Witch Way on Drugs? 

  Witch Way on Drugs? 

Posted by FoM on August 22, 2000 at 07:23:59 PT
By Joel Miller 
Source: WorldNetDaily 

With its brutal excesses and reliance on snitches and finks as informants, I don't think it's far off-kilter to describe the modern-day drug war as oddly similar to the Salem witch trials. In fact, if words mean anything, the war on drugs is a witch-hunt in the most literal sense of the two terms -- both "drug" and "witch." As the history books tell it, in the late 1600s the witches of Salem, Mass., became the exalted guests at a New England hemp party -- which is to say, as a point of clarification, that they swung from ropes composed of it, rather than smoked doobies rolled from it. 
Likewise, today there are those who argue for the same treatment for drug sellers and users. In Christian circles, this rallying cry to give dope peddlers the chair usually hinges on the same justification as hanging witches. Taking up this banner is Media House International Director Jay Rogers in a review of the 1994 book, "Politically Incorrect," by Pat Robertson's former right arm, Ralph Reed. "The moral Law of God requires only two punishments for lawbreakers," explains Rogers, "restitution or execution. A repeat violent offender would spend the rest of his life in servitude or would be executed," Rogers elaborates, arriving at this shocking conclusion: Convicted drug dealers who sold drugs to children would be executed for the crime of sorcery. ... Rogers hinges this bold call for blood on Scripture's condemnation of witchcraft. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," enjoins the Lord in the 22nd chapter of Exodus. As the Bible would have it, the life of a witch follows the Bob Dylan lyric: "Everybody must get stoned." Rogers has it sewed. It's cake. Toke a bong, and they'll stoke your pyre. But what's the connection? How does a death sentence for hocus-pocus apply to pill heads and junkies? Figuring 'Pharmakeia' When I argued in my July 20 column, "One toke over the line, sweet Jesus?" that Christians should reconsider their support for the war on drugs on the basis that Scripture gives no justification for legal action against dope smokers and pill poppers, a flurry of e-mail erupted across my screen. While much of it was good, many were either hesitant or outright offended at the notion of legalizing drugs. "Only drug dealers want legalization," wrote one reader, Jim, adding, "Drugs are destroying this country inside and out." Then Jim offered this gem: "It was prophesized in Revelation, 'For by thy sorceries (pharmakeia) were all nations deceived.'" Backing his charge that legalization is bad news, Jim quoted the 18th Chapter of John's Apocalypse, making -- just as Rogers does -- a clear connection between witchcraft and drug use. Aboard the same ideological bus is evangelical end-times guru Jack Van Impe. Writing about the latest outbreak of fad drug use in his April 1997 Intelligence Briefing, Van Impe references the ninth and 18th chapters of Revelation, explaining the witchcraft-drugs connection when he notes, "The term 'sorceries' in these texts comes from the Greek term -- pharmakeia -- translated 'pharmacy' or 'drugs.'" Indeed, pharmakeia is the word from which our terms "pharmacy" and "pharmaceutical" are derived. As I point out in "One toke over the line, sweet Jesus?" there is little in Scripture directly condemning drugs, as such (mainly, God's word attacks drunkenness, insobriety and dissipation). Au contraire, say the proponents of the "pharmakeia factor," pinning drugs to Scripture's clear condemnation of witchcraft and sorcery. It's All Greek To Me: A little lexical history is in order: When the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament to us Christians -- found their way into the hands of the Greek translators some 250 years before Christ was born, they translated the Hebrew word for sorcery with "pharmakeia," having connotations to both witchcraft and drugs. As defined by the Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek, pharmakeia is tied to "the use of any kind of drugs, potions, or spells," as well as "poisoning or witchcraft." The connection is easy to see. In many pagan societies mind-altering substances were used in religious ceremonies. Along with the Greeks' use of drugs, the ancient Celts used to "do" mistletoe -- and not for kissing; ditto for American Indians and their use of peyote. The point wasn't, however, to kick back and wig out on a batch of herb. Drug use was not recreational; it was ceremonial. To see one Greek example of the use of pharmakeia, consider the story of Jason and the Argonauts. In one passage, translated by Sir James George Frazer, the hero Jason goes to the sorceress Medea, who has the hots for him. Not wanting him to be harmed in his upcoming battles, she concocts a drug, a "pharmakon," for him if he'll marry her and take her to Greece. "When Jason swore to do so," Frazer's version goes, "she gave him a drug with which she bade him anoint his shield, spear, and body when he was about to yoke the bulls; for she said that, anointed with it, he could for a single day be harmed neither by fire nor by iron." The drug was magic. We're not talking hashish here. We're not talking LSD. We're talking oogie-boogie. Clearly, the word pharmakeia has much more to do with magic than muddleheadedness, witchcraft than wiffle pipes, sorcery than smack. Consider the following passage from Leviticus. Talking about ceremonial cleanliness and keeping the faith unadulterated by pagan practices, God instructs in chapter 19, You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not practice augury or witchcraft. You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD. Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land become full of wickedness. You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God. As one e-mailer tipped me, "Obviously, this is not about 'don't take aspirin.'" All these things are indicative of the religious practices of the Canaanites -- including temple prostitution, self-mutilation and divination -- whose land the Israelites were to occupy. God didn't want them whoring after the false gods of the natives. This is made all the more obvious when we look at the original Hebrew words from which the Greek translators were working. The Hebrew terms for witchcraft -- words like "kashaph," "qacam" and their derivatives -- refer to divination and spiritism; they have no drug-related connotations. Zip, zilch, nada, nil -- or "loh," as the Hebrew puts it. God's concern in these passages isn't with LSD blotters or hypodermic needles. He's concerned with false religion. It's just a lexical quirk that the Greek word is tainted with definitional baggage -- being connected to the perverse religious practices of the Greeks -- and is thus susceptible to manipulation in the current drug-war debate. While none of this is to suggest that getting plastered on dope is scriptural (I don't believe it is), neither is it correct to say it's a form of witchcraft, deserving the same sort of punishment. Defending bad ideas can be just about as entertaining as the circus; the gymnastics are terrific. It seems the mental contortion artists -- adroitly bending, stretching and flipping logic with the greatest of ease -- are especially talented when it comes to debating drugs. But in the end, it's all just playing games with the text to arrive at a predetermined end -- saying dope is naughty. This is using Scripture to support, rather than reform, your prejudices. And, at bottom, it's dishonest. Rather than allow cultural biases, gut instincts or basic distaste to cloud our judgment, as Christians we need to take the drug debate to the bar of Scripture, which -- while condemning drug abuse and insobriety -- provides no legal argument for pursuing a government-orchestrated war on drugs. Published: August 22, 2000Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Copyright: 2000,, Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comAddress: PO Box 409, Cave Junction, OR 97523-0409Fax: (541) 597-1700Website: Articles:What Would Jesus Do About Dope? Toke Over The Line, Sweet Jesus? Yak, Don't Talk Smack 

