A new weekly Bible study program in the suburbs of Denver is mixing marijuana with Scripture to bring disenfranchised Christians together.
The Stoner Jesus Bible Study, which was formed in May 2015 and is based out of Centennial, Colorado, acts as a safe haven for people of all forms to come, relax, get stoned and connect with Jesus every Thursday night without having to worry about being judged by other group members.
Deb Button, a former school teacher and mother of two who founded and hosts the bible study in her home, told The Christian Post on Monday that she first came up with the idea to host a "stoner" bible study when she began desiring to be a part of a faith community following her departure from her church a few years ago after feeling like she didn't belong there.
Despite hosting the "Stoner Jesus Bible Study," Button, a "conservative" who twice voted against the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in Colorado, is relatively new to pot use.
She explained that she began using cannabis in January 2015 when she began using edibles to help her alleviate the pain from debilitating migraines. Although she once strongly opposed the use of the drug, her views on marijuana were "softened" when she decided that nothing, expect cannabis, worked to help medicate her 21-year-old severely depressed son.
"I had dropped out of church a couple of years prior to all of this, I think a lot of it was my son's depression and just feeling disconnected from everybody. It just seemed like everybody had the perfect little family and nobody understood depression and there was something wrong with my son and I just felt really alone," Button, who was going through a divorce at the time, said. "Then when I started using the cannabis, I just felt very connected to God again, like I could feel all of the beauty that was in the world and not see all the negative stuff."
Now in its eighth month of existence, the Stoner Jesus Bible Study continues to grow and is up to as many as 20 members. Before Bibles are even cracked open on Thursdays, the group usually socializes, smokes or eats marijuana before for about a half hour.
"I would call them my family members because we absolutely love each other, not in a weird way but in a very brotherly, sons and daughters of Christ kind of way," Button asserted.
Button said that she feels cannabis helps to "activate a spiritual component" of the brain that helps believers connect better with God.
"We are not abusing the drug, it's not that we can't feel God without the drug, it's just that it makes a little bit easier because I think it does activate a spiritual component in your brain and it lets you express yourself emotionally in a way that you probably wouldn't if you were completely sober," Button argued. "It's not like we are off the rails stoned by any means."
Button believes that being high helps believers better understand the magnitude of what Jesus' death meant to the World.
"When you are sober, you are so used to hearing 'Jesus died for your sins …' and there is nothing wrong with that but when you are stoned, you feel that and it hurts and you just love him so much more," Button stated. "There is nobody on the planet that would do that, would be tortured on behalf of humanity."
"We are stoned to feel the emotions connected to the words in the Bible that we don't feel as strongly when we are not stoned," Button added. "I don't really know what is wrong with that because the results are all focused on Jesus."
The emphasis of the Bible study, Button contends, is not weed but rather the fact that it welcomes all comers to the group just as Jesus welcomed and loved the sinners, drug addicts and societal outcasts.
"I feel like the people that we are connecting with are the people that are just like me. For whatever reason, they love God, love the word of Jesus but are not big fans of church," Button told CP. "I feel that if we don't let the church have outlets like this, we are going to miss a huge swath of people out there who need to know that Jesus loves them. You can tell they just never felt that love and acceptance. I know there is no evil in it. I know its God, its not weed, it's God and he is using it to connect his people."
Button admits the "stoner" Bible study has and will continue to lead to some backlash from others in the Denver Christian community.
Last week, a Denver CBS affiliate ran a piece about Button's bible study. Button explained that one pastor who participated in the study and was shown in the CBS video was kicked off the worship team at his church and given the cold shoulder by other church members on Sunday.
As her 17-year-old son still goes to a conservative Christian high school, Button expects to face some kind of criticism from the institution.
As marijuana is now legal in four states and Washington D.C. and decriminalized in 22 states, marijuana, just like many other vices, can be addictive, notes CP guest columnist John Stonestreet. In a recent op-ed, Stonestreet cited concerns about the increased habitual use of marijuana among children and young adults.
Even though there is no definitive proof that marijuana use causes cancer or heart disease like cigarettes do, Dr. Sushrut Jangi stated in an op-ed for the Boston Globe that the THC in marijuana can have a severe effect on the brain.
"While marijuana has not been definitively shown to cause cancer or heart disease, its harmful cognitive and psychological effects will take time to capture in studies. The underlying biochemistry at work suggests deeply pathologic consequences," Jangi writes. "Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana attaches to receptors in the brain that subtly modulate systems ordinarily involved in healthy behaviors like eating, learning, and forming relationships. But THC — which has been increasing in potency in legal products being sold in places like Colorado — throws the finely tuned system off balance."
In light of these findings, Stonestreet wrote, "So if you don't care about eating, learning, remembering things, forming healthy relationships or having a happy life, by all means, light up!"