Editor’s Note: Faithwire in no way endorses recreational drug use of legal or illegal substances. We seek to inform, equip and prepare Christians to engage on current issues impacting their lives.
With some trepidation in his voice, and after a momentary pause about halfway through our nearly 30-minute conversation, Craig Gross asked me: “Have you used marijuana?”
Gross, the founder of the well-known XXXChurch ministry, is spearheading a new movement completely separate from the organization he founded in 2002. This one isn’t about finding freedom from something. His latest venture is about finding freedom in something, at least that’s his argument.
XXXChurch is all about helping Christians break free from crippling addictions to pornography. Christian Cannabis, which Gross launched from the wildly popular Coachella Music Festival in California, is about luring believers into the marijuana market.
As a lifelong teetotaler, I was — and still am — very skeptical of an organization that claims pot can bring us closer to God. I don’t drink because alcohol, even in limited capacities, alters my mental state. Cannabis reaches the same pleasure centers in the brain as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, particularly when it’s smoked, which is the most common method of use.
A.J. Fabrizio, a marijuana chemistry expert at Terra Tech Corp, a California-based agricultural company that works with medicinal cannabis, said the intoxicating chemical in pot, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been linked to “elation, anxiety, tachycardia, short-term memory recall issues, sedation, relaxation, pain-relief.”
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), marijuana use, depending on the amount of consumption, can result in impaired movement, difficulty thinking and problem-solving, hallucinations, changes in mood, and an altered sense of time.
Gross, however, sees his experience with the controversial plant as overwhelmingly beneficial.
In the “why” section of his new weed website, he wrote: “Call me crazy, but that little green cross pointed my eyes toward the real Cross, and I finally saw it.”
The question at the fore of my mind was if Gross, who first used marijuana in 2013 as a way to soften the harshness of debilitating migraines in a season of intense turmoil (his father died and his wife was diagnosed with severe endometriosis), has ever feared the drug could give him a false sense of spirituality or connection to God. He responded by saying he doesn’t “operate in fear.”
“I don’t operate with a, ‘Well, what would happen if I lose my job and lose every supporter and lose everything for doing this?’” Gross said. “I think if we operate like that, no one will ever do anything and it’s why the church has a hard time with new topics and evolving.”
He went on to tell me he has not experienced “a false connection” with God, noting he doesn’t need marijuana to connect with God or to worship. Gross did, though, say he thinks weed has “opened me up to a different sort of awareness and connection between my head and my heart.”
Listening to Gross talk, I quickly started to wonder when marijuana use, particularly for recreational purposes, might turn into an addendum to the Christian journey. Anyone familiar with evangelical culture, from which Gross hails, will know this saying: “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.”
The idea behind Christian Cannabis, at least at first glance, seems to buck that common phrase, potentially handing Christians a dangerous opportunity to allow unhealthy behaviors to go unchecked. Gross attempted to counter this by suggesting marijuana is akin to prescription drugs like Zoloft and Prozac, which our culture — to include much of the Christian subculture — has openly accepted. He also said caffeine and chocolate are “mind-altering,” and most people consume each of those things on a daily basis.
Setting aside the science of pot, Gross was quick to claim those who have spiritual concerns about Christians using marijuana are just taking Scripture out of context, referring to verses that readily condemn drunkenness. In 1 Peter 5:8, for example, the apostle wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind.”
“There’s a whole different power in marijuana than alcohol,” Gross said, arguing verses about drunkenness aren’t applicable to weed use. “I don’t see medicinal benefits in alcohol, especially hard liquor.”
Despite his contextual claim, he didn’t provide much of an explanation as to how those Bible passages have been incorrectly referenced. In just about every form, marijuana is a downer (Gross even says he uses it to slow down his hyperactive mind) and studies have found a correlation between frequent pot use and Amotivational Syndrome. So it seems difficult to separate weed, which, unlike alcohol, isn’t explicitly addressed in Scripture, from verses pointing to the value of sobriety, like 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, Titus 2:2, and 1 Peter 4:7, among others.
Unfazed, Gross told me his first inclination is not to pull verses out of the Bible to justify — or perhaps endorse — marijuana use. Instead, he pointed me to a comment from a woman who shared her own biblical backing for weed. She quoted Genesis 1:11, which reads, “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth.’”
Reading her writing, Gross said she explained: “The provision was created before the need. God created the earth and the plants for us, before us.”
Then the California native shared his own reflections with me.
“I didn’t put a Bible verse on the site that said, you know, ‘Here’s the John 3:16 of weed use,’” Gross said. “I can’t find one, but I have heard a countless number of stories … that have said here’s what’s happened.”
While Gross is determined to press on in spite of the lack of biblical support for marijuana use, he admits there are people who probably should never use cannabis.
Gross made clear he’s not suggesting anyone use weed “to numb out” and noted he is, of course, “strongly against” anyone underage consuming marijuana. He also said there are people — presumably those with a pattern of addiction, genetic or otherwise — who “aren’t in a place to touch any drugs or any alcohol.”
But compared to alcohol and other drugs created in a laboratory, Gross said he’s “not as concerned about cannabis.” It’s worth noting some 30 percent of weed users, according to the NIH, develop addictive dependencies.
“I’m not in favor of anyone abusing this, but I am in favor of people being open to trying something without being shamed,” he said. “I don’t know why we’ve demonized this like we have.”
The No. 1 goal of Gross’ new website, which will eventually sell weed pens and mints, is to spark conversations about marijuana among Christians. At the bottom of the site’s “Conversations” tab, he asks: “What do you think about cannabis?”
So far, 2,832 people have cast their votes: 1,238 are cool with cannabis, 929 are against its use, and 665 people just aren’t sure. To cast your vote, click here.