Are Christians part of the problem or the solution?

Drugs .... A Christian Response

At four recent church functions I attended, alcohol was served. Although alcohol is widely consumed, it is the cause of Britain's biggest drug problem. While the anti-social effects of drinking have increased in the last thirty years, Christian witness on this important issue has declined.

Alcohol needs to be seen in the wider context of the total drugs scene. The tragic death of Leah Betts, who died on her eighteenth birthday after taking ecstasy hit the headlines. Yet the media fails to tell countless terrible stories about the consequences of using heroin, cocaine, LSD solvents, tobacco and other drugs. Smoking, for example, causes about 120,000 deaths in Britain every year.

How can Christians respond to the drug problem? Here are some steps we could take.

Examine our lifestyles. Jesus said: "I have come in order that you may have life - life in all its fulness" (John 10:10). As Christians we do not need non-medicinal drugs to enable us to enjoy life.

Jesus spent much of his ministry healing sick people, so he obviously wanted people to have healthy bodies. As his followers, we should try to keep fit and healthy for as long as possible. Clearly some illnesses and disabilities occur through no fault of the person who suffers from them, but Christians should try to avoid damaging their God-given faculties through unhealthy lifestyles.

Set a positive example. Jesus said that his disciples were to be lights to the world, salt to the earth and leaven in society. He also heavily criticized those who lead children astray. "It would be better" he said. "for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea" (Matthew 18:6).

Christians never know when their example is being followed. There is a tragic true story about a lad who killed someone while under the influence of alcohol. In a cell he told his minister that he took his first drink at a wedding reception because he saw the minister take one first.

Become aware of drug problems. Christians may be tempted to be like ostriches and keep their heads in the sand to avoid seeing the problems. But Jesus told a story about one lost sheep. As all human beings are precious to God, we need to learn about the ways in which a wide range of drugs are harming a colossal number of people.

A disturbing survey of church-affiliated young people showed that they were no less likely to take drugs than non-church-going teenagers. Carried out in 1995 at Spring Harvest, an annual festival attended by 70,000 Christians, the survey was commissioned by the Evangelical Coalition on Drugs (ECOD) to discover the depth of the drug problem within the church.

Results of the survey, based on the drugs involvement of 7,666 church-affiliated young people aged between twelve and thirty, were "broadly similar" to secular surveys. It also revealed a direct link between cigarette smoking and drug-taking - young people who smoke are over fifty times more likely to use drugs regularly.

Overall, cannabis was the most popular illegal drug among young people from church-linked backgrounds. Solvents were the next most commonly used by children between the ages of twelve and sixteen, followed by stimulants and hallucinogens such as LSD.

Figures show that in the twelve to sixteen age group 23% had been offered drugs and 9% had tried them. In the seventeen-plus age group the figures were 46% and 23% respectively. The figures were "slightly less" than those obtained in secular surveys, states the report, adding that "there was no room for complacency concerning drug misuse by young people in the church".

Educate children and young people about drugs. Education on alcohol, smoking and illegal drugs should be part of every church's work among children and young people.

Britain has serious drug problems and every church can play a part in helping to reduce them. The problems demand an urgent response Premature deaths and other tragedies will be prevented if we can encourage more young people to adopt healthy and safe drug-free lifestyles.

Attractive high quality drug education manuals and other literature are published by Hope UK, a national Christian drug education charity which specializes in this important field. Three new manuals were recently launched at a packed seminar in Central London. How to do Drugs was specially written for youth workers and Getting it Sorted for pre-teens leaders. Doing Drugs is designed for Christian groups and contains practical advice. Hope UK also organizes a "Now You Know..." project which involves providing an attractive information booklet and colorful wall-chart for youngsters aged eleven to fourteen. A free resources catalogue can be obtained from:

Hope UK (Dept NH)
Freepost SW1439
London SE1 0YT

John D Beasley, a Methodist Local Preacher for over thirty years, is the "Now You Know... " Project Worker for Hope UK.

To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 1 Issue 4, July/August 1997. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.

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