Saint Stephen and the Theo-Cons vs. The Devil’s Weed

Illustration by Chris Bennett. Click to enlarge.Illustration by Chris Bennett. Click to enlarge.CANNABIS CULTURE – With an election coming and Conservative support indicated in the polls, is Canada under threat of becoming a Theocratic Dictatorship?

As Canada swings further and further to the right, with the help of the largely fundamentalist Christian base of the Conservative Party, I feel like some 4th century AD Gnostic or Pagan philosopher, watching with inexpressible gloom and horror as the Roman Empire fell under the spell of Catholicism, and rampaging monks burned libraries and destroyed the temples of other religions, murdering philosophers and pagans along with anyone else who did not share their limited world view. A time period so well captured in the recent film Agora.

Unknown to the average Canadian, from behind the scenes, crazy Evangelicals have been working to overthrow Canadian politics in order to prepare Canada to fulfill what they see as our country’s role in Biblical prophecies of the end times. The Theo-Conservative focus on “moral” issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and marijuana use, as well as their unflinching support of Israel, is evidence of their Evangelical agenda, and is a threat to the cultural Liberalism that Canada was once so well known for.

According to Marci McDonald, in her book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada many Canadian Evangelists believe the Biblical passage “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” (Psalms 7:28) is a prophetic reference to Canada, which is a ‘Dominion’ that rules from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, and The Mackenzie River, and that this Biblical designation identifies Canada’s important role in the end times!

Now, never mind that this passage, from the Old Testament’s Psalms, is generally believed to have been written around 1000 BC in reference to never-realized Jewish aspirations to rule over much of the ancient Mid-East, and has nothing to do with the other Biblical time-bomb, the Book of Revelation, which these same fanatics are obsessed with. Due to Psalms 7:28, as far as Canada’s extreme Christian Right is concerned, it is up to loyal Christian Canadians to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord!

As MacDonald amply documents, since Preston Manning, son of a politician and preacher himself, formed the Reform Party, Canada’s evangelical’s have been getting more and more politically active. When the Reformers merged with the troubled Progressive Conservatives, it was a unification of Canada’s right wingers that was enough for them to take power. Now we have politicians like James Lunney, Science Minister Gary Goodyear, and Stockwell Day, who believe Adam and eve walked the earth with Dinosaurs. Indeed, Day may well have come to be a Canadian Prime Minister, if he had been a little more politically savvy like Harper, and not revealed that he chose the myth of Eden over the theory of evolution. As minister of highways, I wonder where Day thinks “fossil fuels” derive from?

“Professor Ron Dart, an active Anglican who teaches political science in the heart of B.C.’s Lower Fraser Valley Bible Belt, says there’s no doubt the values of the powerful U.S. religious right ‘have infiltrated the Canadian soul and psyche,” reads a Vancouver Sun article. “U.S. evangelicals have helped create a Republican Christianity in Canada,’ says Dart…. Giant global evangelical organizations such as Focus on the Family, Dart says, draw in millions of people by offering advice on how to raise children and warning about the dangers of homosexuality. ‘Then, before you know it,’ Dart says, ‘you’re into Republicanism and U.S. nationalism and imperialism…. American evangelicals are a powerful force. They’ve helped create a big shift to the right in Canada in the past two decades,’ Dart says…. Most notably, Dart argues, the influence of U.S. evangelicals has slowly transformed the once-centrist Progressive Conservative party into what is now called the Conservative Party, which Dart maintains should be more aptly called ‘The Republican Party of Canada.'”

The fact that so few Canadians are even aware that Canada is on the brink of a Christian cultural Dark Ages is likely due to the Machiavellian character of Stephen Harper, who is, like him or not, a shrewd enough figure to have muzzled fellow evangelicals in his party until they had a firmer grip on the reigns. Now, after successfully stacking the Senate, and Judiciary with like-minded Theo-Cons, they are starting to feel confident enough to start promoting their anti-sex, drugs and pro-violence agenda. This is most apparent when it comes to their policies regarding Gay Marriage, abortion, Mid-East policy (i.e. Christian Zionism!) and, most importantly for this article, drugs – particularly cannabis – as Stephen Harper has a clear political mandate and obsession with ridding Canada of cannabis users.

