Religious views matter when it comes to drug policy in this country. That’s why it was significant when Rev. Franklin Graham, who inherited his father’s evangelical network about 15 years ago, came out strongly against marijuana legalization three weeks ago. The timing of his announcement is no surprise. In the last two years, four states have voted to tax and regulate marijuana, thereby eliminating sanctions for low-level possession and use. Voters in five more states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) will consider similar ballot initiatives on election day November 8. Rev. Graham intends to campaign across the nation in the next two months to urge people of faith to vote “No.”
“Theology and Peace” is an informal association of pastors, theologians, and lay people that seeks to advance the intellectual work of philosopher Rene Girard as the basis for transforming North American Christianity. On May 24-26, this group held its 9th annual conference in Northbrook, Illinois on the topic “People and Policing: Compassion for OUR Violence.” CNDP Project Coordinator Rev. Kathryn Ray offers the following reflection. “My son was about two years old. I had taken him to the park to play… Two little boys, one blond-haired, the other red-headed, ran down to the car where my son was playing. Seeing them coming, my son immediately jumped out… The little red-headed boy… saw my son looking on… With all the venom that a seven- or eight-year-old boy could muster, he pointed his finger at my son and said, ‘You better stop looking at us, before I put you in jail where you belong. … At two years old my son was already viewed as a criminal.” (pp. 86-7) In her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas shares this story to illustrate the depth to which the criminalization of African-American men and boys has permeated the American psyche. In 2012, a neighborhood watch captain singled out Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, as “suspicious” character, pursued him, and killed him. In acquitting his killer, the jury determined this characterization to be justified. Trayvon Martin had not committed a crime. But like Kelly Brown Douglas’s son, he had been criminalized- he had been named “criminal” by another. The label led to his murder.