On March 15, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions shared with reporters in Richmond, VA that he was, “astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana.” He concluded that the ultimate responsibility for our country was to declare that “using drugs will destroy your life.” An article published in March by the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal presents evidence to the contrary. The study found a 23% reduction of opioid-related hospitalizations after nine states passed legislation enabling the use of medical marijuana. Additionally, overall opioid-specific overdoses were reduced by 13%.
I have a confession: I have harbored an instinctive aversion to René Girard since the first time I read his seminal work Violence and the Sacred. I resist sweeping theories that attempt to account for the entire nature and destiny of humankind. It seems like an arrogant enterprise. So when right-wing, millennial commentator Tomi Lahren tells Daily Show host Trevor Noah that Black Lives Matter is the new KKK, I took it like a kick to the stomach. The first reason is because it seems unconscionable to compare a protest group to a network of individuals that systematically terrorized, raped, tortured, and murdered African Americans for over a century. The second reason is because it forced me to concede, and not for the first time, that Girard got a few things right. Viewed through his theory of scapegoating, Lahren’s theory, while still outrageous, also makes complete sense. Furthermore, Girard’s theory of Christ offers insight into how I, outraged as I am, might respond both to Lahren and the reactionary culture that birthed her. Two key concepts are essential to Girard’s thought: mimesis and scapegoating. Even if philosophy is not your cup of tea, once you grasp these two concepts, you are well on your way to having a functioning Girardian lens. Let’s begin with mimesis:
Rev. Alan Jones, Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Sacramento and President of the California Council of Churches, joined by five clergy colleagues (video below) calls for approval of California’s Proposition 64 to tax and regulate marijuana. Prop 64 passed with a 56% “Yes” vote. Transcript of Rev. Dr. Alan Jones statement: I believe that the basis of any Christian moral decision is being honest, so you start from the position of telling the truth about what’s going on. What’s going on is that people across California are using marijuana. I am told that on any street you can purchase marijuana. It’s illegal, but you can purchase it. There’s no law enforcement for it. This is a dishonest position. Proposition 64 calls us into an honest engagement with marijuana. You know, we Methodists used to be famous for the fact that we were required not to consume alcohol. Booze was a real problem and we had to say “no.” We’ve evolved over the years, and the United Methodist Social Principles now say concerning alcohol that” judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint with Scripture as our guide” is the way to proceed. I would advise everybody as a person of faith looking at Prop 64 to consider “judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint with Scripture as our guide.” And look primarily at the teaching of Jesus. Jesus when asked what the bottom line is, said,” Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” And if you do that you, have to find your way into Prop 64. So let’s vote to support Prop 64.
A homeless shelter may be a refuge for those with no place to turn, but the entrance at its gate comes with a steep admission price: “Turn in your LINK card.” “Make your bed.” “Attend religious services daily.” “Stay sober.” “Be in by curfew.” At the Harm Reduction in the House 2016 conference which I attended last Friday, two young people who had experienced homelessness could quickly rattle off lists of requirements. These requirements mean that the choice to seek out a shelter or stay under the Wilson Street viaduct requires a careful cost and benefit analysis. If staying out late with friends or smoking marijuana gives you the comfort you need in the face of loss and trauma, the trade-off for four walls and a roof may not be worth it.