With the Theo-cons Tough on Crime agenda, Stephen Harper is set to take Canadian society and our political landscape on a massive swing to the right in a way never seen before. The Theo-Con’s draconian crime agenda features mandatory minimum sentences and focuses on all things cannabis, so it’s pretty clear exactly who Harper plans to fill his new billion-dollar prisons with. As Marc Emery noted in an earlier article regarding many of these same themes, “To Harper, the ‘culture’ or ‘cannabis culture’ is the most dangerous of all because its appeal to Canadians is steeped in liberal or libertarian values, philosophies that Harper regards as degenerate.” Putting such free thinkers behind bars is sure to make Canada’s slide into the right wing world of Harperland all the easier.

Harper clearly sees cannabis culture as a major focal point for the less conservative elements of Canadian culture, and this may in part be due to his relationship with his university debate opponent and pot smoker named Paul Watson, who raised the question of cannabis legalization on the floor of the national Liberal convention, and who later became a well known journalist and war correspondent. Indeed Watson also dragged his antagonistic University pal Harper off to a meeting of the Liberal Party’s Youth Wing!

It seems that despite being a minority Government, our ruthless, Machiavellian leader often finds a means of getting his own way. From Black Books directed at confounding the democratic process and achieving Conservative agendas to some of Harper’s crew of “Incredulous Bastards” misleading Parliament about the cost of the Theo-Con’s Tough on Cannabis “crime” agenda, it is not really surprising that the Harper Government has become the first ruling Canadian political party to have been found in contempt.

Harper’s political approach to the cannabis question is a classic example of his backdoor techniques, and the way he gives it to unknowing Canadian public in the rear! In ‘The Armageddon Factor’, MacDonald refers to Harper’s modus operandi of “changing public policy by quiet revisions to little noticed statutes beneath the media’s radar”. Such was the case with some minor summertime revisions to the ‘Regulations Prescribing Certain Offences to be Serious Offences’ which enabled Harper, frustrated at his stalled attempts to get the earlier versions of S-10, C-15 and C-26 pushed through Parliament and into law so far during his tenure, to make it so that as of July 13th, 2010 three or more people trading in a few grams of marijuana or more, could be criminally charged with activities that could land them up to 5 years in jail. Regulations, unlike legislation, do not need to be approved by Parliament. This is because regulations are the specifics of legislation and in this case it was what particular offences could be included as a ‘serious offence’ in the regulation.

Similarly, Bill S-10, which is largely directed at Canada’s cannabis culture, is worded within a larger bill that is presented to the public as being directed at violent gang related crimes, the ‘Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act’, is clearly focused on the often unreported crime of cannabis production, distribution and use. And when it comes to getting his way on pot policy, Stephen Harper is quite literally obsessed. As a 2007 AFP news story recorded, Harper has “vowed … to change what he called a 1960s drug culture in Canada, proposing mandatory jail sentences … more investigations and prosecutions of drug crimes.”

“We are up against … a culture that since the 1960s has at the minimum not discouraged drug use and often romanticized it, or made it cool.”

“My son is listening to my Beatles records and asking me what all these lyrics mean … I love these records. I’m not putting them away … But we have to change the culture,” he said.

Harper likened the challenge to the shift that led to diminished tobacco use in Canada over the past two decades by rendering it “less and less socially and culturally acceptable.”

Listen to Harper’s incredibly un-hip version of de-drugged Beatles music and ask yourself how this hypocrite can sing out loud a line like “I get high with a little help from my friends”. Which Rock album will be Harper’s next victim?

In a YouTube interview in which Harper agreed to answer questions from Canadians, the topic of legalizing marijuana was raised by a number of citizens. Harper responded that he did not want his young children to be able to obtain illicit drugs, and that “drugs are not bad because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are bad… and even if these things were legalized I predict with great confidence that these would never be respectable businesses run by respectable people, because of the very nature of the dependency that they create, the damage that they create, social upheaval they create.” This all fits in with harpers view that those who use cannabis are inherently bad themselves, and not only need to be punished, but also silenced politically.

About a third of Canadians admit to having tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime, thus, not surprisingly, cannabis has at times been considered Canada’s number one cash crop. Harper blames this pot boom on the Liberals, whose talk of decriminalization, in Harper’s view has been “sending mixed messages on drugs.”

“They’ve tacked back and forth between prohibition and legalization so many times that Canadians hardly know what the law actually says anymore,” he said “It’s time to be straight with Canadians so Canadians who use drugs can get straight.”

