So far in my series on the Christian's perspective on meds, I've mainly focused on the individual; the individual believer's gratitude to God for the medicines He's made and the individual believer's responsibility to use only meds that are helpful, allow him to remain morally pure, and contribute to rather than take away from his sanctification. Today I want to move away from the individual to cultural considerations.
And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:21
You might be wondering what in the world this verse has to do with drugs or medicines. Would you be surprised to learn that the Greek word translated sorceries in the above verse is actually pharmakia? That's right, the same pharmakia from which we get our word pharmaceutics, as in drugs or medicine. Revelation 9:21 hits a little close to home in its description of a nation ripe for judgement. Are we not a nation that murders unborn babies by the million (and if socialized healthcare becomes a reality the aged may be next in line). We cling to our medicine as to our very lives, and we’re not even shameful of our rampant sexual immorality. Are we a repentant nation? Are we sorry for the murders we commit, our dishonesty, or our sexual promiscuity? Nope, as a culture we flaunt it. What about our meds? We're living in an culture where kids are placed on Schedule II drugs for the convenience of teachers and daycare workers. Have there been any long-term studies on stimulant use in children? Nope (unless you call 18 months long-term.) Actually one of the only longitudinal studies I've read showed kids who were treated long-term with stimulants were more likely to be addicted to stimulants (like cocaine or amphetamines) as adults. Well, that makes perfect sense- cram stimulants down their throats for a decade then expect their bodies to adjust when you decide they're cured and no longer need their drugs? I'm sorry, you can tell I feel strongly about this one. If one of your kids has ADHD and you're interested in this please contact me and I can give you some research articles to read.
We're living in a culture where our elderly in nursing homes are drugged-up so they won't be such a nuissance. I mean, hiring more nursing home workers would interfere with the profit margin, after all. We're living in a culture where people take anti-depressants to escape their circumstances rather than taking responsibility to try to change their circumstances (and yes, I realize sometimes that's not possible, but that's not what I'm talking about right now.) We're living in a culture that encourages, no pressures, women to use abortafacient birth control, in order to lower our carbon footprint. What's that all about? We're living in a culture that values polar bears more than it does human life!! We're living in a culture full of idolators who worship that which has been created rather than the Creator. We worship ourselves and we worship our drugs that make us feel good. I'm not going to try to decode the book of Revelation, but the clear message of this verse is that God is going to judge nations that are characterized by unrepentant murder, indiscriminate drug usage, sexual immorality, and theft. Scary, isn't it?
The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of the bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth. Revelation 18:23-24
Again, the Greek word translated as sorcery in the above passage is pharmakia. Verse 23 says that all the nations will be deceived by pharmakia. Could this simply be referring to a giant magic act of some sort? Perhaps. But, it could also be referring to deception or a clouding of the mind by drugs or medicine. It's easy to see how an entire culture that is hopped up on pills could be more easily deceived than one full of "sober-minded" individuals (as believers are called to be in the end-times 1 Peter 4:7).
I’m not sure why pharmakia was translated into English as sorcery. Certainly, the pharmaceutical industry was not flourishing in the 17th century as it is now. But the word pharmaceutical is derived from that same Greek word pharmakia. It is a valid translation, and I think one that makes much more sense to us now than the English Bible translators could have possibly understood. There is also another Greek word for the practice of magic, mageia. I'm not an expert in Greek, so I can't tell you the nuances of difference between pharmakia and mageia, but it does seem to me that drugs or medicines would be a better translation of pharmakia, especially considering what we know now that the original English Bible translators didn't. In fact, Strong's online Greek concordance gives medicine as the first definition of pharmakia and sorcery as the second. Interesting.
I'm not a big fan of Michael Savage, but one place I heartily agree with him is on the issue of drug testing our representatives and senators. I'd like to go one step further and know whether they're on prescription psycho-active drugs such as anti-depressants, anxiolytics, or stimulants. Are Michael Savage and I the only ones wondering whether the people in Washington are strung out on something? It certainly seems like they're out of their minds much of the time. And what about the people who voted them in? We're becoming a nation that is easily deceived. Hope and change. Well, that slogan was half right, anyway! I'm sure much of the explanation for the downfall of our system of government has to do with the lack of education and moral poverty of the voters, but could some of it also be because so many Americans are taking meds that dull their senses? To borrow a phrase from Timothy Leary, we've become a nation that has turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. And according to Revelation, this is not a good thing.
Now let's move away from looking at our nation and examine the church. Has the church taken a different path from the culture around us? Sadly, I think the answer is no. The church clings to its meds more tightly than to its Bibles. We seek the counsel of psychiatrists and psychologists before we go to the Word of God. We embrace birth control because we have chosen careers and comfortable lifestyles over having children. We let our parents and grandparents live out their twilight years in under-staffed nursing homes that keep our loved ones drugged-up enough to be manageable. Our first instinct is to run from our pain rather than ask ourselves what God may be trying to teach us through our suffering. (Paul and Christ both prayed that God would relieve their suffering, but when the answer was no, they suffered on for the glory of God. Peter says we shouldn't think it strange when fiery trials befall us.) The church in America has much the same perspective on medications as the culture around us. I don't expect the world to change its perspective, but I'm hoping that the church will wake-up and look to the Bible for guidance in this brave new world. Yes, medicine is a gift from God, but God will not tempt us to sin and if our reliance on medications leads us to sin, we must take responsibility for that, confess it, and ask the Lord to forgive us.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:13-15
Do we want to see the church take a stand in this area? Do we want our churches to be less worldly and more transformed by God's Word? The church is made up of believers so it starts with you and me.
If you're interested in topics related to drugs and medicine, maybe you have a question about a particular medication, then fire away. If I don't know the answer, I'll research it for you. If you want to interact on this topic head over to my blogfrog community discussion on drugs and medicines.
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.