Saturday, December 03, 2016
Jesus and the Opioid Crisis
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
What do I know about illegal and addictive drugs? From personal experience, next to nothing. I can hardly convince myself to take prescription drugs, let alone anything society has deemed illicit. While ministry might have driven me to drink at times, I don't consume much alcohol either. Two beers is a bender for me.
In an earlier day I listened to a fair number of inmates whose lives were messed up by drugs and ended up in prison. All through my ministry there have been members of congregations who had substance abuse problems, past or present. I've always felt inadequate in responding.
In the end it isn't about whether our drugs of choice are legal or not, it is about what they do to our bodies and souls, our relationships and whether we are able to live fully, the way God intends.
There has been a lot in the media about drugs lately, specifically opioids such as relative newcomer Fentanyl. In some cities first responders are overwhelmed by the number of calls related to opioids and they are often too late to make a difference. There were 200 Fentanyl related deaths in British Columbia in the first three months of 2016, so this really is a medical crisis.
The Christian Century had a cover article recently which interviews pastors who have ministries with addicts. One, Mike Clark, realized that the people coming to a recovery meeting in his church far outnumbered his congregants on a Sunday. They were in the basement while his congregation was upstairs. Slowly but surely he connected with the downstairs congregation and some of them began to migrate. There was no plan, so Mike figures it was God's idea.
In another church that ministers to addicts the emphasis is on honesty, and they have a weekly prayer: God show us the way to spread your holy word, and give us the means, courage and stamina to follow it."
I wonder how welcoming many congregations which love to sing Amazing Grace are ready and willing to welcome addicted wretches? How many of us are able to be honest about our own wretchedness and need for Christ's saving love. Maybe that's where we begin. We won't arrest our way out of this crisis as a society. Perhaps communities of faith can play a role.