earlier blog posts on both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Bible does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol for all people at all times. Negatively, it prohibits drunkenness, but positively, it commends sober-mindedness. Thus, the same principle must apply to weed and in my opinion it fails the biblical test.
But let me ask you, can one smoke weed without getting “high”? I’m completely skeptical. But I want to open the discussion to the comments now and read your thoughts on this issue from whatever angle.