And Harper is set to ensure that those dopers get straight. Like every immovable hair on his industrial strength hair-sprayed head, Harper wants the same sort of order in Canadian Culture, getting out of line with that vision results in the Barber’s snip!

These comments are among the more visible ones revealing Harper’s personal political agenda, and the reasoning behind Bill S-10. In many ways, these statements are just a carryover of the views of the US Right Wing Christian Republicans that he so much admires. I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s comments when he was a Senator “These young people, they get together, they read books, they smoke marijuana, and they talk” – and the suggestion was that all this would somehow lead to the decline of American culture. Ronald Reagan Jr. got this point driven home, as when asked about his parent’s focus on the Drug War, in the early days of the famous “Just Say No” campaign, he responded to the effect that it was “not marijuana the mildly mind-altering substance, its marijuana, the anti-thesis of the State.” In the case of America Religious Republicans, and Canada’s Theo-Cons, the case here is the same. They have seen the anti-war protests, the environmental rallies, the loosening of sexual “morals” and in all cases they have noticed those long-haired lefties of ‘Beatles era drug culture’ have been there as well.

With Bill S-10, Harper reveals his plan for dealing with the pesky left-wing influence of drug culture: he is going to put them in jail! Billions of dollars in new jails will be built under Harper’s reign in order to house these offenders, and he justifies this with the same sort of moralistic fervour that led directly to things like witch burnings and the Spanish Inquisition.

Not surprisingly, the majority of these new prisons are planned for Con ridings. Hmmm, maybe Harper’s economic plan for Canada, includes harvesting the pesky pot public, and turning them into jobs for the privatized prisons of his fellow Theo-Con cronies?

Despite Canada having some of its lowest crime rates in decades, with the unmovable, cold steel blue eyes of a sociopath and the liver lips of a lying hypocrite, Harper boldly stated, “the safe streets and safe neighbourhoods that Canadians have come to expect as part of our way of life are threatened by rising levels of crime.”

When it was pointed out to members of Harper’s administration, that crime rates are actually dropping, the rhetoric that came back from Theo-Con MPs like Stockwell Day, Rob Nicholson and Vick Toews would have been laughable, if it were not so downright scary.

Stockwell Day said we need to spend 9 Billion dollars on new jails, due to unreported crimes.

What are these unreported crimes? I will tell you friend: every time you and I lift a joint to our mouths, or bake some cannabis delectables, or trade a few nugz with our pals!

In the Government’s own legislative summary of Bill S-10 we read:

A recently published article in Statistics Canada’s justice-related periodical, Juristat, used data from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey to examine the incidence and nature of police-reported drug offences in Canada. It explored the long-term trends in possession, trafficking, production, importing and exporting of cannabis, cocaine, heroin and a catch-all category of “other” drugs, including methamphetamine (crystal meth) and ecstasy. It also presented information from the Adult Criminal Court Survey and the Youth Court Survey on the decisions and sentencing outcomes for those charged with drug offences. Given that not all crimes come to the attention of police, the data likely under-represent the total number of drug offences that occur in Canada. The full extent of drug crime, therefore, is unknown. … Most drug offences continued to involve cannabis (6 in 10), although the rate of cannabis offences has generally declined in recent years.

As Paula Mallea wrote in The Fear Factor: Stephen Harper’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Agenda:

The “tough on crime” agenda has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with politics. Take, for example, the government’s intention to establish mandatory minimum sentences for many drug crimes. When questioned by the Justice Committee, Minister Rob Nicholson was unable to provide any evidence from other countries that implies such sentences work to reduce crime.161 In fact, two studies produced for his own Justice Department (2002 and 2005) concluded that mandatory minimums do not work. Nevertheless, he said his proposed legislation was “a smart response to a public outcry to crack down on the growing ‘scourge’ of drugs.” “I can tell you,” he said, “there is support for this bill from many ordinary Canadians who are quite concerned about drug abuse.” Once again, his ability to read the minds of Canadians, and willingness to act on that alone, trumped the evidence.