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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on August 24, 2000 at 05:34:02 PT:

Now if only the antis would read Szasz

But we'd have to supply each of them with a Webster's and a mentor to help them with the big words.
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Comment #2 posted by observer on August 22, 2000 at 10:07:09 PT

The Pharmakos: The Scapegoat

more ...The pharmakon, Dionysos, was the herb eaten, sacrificed, to satisfy the soul. The pharmakos, Pentheus, the herb's mythic double, atavistically, psychologically, identified with the herb, became the scapegoat sacrificed to satisfy the community, once the pharmakon was prohibited, once the community was convinced that healing and rebirth were second hand, not entheogenic, not sacramental, but sacrificial, political. The psychological transition was simultaneously political, religious and medical - none of the elements can be separated from one another. The eidolon became the focus of the lost group emotion and identity, the pharmakon athanasias, the 'medicine of immortality' to use Ignatius'phrase. The pharmakos, the official scapegoat identified with the pharmakon - the Slave, the Judas, the Witch, the Nigger (a perfect pharmakos, embodying, historically, a close connection to tribal culture), the Hippie - became the living example of what happens to practitioners of the now prohibited shamanism. The emotive meaning, the archetypal apprehension of the originary shamanistic imagery is intentionally used against itself by the fascist high priesthood, the industrial state. Much of the unconscious hostility of racism and misogyny can be understood in terms of neurotic hostility to shamanism, that is, to nonconformity to the official cult, emotionally misunderstood, as intended, as a betrayal of the sacred. Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda: Orpheus 
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Comment #1 posted by observer on August 22, 2000 at 09:56:20 PT

The Burning Need for Scapegoats

But in the end, it's all just playing games with the text to arrive at a predetermined end -- saying dope is naughty.Another great piece by Joel Miller. Apparently, the need for "society" to find and punish scapegoats -- any scapegoat, just as long as there is one to punish -- is very great. People don't realize what they are doing. They are punishing scapegoats to make themselves feel more righteous. As Thomas Szasz notes:I maintain that drug abuse and the War on Drugs are both transitory modes -- pretexts for scapegoating deviants and strengthening the state. Our official understanding of the drug problem rests on a fallacious scapegoat-type imagery and a correspondingly erroneous approach to remedying it. For example, we conceptualize self-medication -- say, with marijuana -- as self-poisoning rather than as self-pleasuring, and then rely on this image of the drug as poison to justify using state power to punish people who possess marijuana. Although in his important study, The Scapegoat, René Cirard does not refer to drugs as scapegoats, he remarks -- apropos of our scientific progress from the Middle Ages to the present -- that "frequent references to poisons" has remained a constant feature of the imagery and rhetoric of scapegoating. "Chemistry," he concludes, "takes over from purely demoniac influence."13 The chemistry that takes over, I would add, is not pharmacological chemistry, but ceremonial chemistry.Drug Abuse as ProfanationPrior to 1914, the main ingredients of American patent medicines, in addition to alcohol, were cocaine and morphine. Now, these drugs are our favorite scapegoats. In Ceremonial Chemistry I tried to show that we cannot understand the War on Drugs without taking seriously the scapegoat function of so-called dangerous drugs -- a suggestion that, because it presents an obstacle to the arguments of both the opponents and the supporters of drug prohibition, both have ignored. I contend, however, that without recognizing the importance of this theme for drug prohibition, there can be no informed discussion of drug controls, much less an end to the War on Drugs.14 The scapegoat's social function of saving the group by its victimization is clearly articulated in the Gospels. The scene is as follows. Jewish society feels itself to be in mortal danger: "The Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." What is there to do? How can the community save itself? By sacrificing one of its members. Caiaphas, the high priest, addresses the congregation: "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."15 Like a Jew defiling the Torah, or a Christian the Host, an American using an illicit drug is guilty of the mystical crime of profanation -- a transgression of the strictest and most feared taboo. The drug abuser pollutes himself as well as his community, endangering both. This is why, while to the secular libertarian the drug abuser commits a "victimless crime" (that is, no crime at all), to the normally socialized person he is a dangerous defiler of the sacred. Hence, his incapacitation is amply justified. After all, what greater good is there than saving the family, the clan, the nation, indeed the whole world from certain destruction? Thomas Szasz, Our Right To Drugs, 1992, pp.62-63 
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