Travel guru Rick Steves has been flying higher than we might have thought all these years. He's gone public supporting legalized recreational marijuana use and makes his case, in part, as a faithful Lutheran who finds activism more "Christlike" than conforming.
Amy Frykholm recently interviewed Steves, prolific guidebook author and Public Television travel show host, about his book, Travel as a Political Act, and his faith for Christian Century. But she saved the dope news for one of blogs that CC hosts,Â Theolog.
He's gone public with his recreational puffing because, StevesÂ says, people should take a "courageous" stand against drug laws that don't work. In the blog, Steves says,
For me, marijuana is not a harmful substance. I consider using it to be a civil liberty and have used it responsibly as an adult for creative purposes. I used to write a popular monthly column in World Concern Magazine, (a great Christian relief organization here in Seattle) and just for fun, I would write the article high. It helped me see things differently.
Steves says he's not pro-drugs he says, or overlooking to the problems drugs cause for kids or the dangers of driving, not just typing, while high.
I am saying that drug abuse is a painful and expensive problem in our society, and we are tackling it the wrong way. There are 80,000 people in jail for marijuana possession ... They get caught in that whole destructive and criminalized world. There are constructive and creative ways to help people, without locking people up, driving up the street value and enriching organized crime...
My pastor knows about my activism, and while he may not agree with me, he respects me for it. The church council supports some de-criminalization activities in Seattle. It is not at all incongruous to being a Christian or a Lutheran. It is a little odd, because most Christians are mindless conformists when it comes to these issues. I don't think mindless conformity is very Christlike.
I was mighty surprised by all this. I traveled in France with Steves himself and interviewed him often during my time as USA TODAY travel writer. I found him to be thoughtful, intellectually astute, culturally sensitive and fun. High? Not as I could tell but, having never smoked, (I may have been the original "designated driver" in the '60s) I probably wouldn't have known.
Still, his judgmental line on Christians who do follow the drug laws, even if they might vote to change them, doesn't seem so very Christlike to me.
By Cathy Lynn Grossman
February 18, 2010