Unfortunately, in the case of Bill S-10, this “Tough on Crime Agenda” will mean mandatory jail sentences for anyone caught growing 6 pot plants or more, and baking hash brownies (like former Prime Minister Paul Martin confessed to eating), and Jack Layton joked about baking on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, would get you a mandatory 18 months in the clinker, and if you used hashish you made yourself, you could expect another 18 months! In British Columbia alone, it is estimated that just the new minimum sentence for growers can easily generate at least 500 more prisoners and based upon the modest estimate of $57,000 per year for each of them, this would generate an increase of $30 million more per year for operations and maintenance to house them. Due to this unprecedented prison population growth it is also likely that a new prison would have to be built to contain them. Considering there are 10 provinces and three territories, with marijuana being grown in all of them, the financial implications of this single piece of legislation are self-evident.

Harper collecting on a cross border beer swap from a hockey bet with fellow drinker Obama.Harper collecting on a cross border beer swap from a hockey bet with fellow drinker Obama.

When asked if he himself ever tried marijuana, the Prime Minister’s now notorious retort was, “No I have not. I was offered a joint once, but I was too drunk to take it.” Harper stressed he was “not a prohibitionist” on tobacco and alcohol. “People are going to have a drink and have a smoke and that’s kind of the way life is going to be.”

But why does Harper have it in for the Canada’s thriving cannabis culture? When questioned by the press if he had ever even thought of smoking cannabis, Harper’s quick response was that such a question was between him and his “Creator”. I think Harper’s moral views on pot are due to his evangelical agenda. The church Harper belongs to has a longstanding opposition to marijuana and this includes medical marijuana, as well as many other themes that resonate with the Harper Conservatives.

“The Alliance Church, to which Harper has belonged for decades, believes Jesus Christ will return to Earth in an apocalypse, won’t ordain women, strongly opposes abortion and divorce, condemns homosexuality as the most base of sins and believes those who aren’t born-again are “lost”, a Vancouver Sun article reads. “The denomination’s leaders, in addition, oppose… stem-cell research, euthanasia, [and]the use of marijuana … Harper doesn’t respond to journalists, including those from The Vancouver Sun, who want to ask whether he shares such Alliance Church doctrines.”

As Marc Emery notes in his article, Harper has gone as far as to appoint an evangelical minister in a study that can be seen as an attempt to create a “scientific” reason for his obviously “moral” war on marijuana and its users:

Canada has a new commission – Canada’s Mental Health Commission – whose head is a pre-millennial fundamentalist Christian named Chris Summerville, a Pastor of the associated Gospel Churches of Canada, which has 140 churches.

Pre-millennialists believe that Jesus will return to earth in our lifetime to bring all true believers in Christ to Heaven, while the rest of us infidels will burn in a lake of fire as promised in the Book of Revelations.

Stephen Harper assigned Summerville the specific task of finding a link between cannabis and schizophrenia. Summerville has no training in mental health but believes ‘Satan walks among men’. Summerville claims to talk to God regularly (which to me seems like a sort of schizophrenia).

As is true with all his partisan appointments, Harper only appoints people who believe what he believes. Appointing a Book of Revelation End-of-Days pastor like Summerville as head of the Mental Health Commission is a sign that Harper thinks mental illness is moral failing combined with bad values, and requires a kind of exorcism, a repentance, and spiritual renewal.

Summerville and members of these 140 churches believe (according to their website) that Satan is a person who walks amongst us today, and that the Holy Scripture constitutes the only supreme authority in matters of faith, teaching and behavior.

Here’s another quote from Summerville’s website:

We believe the total corruption of human nature has been transmitted to the entire race of human beings; every child of Adam is born into the world with a sinful nature. We believe in the eternal blessed of the saved and the eternal punishment of the lost. We further believe there is an appointed day for the judgment of the wicked when they will be cast into the lake of fire, there to remain forever and ever in varying degrees of torment according to their works.

Summerville’s beliefs are informed, as are Harper’s, by the Book of Revelation – specially Revelations 20:10 the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are and they will be tormented day and night forever 20:7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison (8) and will go out and deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth 20:13 and they were judged each one according to his works 20:15 and anyone not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

21:8 The cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers [which include drug users, psychedelic plant users] idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

It is this last reference, sorcerers being put to death, that justified the killing of two to seventeen million women as witches and sorcerers for their use of plants and herbs in the 500-year Spanish Inquisition and from the Dark Ages to 1832.

