Cigarette smoking is more than an habit to many — it’s a religion.
Although now I know that before a smoker opens a pack and taps it against his/her palm countlessly, the purpose is to better pack the tobacco, this still strikes me as a ritual, a prelude to worship. Many smokers religiously light up, like a panting deer stopping for water at a stream.
I’ve had smokers approach me and offer me as much as $10 for one cigarette! One difference between tobacco and heroin is that tobacco is legal. And, as smokers have told me, tobacco is harder to kick than heroin. Heroine does, however, more quickly lead to anti-social behavior such as stealing and job loss than does tobacco. Cigarettes are a slow poison, and heavy use triggers sickness and work callouts and often to the cancer center.
Like other drugs, once cigarettes become your idol, you crave more and more, yet you never really become satisfied, except, perhaps, for a moment. “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” Ecclesiastes 1:8
For decades, we have been enticed by the lure of sister nicotine – though ads, integration in the movies where lots of scenes of people smoking are shown, billboards, and even at one time, believe it or not, doctors promoting smoking! They should be tried for malpractice. The tobacco industry and its henchmen have glorified smoking, saying it’s glamorous, cool.
Sister Nicotine and the Holy Smokes is a false religion. To restore people to health, mentally and physically, we need to reject the false gods of the world and turn to a higher power than ourselves, God.
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
As a Presbyterian, in the Reformed tradition, I was taught that cigarette smoking is not inherently a sin. It was those silly Baptists (as my father was raised but changed) who believed it was wrong to smoke, drink or chew and not go with girls who do. Maybe not the chew part, but it makes a funny rhyme. But now I think the Baptists were right about smoking.
It was ironic that at a community meal a homeless smoker asked one of the hosts at a Baptist church for a cigarette. I said softly something like “a Baptist church is not the place to ask for a cigarette”, and started to chuckle. The host was gracious and politely said he didn’t have any cigarettes.
My close friend Sandi is in a nursing home. She caught lung cancer, which metastasized to the liver and brain, because of a lifetime of smoking. Decades ago, a physical education/health class instructor in college told the class that he’d like to go down south and burn down all the tobacco fields but added “Don’t tell your parents I’m really going to do it; I’m just trying to make a point about how bad smoking is for your health.”
Since I started caring for Sandi, I got the idea to contact that instructor, who was a 2nd Lt. Army Ranger who served in Viet Nam, to burn down the tobacco fields with him. I looked him up on the Internet, but found that he had died. I could imagine the headlines if the ex Ranger and I actually did this: TWO WACKED OUT VIETNAM VIETS BURN DOWN DIXIE TOBACCO FIELDS; THE RETURN OF SHERMAN.
Just a qualification, smoking has a more negative affect on some people more than others. And like alcohol, not everyone gets addicted, but many do.
When you get addicted to anything, it affects the way you interact with others and you may display anti-social behavior. As the 12 Steps rightly acknowledges, addictions, which are really besetting sin, are a result of a character flaw.
In the book Narcotics Anonymous I read a personal testimony of a former druggie who said that he had no moral compass with his addiction — that he would stoop to anything, including stealing from his own mother!
Being hooked on cigarettes approaches this problem.
Got a light?
There’s a problem when people start think that if the government approves of something, it’s OK. The government is populated by people, who, unlike God, are fallible. The government approves of abortion, same sex marriages, and gambling. It doesn’t mean it is right. These things are morally wrong!
A man who had to leave his apartment was homeless for five days and four nights before he ended up going to a colony of homeless people and meet with the Memorial Mob homeless advocate.
He was no longer going to wander homelessly alone.
After he finished the first community meal AHTN took him to, he fished out some change and said he’s trying to find enough money for cigarettes.
The new kid on the block was overheated, exhausted, and probably hungry when someone gave him two Bucks to help him out. There wasn’t two dollars that same night after dinner just a few hours after someone gave it to him.
This wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last person who when someone gave a homeless person money for food or drink, used it to buy cigarettes.
We all have our flaws. It’s just a matter of kind and degree. Sandi is a child of God, made in His image, and has intrinsic value. I’ve been camping out by her bedside daily, to feed her – she sometimes drinks her beverages erratically and the staff doesn’t have the time to keep checking back to see when she’s ready to finish her drink – and to assure her that there is someone on this earth who cares and that God has her in His hands.
Although you don’t want to enable people’s bad behavior and sometime just have to walk away, people should not be written off. Sandi is a good patient. She smiles, doesn’t curse out and fight with the nursing staff when they are trying to help her or make excessive demands like others, but cooperates with them, smiles, and often says “thank you.”
Our pastor said that Jesus only brings up sin when he can heal people from it. It is my hope that my words will convince people to not start or continue destructive habits. I didn’t listen to good advice, but finally I saw the light and came around.
A few years ago, I overheard a conversation about some drug that gets people very high, very cheaply and is extra dangerous. I heard a guy say that this drug kills people much more quickly than other drugs. This doesn’t matter, he explained, because all the user is interested in is getting high. Nothing else matters.
Burning down the tobacco fields is not going to resolve the false religion of Sister Nicotine and The Holy Smokes, no more than just pushing out the pusher will cure the drug abuse problem, no more than Eliot Ness and his Untouchables not letting anyone have booze.
To restore health, mentally and physically, you need to reject the false gods of the world and turn to a higher power than yourself, God. Healing is not instant, in fact it’s slow, but if one hangs in there, he/she will be better off.
Realizing you need the power of God in order to overcome besetting sins is the first step, as found in Celebrate Recovery’s 12 Steps and Biblical comparisons. The program is not just for addictions, but for other hang ups, bad habits, and hurts. I’ve been going to Celebrate Recovery to help me deal with Sandi’s cancer – for God to give me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change, and the courage to change that which I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18