Recently on ZM’s Fletch, Vaughan & Megan morning show, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick was interviewed about the upcoming cannabis legalisation referendum. In the interview, Chlöe and her hosts gave several arguments in favour of voting “yes” to cannabis legalisation. However, while some of Chlöe’s points are compelling, on balance most of her positive points could be achieved through decriminalisation without the negatives of legalisation. By decriminalisation I mean a policy of making simple possession or use of cannabis a non-criminal offence (similar to a minor traffic violation) and treating cannabis use as a health issue instead of a criminal one. Legalisation on the other hand refers to allowing the possession, purchasing, selling, and using of cannabis for recreational purposes.
I’ll sum up Chlöe’s arguments as best I can, and then provide a short response. If you want to see her arguments in greater detail we have included a transcript here. If you want to see the evidence for my arguments in greater detail, see various on the Say Nope To Dope website.
Chlöe argued: People buying cannabis on the black market have no way of knowing if what they’re ingesting is safe or has anything extra added to it. Legal cannabis allows the government to regulate what a person can purchase, helping ensure that cannabis is free of toxins.
I respond: This is probably the single best argument for legalisation as opposed to decriminalisation. However, it appears that in places such as the USA and Canada where cannabis has been legalised, the black-market industry is still thriving since it is not subject to government regulations and thus can provide cheaper and stronger forms of cannabis. Therefore, while legalisation provides a safer option for cannabis users, it doesn’t prevent people getting their hands on more toxic, cheaper cannabis if they so desire.
Chlöe argued: Young people’s lives should not be ruined by getting a criminal record for smoking a joint at a party.
I agree. There is a good case for why we should investigate decriminalisation of cannabis usage, and treat cannabis use as a health issue, not a crime issue. But a key point is that we don’t need to legalise cannabis to make it a health issue, we just need to decriminalise it.
Chlöe argued: Everybody is already using it. Let’s make it legal, thus taking the sexiness out of it, and then we can have grown-up conversations about intoxication and addiction.
It seems to me that alcohol is viewed as quite a sexy drug, and it’s been legal for ages. What makes something “less sexy” is not whether it is legal or not, but the culture fostered around it. In reality, by promoting legalisation the Government is promoting the idea that cannabis is “sexy”, which contradicts, in spirit, the Government’s Smoke Free 2025 initiative.
Chlöe argued: in response to the argument “Why are we looking to legalise cannabis when we are looking to be smoke free 2025?” that the reason smoking is no longer “cool” was only made possible by the fact that smoking is legal.
The reason smoking isn’t cool anymore has nothing to do with it being legal. It has to do with a multiple decade-long campaign to show how damaging smoking is. Cigarette ads being banned, in addition to a consistent negative ad campaign against smoking, have helped to take the “sexiness” factor away from cigarettes. Legalisation is the only reason cigarettes are still around!
Vaughan [07:16]: “And we’ll get some sweet tax dollars from it, won’t we?”. Chlöe: [07:19] “I mean to the tunes of hundreds of millions of dollars”.
Yes, there will be tax revenue with the legalisation of cannabis. But if you’re going to talk about revenues, one also needs to talk about costs. You cannot just look at one side of the ledger. A bad way to look at any business is to only look at revenues. What are the costs? What are the costs to New Zealand in terms of drugged driving, public safety, public health, etc.? Annual societal costs from alcohol and tobacco far exceed the tax revenues they raise. Legalisation of cannabis will lead to increased use, which will lead to even greater societal costs for New Zealand.
Chlöe argued: Cannabis isn’t actually that bad for you. And if it’s legal, we can easily help the people who it is bad for.
While it is true that cannabis doesn’t affect everyone the same, it is nonetheless the case that cannabis usage can have very negative health consequences. There is an abundance of evidence-based research articles, papers and other literature covering the inherent physical, psychological, environmental, social, familial and community harms of cannabis. I support the view that we should help people by treating cannabis use as primarily a health issue rather than a crime issue, so that we remove the stigma of getting help for drug use. But on the other hand legalising the use of marijuana, and allowing it to be promoted by a big new industry, will inevitably increase its usage. That is an outcome that will be seriously bad for New Zealand society.
Instead of voting “yes” for legalisation, let’s instead ask lawmakers if they have done everything to reduce cannabis use as much as possible: prevention campaigns, health campaigns, educating doctors and paediatricians, early interventions and treatment, and investigating decriminalisation. We should exhaust all those avenues before we go down a path that is very difficult to reverse. Until we have done those things, we should vote “no” to the legalisation of cannabis in the upcoming referendum.
By Brian Winslade, Senior Pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
I write from outside of the United States, but looking in with great interest. I pastor a church in my home country of New Zealand, but having also pastored in Northern California and obtained a doctoral degree from Bethel University in Minnesota, I am not unfamiliar with American life.