Marc makes some important points here, as these references to “sorcery” in the Book of Revelation come from the Greek term “pharmakeia” that, besides also being the root word for our modern “pharmacy”, also makes direct reference to the healing and magical use of herbs. As San Francisco’s Evangelical SOS ministries writes of this term in one tractate:

The Greek word “pharmakia” is used five times in the New Testament, once in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:20) and four times in the last book of the Bible — Revelation (Rev. 9:21, Rev.18:23, Rev. 21:8, and Rev. 22:15). Three of these times, we are told that those who engage in “pharmakia” will not enter Heaven. According to W.E. Vine’s expository dictionary of New Testament words, the word “pharmakia” refers to “a sorcerer, especially one who uses drugs, potions, spells, enchantments.” While our word “pharmacy” is derived from “pharmakia,” the Greek word does not refer to all drug use, but rather drug use which is related to sorcery. Sorcery involves using certain kinds of drugs to open up oneself to the influence of Satan or demons.

Revelation 9:21 states that after God poured out his wrath on rebellious humanity through plagues, people did not repent of their “murders, sorcery, fornication or their thefts.” If Revelation has anything to do with the last days, these four sins will be prevalent at that time. While very few people today claim to be sorcerers, the use of mind-altering drugs is certainly prevalent in our world today.

Many non-Christian religions use mind-altering drugs as part of their ceremonies. Long ago, marijuana was used in shamanistic rituals in India, China, and Assyria. An ancient Chinese writing, the Pen Tsao Ching (100 AD) noted that “If taken over a long term, it [marijuana]makes one communicate with spirits.”A Taoist priest wrote in the fifth century B.C. that marijuana was employed by “necromancers … to set forward time and reveal future events.” Today, many groups — including the Rastafarians, the Tepecano Indians of Mexico, and the Kasai Tribes of the Congo — use marijuana as a sacrament in their religious functions. The Kasai consider marijuana to be a god. THE NECTAR OF DELIGHT. The drugs used in sorcery are “mind-altering” — they change a person’s beliefs, personality and thinking. The change is long lasting and often permanent. In this respect, alcohol is different from marijuana. A person might use alcohol to reduce temporarily his moral aversion to some activity such as fornication (sex outside of marriage). However, once the alcohol wears off, the person is likely to have the same moral aversion to fornication. In contrast, marijuana changes a person’s thinking and beliefs. A person who smokes marijuana will often find himself thinking and believing that fornication is not sinful, that the whole idea of “sin” is wrong, that he should no longer trust the Bible, that there are many ways to God, and that he himself is God.

Watch a Christian sermon on marijuana with music and graphics added by me.

In fact, each year at Hempfest, Evangelical Christians can be seen protesting, and while talking to them they have referred to these same references as their justification for holding signs that clearly demonize cannabis use.

Such views are not limited to only a few Christian fundamentalists; they are also the subject of sermons of America’s most well-known and influential Evangelecists, religious leaders who have strong political ties and even the ears of the presidents.

For example, Stephen Harper’s hero George W. Bush, whose drug policies Harper imitates the most, “accepted Jesus Christ into [his]life” in 1986, after giving up alcohol and being led to conversion by the Rev. Billy Graham, whose influence on the White House can now be felt in Bush’s Faith-Based Drug Treatment Programs. Indeed, considering the rigor he had for America’s War on Drugs after giving up a life of past alcohol and drug abuse, it seems George W. Bush was intent in making a whole nation, if not the whole world, follow that lead, even if by the brutal force of the State.

In 1972, when Bush Jr. himself was still puffing reefers, snorting cocaine and binge drinking, the man who converted him, Billy Graham, responded to a question posed by the host of The Hour of Decision “What part can organized religion play in combating the growing drug problem?” His response is very telling of his own influence on Bush’s faith based political agenda.

“I think that a professor has written a book over here at Berkeley on this subject of religion and drugs. And, he says that it’s a very interesting phenomena to him that there is definitely a relationship between religion and drugs. The word “pharmacia,” which is a Greek word that we translate in the Bible “witchcraft” is the root word that we get the word drug from. And, there is a relationship of some sort. And, he said this in this book, he said that the only total complete cure that he knows for hard drugs is a very deep spiritual experience. And he says I don’t know that that’s true, but he says, it is true. And, we only have two hospitals in America that are dedicated to the drug problem. One is in Fort Worth, Texas, and the other Lexington, Kentucky, Federal Hospital. And both of these hospitals, the psychiatrists say that they have less than one-half of one percent cured. And, the head psychiatrist at Lexington said the same thing. He said, “We find an interesting thing, when a person has a deep spiritual experience, we have much greater possibilities of curing their drug problem.” And, of course we know the reason as Christians because we believe a supernatural act takes place when a person is born again.”