From an outsider’s perspective, the heightened partisan divide in America is disturbing. Some will dismiss this as an American issue and not the business of those beyond its borders. However, we live in a global village; when Americans sneeze, the rest of the world catches a cold!
Media reporting on U.S. evangelicalism has an impact on the perception of evangelical movements and ministries around the world. Undiscerning commentators assume we’re part of the same monolithic whole.
The word “evangelical” stands for belief in the authority and relevance of the Bible, unabashed proclamation of the gospel, the centrality and efficacy of the cross, and a clarion call to radical conversion. Lazy journalism may be to blame for ill-defining evangelicals as a political bloc, but it’s not hard to grasp how they’ve formed such a view with the partisan alignment of some high-profile leaders of evangelical ministries. In my home country, an invitation to a well-known evangelist is now questioned due to his reported political endorsements. Bible-believing Christians are increasingly regarded with suspicion in local media as having an assumed political bias.
As fellow evangelicals, we applaud the engagement of American Christians in the public square. For too long, evangelicals misunderstood separation of church and state to mean non-involvement in national governance. We have a valid voice, and a divine mandate to speak prophetically.
However, many of us around the world struggle to understand the lack of civility and Christian grace that currently manifests in the cauldron of American politics, especially toward those of different shades on the political spectrum. The culture of vilification, name-calling and conspiratorial presumptions of those with different political views is disconcerting. That many who profess to love Jesus, and hold a high view of the Bible, also engage in such banter is incongruous with the values we evangelicals hold dear.
Isaiah warned of misguided accreditation of current affairs: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness ….” (Isaiah 5:20).
Evangelicals refer to the Bible as the “word of God.” It shapes our worldview and how we live. It also encourages us to speak up when we see a brother or sister caught in inappropriate behaviour; for to say or do nothing is tantamount to complicity. What advice, therefore, might a fellow evangelical offer his U.S. brothers and sisters amidst a divisive election cycle? Here are 10 ideas:
Speak to, and about, those of different political perspectives with grace and respect — as befitting of Christ-followers. It is possible to believe passionately and to disagree with others in a manner that is honouring. Name-calling and vilification of those who don’t share our view weaken our distinctiveness as ambassadors of God’s kingdom (Philippians 2:3–4).
Love and uphold the truth. Be wary of those who bend or distort the truth. Fact check what politicians and media commentators tell us — including those we support. Maintain an open mind until all facts are laid bare (John 8:32).
Get your news and political commentary from a variety of sources, rather than just one. Evangelicals think biblically and are cautious of deception. Filter all we hear through the lens of Scripture and think for ourselves (Colossians 2:8).
Be cautious of believing and retelling unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Christians have suffered much over the centuries from false conspiracies; we ought not to perpetuate disinformation. Truth sets us free, Jesus said, not speculation and innuendo (Isaiah 8:12–13).
Work for reconciliation wherever there is discord. Blind and belligerent party politics destroys a nation. Followers of Jesus are more committed than most to finding negotiated resolutions amid conflict (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Accept that equally sincere Christ-followers may have different political ideologies, coming to different conclusions from reading the same Bible as you do. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” The kingdom of God supersedes party politics (Romans 12:2).
If you have influence in a Christian organization, encourage it to remain nonpartisan in its public policy engagement. Be cautious of those that appear to have “hitched their wagon” to one political ideology lest they damage their credibility (Acts 5:38–39).
Take seriously what the Bible says about justice, care of the poor and marginalized, and those without a home and/or nation. The Bible is replete with God’s displeasure upon those who mistreat the poor and homeless (Proverbs 14:31, 17:5, 21:13, 28:27).
Recognize that Christian faith flourishes even under ungodly political regimes. It was born in conflict, matured amidst waves of persecution, and does its best work in low-profile love and service — rather than on the coattails of political power (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Remember, it is righteousness that exalts a nation, not the state of its economy or the security of its borders. God’s blessing falls on those who treat others well, especially those less fortunate (Proverbs 14:34).
At the end of the 19th century, Charles Sheldon penned a famous little book (“In His Steps”) based on a series of sermons delivered to his church in Topeka, Kansas. Parishioners were asked to pledge for one year to make no major decisions without first stopping to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” Maybe in a political context, it might just be a good question for evangelicals to ask again in the year 2020!
“In a time of disorientation and seeming chaos, Brian shows us that discipleship and the radical way of Jesus is the plumb line from which all else is measured. This book is needed and the author’s ability to root it in life makes it all the more invaluable.”