The references to Pharmakeia, Graham refers to, became popularly related to Drug Use through the works of the evangelical Christian writer Hal Lindsey, who, in his 1970 book The Late Great Planet Earth, pointed to Revelation 18:23 and the reference to the word “sorceries”. “The word ‘sorceries’,” writes Lindsey, “comes from the Greek word pharmakeia, which is the word from which we get our English word, pharmacy. It means a kind of occult worship or black magic associated with the use of drugs. This word is mentioned several times in the Book of Revelation. It is said of the great religious systems that ‘all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.'” Lindsey pointed at the revelations experienced by the psychedelic-ingesting youth of the time, noting “these drugs reduce a man’s thinking and mentality to a point where he is easily demon-possessed.”

As Jesus himself explained, “nothing that enters a man from outside can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean,'” (Mark 7:18). It was likely with such a view in mind that another Christian writer, Fredric Madeleine, in his 1988 book The Drug Controversy and the Rise of Antichrist, saw the enforcers of prohibition as being the true practitioners of the “sorcery” referred to in Revelation. Like Lindsey, Madeleine noted that the original Greek word for “sorcery” was pharmakeia, which was “an occult science involving secret knowledge about drugs and herbs,” but then differs on his interpretation of what this indicates. “Although some have suggested that the use of illegal drugs is sorcery, I suggest instead that control of drugs is part of a system of sorcery, re-invented by the corrupt minds of men in high places. “Sorcery is a religious system of control and exploitation which operates by restricting knowledge of and access to drugs to a ruling priesthood. This ruling class uses its secret knowledge not to protect the people and culture, as is supposed, but rather to maintain power and to exploit unwary believers. In order to maintain power they must institute certain laws, called taboos, which prevent the common people from gaining free access to certain herbs, drugs, and knowledge. In order to maintain power this ruling class must eliminate those who do not believe in their power or submit to their rules. It is this system of exploitation and control that is referred to in the Bible as sorcery.”

Is it not sorcery for a nation to fight a self-righteous “drug war” where millions are pumped up on Valium, Halcyon, Ritalin, Prozac and other mind-numbing substances, not to mention killing themselves with cigarettes or getting as drunk as a teenage Stephen Harper, but pot smokers and mushroom eaters are viciously hunted down and their lives destroyed? Clearly, this is not a Drug War, but rather a religious war, this is a war against plants, mushrooms and cacti, this is a war on humanty’s indigenous relationship with those plants; this is a war on Nature.

This is also a war that has been fought before, through the millennia. In his use of both politics and religion to gain power and achieve his agendas, Harper reminds me of the 4th century Christian Roman Emperor Constantine, whose own conversion and rise to power I have chronicled elsewhere:

By the beginning of 300 AD there were enough Christians in the Empire that it was in the political interest of the Emperor to treat them with more respect. The increasing Christian population in Rome, undoubtedly resulted in the rise of Constantine “the Great”, the first Christian emperor in the world….

The account of Constantine’s conversion amply demonstrates his suspect character and fickle faith, indicating he was capable of feigning his acceptance of the popular religion of the people, in order to gain their support. At the time, Constantine was contending with Maxentius, (who was inimical to the Christians), for the throne of Rome. In his preparations for the battle Constantine supposedly had a vision of a luminous cross that held around it a banner with the words “In this sign thou shalt conquer”. Like Paul, who justified his claim to the supremacy of his Christianity through his own visionary hallucinations, Constantine claimed that Jesus had appeared to him the following night bidding him to adopt the words as his standard. With his victory against his opponent and fellow contender for the crown Maxentius, Constantine’s conversion was complete, as was his loyalty thereafter to the symbol of Jesus’ death, the cross. Although Constantine’s “comprehension of Christian doctrine was never very clear….he was sure that victory in battle lay in the gift of the God of the Christians”(Chadwick,1967). (As did, we might add, his popularity!)

…. At the time of Constantine’s conversion, around 325 AD, the Roman Empire was falling apart and losing control of its ‘tax-paying population’, much of which were joining the many scattered groups that had formed around the personality of the “crucified savior” Jesus Christ. Constantine, likely made a politically motivated decision, and aspired to bring all “his people” together under one unified form of the faith. The world would have been a much different place if his choice for imperial unification had fallen on any of the other existing and popular religious sects, pagan and Christian alike. Anybody who didn’t fit in with the Pauline brand of Christianity that he championed was labeled a heretic. Constantine began his rule, “by conferring many dignities on the Christians, and those only addicted to Christianity, he made governors of his provinces”(Doane 1882). He went on to command that gold coins be minted, which held his image, with hands clasped in front of him, and eyes piously averted to heaven.

[Constantine] then issued edicts against heretics,–i.e., those who… did not believe that Christ was “of one substance with the Father,” and others — calling them “enemies of truth and eternal life,” “authors and councilors of death,”… He “commanded by law” that none should dare “to meet at conventicles,” and that “all places where they were wont to keep their meetings should be demolished,” or “confiscated by the Catholic church;” and Constantine was emperor “By this means,” says Eusebius, “such as maintained doctrines and opinions contrary to the church, were suppressed.”(Doane 1882).

When this editing of the gnosis [knowledge]of the ancient world knowledge took place it was recorded that the Baths and Bakehouses of Alexandria were fired for six months. This book burning was accomplished through the Council of Nicea which and was attended by three hundred bishops who jointly decided upon which texts were “authentic” and to be included in the newly formed New Testament. Included were only books that acknowledged Jesus as the virgin born, dead and resurrected Christ. The council also finalized the dates of such holidays as Christmas and Easter, and labeled numerous groups, both Christian and pagan alike, as heretical, thus sealing their fate of near total annihilation. Almost immediately after presiding over the Council of Nicea and inaugurating the new age of Imperial Christianity, Constantine saw fit to murder his own son Crispus, and his wife, Fausta, likely seeing himself cleansed of any sense of sin or guilt by his baptism in the blood of Jesus. (Bennett & McQueen, 2001).

I see a number of similarities between Harper and Constantine. Constantine took Jesus, the leader of a movement that Rome had been persecuting, and used him as a means to power. Likewise, Harper has taken a hero of the counter culture movement, John Lennon, clearly a member of the same “Beatles-era drug culture” he has pitted himself against, and who was a cannabis lover, and used him for his own purposes, even to go so far this election as to plug his evangelical nose and sing Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, a tune that is the antithesis of everything the Harper government stands for, the most materialistic and authoritarian Government in Canadian history, and with lines like “Imagine there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion to” in direct opposition to even Harper’s claimed religious beliefs! Anything goes with this colossal hypocrite in order to sell his right-wing politics and agenda to a largely unsuspecting Canadian public. Harper giggled “I’ve got my own lyrics for this song that might cause a bit of controversy.” Considering his clearly laid out political agenda, we don’t need to Imagine what Harper has in store for Canadian cannabis users (But then, John, did compare his own fame to that of Jesus, so he kind of put himself out there for this sort of exploitation).

Indeed, in a Conservative commerical Harper goes so far as to show himself drinking from a Beatle’s mug, although a visit to his office reveals he actually uses a cup with the US Governemnt seal on it!

Again like Constantine’s Rome, Harper’s government has been shown to be anti-science and anti-sex, and both have gone to extensive lengths to create a new environment of “criminality” in order to sell a pogrom of persecution to a wider public.

Fortunately, with a minority government and an election afoot, Canada is still something of a democracy and not an empire, and Harper is not an emperor – but if the Theo-Cons win this election with a majority, it might as well be, and there will be a new Dark Ages on Canadian cannabis culture, the likes of which we have never seen before.

Indeed, every cannabis activist in Canada should have only one agenda for the coming weeks: Defeat the Harper Conservatives at all costs, vote for whoever has a chance of beating a Con in your riding, be it Liberal or New Democrat. This is no time for the currently unreachable ideals of Green Party or Marijuana Party politics; this is about survival and freedom. Imagine there is no Harper, it could happen if you Vote!

Chris Bennett is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the history of cannabis and religion, having written dozens of articles in Cannabis Culture, High Times, and other magazines as well as three books dealing with the subject; Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion (Access Unlimited, 1995), Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible (Forbidden Fruit Publishing, 2001) and Cannabis and the Soma Solution (TrineDay, 2010). Read his CC Blog here.