GARY V. NELSON, Tyndale University, Toronto, Canada
Brian Winslade is senior pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church in New Zealand and a member of the International Council of the World Evangelical Alliance. He has pastored five churches over 40 years, and has been a missionary in Bangladesh, CEO of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, national director for the Baptist Union of Australia, and lead pastor of Hillside Church of Marin in Northern California. Winslade holds a D.Min. from Bethel University and is a graduate of Carey Baptist College in New Zealand.
The teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is unparalleled and acclaimed in the history of our world.
Born into obscurity and poverty, no one has impacted the world to the same extent as Jesus.
If a person grasped nothing else of the teaching of Jesus, apart from that contained in the Sermon on the Mount, he or she catches The Essence of his message.
This book takes a fresh look at TheEssence of Jesus’ teaching and its remarkable application in our current age—a resource for individual Christ-followers, preachers, and a discussion-starter for small groups.
Amidst all he said and did, one of his close friends, Matthew (a former social outcast), captured his teaching given on a hillside just above the town where he lived, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthews’s Gospel, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, have been described as The Essence of all that Jesus taught about God and how we relate with him. It has been called the “Core of the Christian Apple,” the “Compendium of Christ’s Doctrine,” the “Magna Charta of the Kingdom.”
Like many of you, I have been following circumstances in the United States surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd, a black man, by a police officer. Because of these events, I feel compelled to address this issue. This issue of racism and racial injustice is something that I think each one of us should care deeply about.
For example, in Canada, and I bring this up because I was raised as a Canadian European, one of the Church’s greatest sins against Canada’s First Nations people was our support of and participation in residential schools.
Under the pretense of wanting to give First Nations people a gift – a gift of education – the Canadian government, supported by the Church, forcibly removed thousands upon thousands of First Nations children from their homes.
This was a kind of cultural genocide. An intentional way of, through education, to uneducate or de-educate an entire generation. To destroy their own understanding of their own culture, their own language, their own heritage and history, and religion.
Thousands of children died throughout this century-long project. Some through neglect, some through abuse, and some through suicide. We participated in forced sterilization of First Nations peoples, taking eugenics to a whole new level.
The sexual abuse done to the children in these schools was horrendous as well. When did these schools close you may ask? They were open from 1870 to 1996. And the horror of the residential school project didn’t stop when the schools eventually closed.
Because now we have generations of First Nations children in Canada who are growing up into their adulthood never having experienced family. And that doesn’t set you up for success in today’s world.
And so today the destruction continues, the heartache continues. And Christians have been a part of that.
We made the mistake of confusing European culture with Christ, and with the noble intent of wanting to share Jesus with people, we instead imported and enforced our own culture, often forcibly, which led to the destruction of families. And having a stable family is the number one predictor of success in our world today.
Now New Zealand never had the Residential School system that Canada had. But it does not take much searching to see some of the horribly damaging things done to the Maori people by Europeans, which have had similarly negative effects on the Maori people. And as believers in Christ, we just have to be honest about that.
So how should we move forward?
The Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi saw two people become one. And interestingly we see this concept in the scriptures.
The classic passage is Ephesians 2:14 which states, “14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”
One of my old lecturers, Steve Taylor, described this to his students as the Treaty of Jesus, where two peoples, Gentile and Jewish, became one in the Ephesians church.
And because of this Treaty of Jesus, through Jesus, two people are becoming one and there is no excuse for racism or sexism or elitism among the people of God. This is the beauty of having one faith.
As Ephesians 4:5-6 states “5There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
Steve Taylor would also remind me, if you mention the Treaty of Waitangi, many Kiwis become nervous. Mental images start filling our minds. Images of protests, politicians, and mud-slinging. And yet, we have this document. A legal document that changed the relationship of Maori and Pakeha, from two peoples into one.
And just as it is hard work to live the Treaty of Jesus, it is hard work to live the Treaty of Waitangi. How do you make right the sins of the past? The theft of land, the injustice done to the Maori? What does something that happened 150 years ago, a document that I did not sign, that you did not sign, mean for us today? How do we move forward?
We see a hint, again in Ephesians, in 4:3, where it says “3Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Peace.
Galatians 6:2 says, “carry one another’s burdens.” Part of that is learning what the burdens are. As a European, as someone raised as a Canadian European, do I know the burden that Maori or other people of colour carry? Definitely not as much as I should, especially if I want to be a part of the solution. I need to start listening and learning much much more.
And may I ask any non-Europeans reading this, please talk to us Europeans. Let us know what we can do. Many Europeans are scared to offend and thus end up not doing anything to help. We need to work this out together. We need to communicate. But we need to do it in peace and love.
Amidst all the rancour and toxicity issuing from a troubled USA, some questions to ponder and discuss. And some suggested responses…
Is racism ever okay, for Christians? No, it is abhorrent, and contrary to the New Testament Gospel (e.g. Galatians 3:28)
Is systemic racial injustice ever okay? No.
Is police brutality ever okay? No. Police are meant to uphold justice, not act with cruelty or injustice.
Is peaceful protest okay? Yes, and it can sometimes help bring positive change.
Is violent protest helpful? No. It undermines a cause, and deepens divisions.
Is the Republican Party or the Democrat Party the more Christian option? Both parties have some good people and good principles, and both parties have some policies, emphases, and tendencies which are less than Christian.
Are all Republicans Christian? Absolutely not.
Are all Christians Republican? No, very large numbers of American Christians (including many Afro-American and Hispanic Christians) vote for the Democrats.
Why did many conservative American Christians vote for Mr Trump? Because many of them were Republican voters already, because over the years the Republican Party had actively courted the conservative Christian vote, and because many Christians were particularly concerned about late-term abortion.
Do all Christians who voted for Mr Trump approve of everything Mr Trump says or does? No.Many have misgivings.
Is President Trump personally Christian? God alone knows his heart, or truly understands him.Politically, Mr Trump makes some pro-Christian statements, and supports some Christian agendas. But many of his own words and actions do not seem very Christian.
What does the Bible teach about universal human nature? That we are all made in the image of God, and we all reflect something of God’s goodness and glory. That we are all deeply flawed and marred by sinfulness, including selfishness, hostility, and self-deceit. That Christ is the way of love, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, healing, and transformation.
Are American politics relevant and transferable to New Zealand? Thecontexts and dynamics are very different, and the crossover is limited.
Is there some racism and injustice in New Zealand? Unquestionably yes.
Have the police in New Zealand sometimes acted illegally, or with brutality? Sometimes, yes.
Is politicising Christianity good for Christianity? No, it is fraught with danger.
Is linking American politics with New Zealand Christianity helpful? No, not at all.
Would wearing MAGA (Making America Great Again) caps be a great and wise thing for New Zealand Christians to do? No. It would be confusing and inappropriate.
What is some great biblical advice for everyone, especially in times of ferment: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) joins the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), its national member body in the United States, in lamenting the recent killing of a black unarmed man at the hands of a white police officer – a symptom of the racial injustice that continues to exist in the country. The WEA and evangelicals worldwide join together praying for an end to the violence that is overshadowing peaceful protests.
“Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States,” the NAE that represents some 42,000 churches said in a statement. “[We] lament the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.”
Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the WEA, said: “As a global family of Christian believers, we feel the pain of a nation in turmoil strained with broken relationships that have suffered from decades, indeed centuries of injustice between people of various ethnic backgrounds. We also wish to express our concern about the evident violence that is overshadowing those whose intent is to register a peaceful protest. This violence only adds to the pain Americans are suffering amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today as a world body, understanding the complexity of this social unrest, we stand in prayerful solidarity, asking the God of creation and the Lord of our salvation to restore peace, to establish His justice and to bring about a lasting healing and reconciliation within the United States,” Bp Tendero continued.
He concluded: “We pray that Christian believers will be at the forefront of reconciliation as did Jesus Christ who himself reconciled us to God and to each other. Further we pray that Christians will be at the forefront in advocating and working for justice, in the footsteps of our God of justice who shows no favoritism. And finally, it is our earnest prayer that believers will take on themselves the calling to be peace builders, living the life of Jesus who came to this world as the Prince of Peace.”
Over two billion Christians in the world today are represented by three world church bodies. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is one of those, serving more than 600 million evangelicals. Launched in 1846 to unite evangelicals worldwide, the WEA continues to be a dynamic movement with 9 regional and 134 national Evangelical Alliances, and over 150 member organizations. WEA’s mission is to establish and strengthen regional and national Evangelical Alliances, who in turn enable their national Church to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ and effect personal and community transformation for the glory of God. For more information, visit Worldea.org
Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) laments the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.
Christians believe that racism is an affront to the value of individuals created in God’s image and to the divinely designed diversity of redeemed humanity. This denial of personhood and belonging runs contrary to the peace and unity that God intended in the beginning and that the Bible depicts as our destiny.
Racism appears in beliefs or practices that distinguish or elevate one race over others. When accompanied and sustained by imbalances of power, prejudice moves beyond individual relationships to institutional practices. Such racial injustice is the systemic perpetuation of racism. Its existence has unfairly benefitted some and burdened others simply due to the color of their skin and the cultural associations based upon perceptions of race.
No race or ethnicity is greater or more valuable than another. Evangelicals believe that the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to break down racial and ethnic barriers (Ephesians 2:14–18). Racism should not only be addressed after tragic events. Our communities of faith must pursue sustained efforts in this labor of love and justice.
This article appears here, on the NAE website NZCN and NAE are both members of the World Evangelical Alliance