There is a major drug problem in the UK. How should it be tackled and how should the addicts be treated? This programme tells the story of Simon, a former drug addict who managed to beat the habit through contact with the Nehemiah Project: a group based in London that seeks to rehabilitate addicts through religious faith and example. Simon talks about his former life of drug addiction and crime, the vulnerabilities he felt growing up, and about how he has managed to put all that behind him since becoming a Christian. He is now a youth worker, advising young people with a similar background to his own, and he also attends church with his wife Madeleine.
Religious Education is compulsory for all pupils in the 14-16 age range.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, schools can opt for a full GCSE or a half course. While some schools prefer a general programme, the half courses are increasingly the popular option. In Scotland pupils can opt for a short course or the Standard Grade certificate in RE.
Most courses deal with the fundamental questions raised by life and religion and look at religious responses to social and ethical issues.
Some courses offer a study of selected religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Others offer a thematic study of religious teaching applied to contemporary issues, covering topics such as: suffering and evil, peace, conflict and justice, the environment, medical ethics and human relationships.
Courses generally enable pupils to learn about religion, which includes factual learning, and to learn from religion, which includes reflecting on a personal response to the material. Pupils are expected to demonstrate skills of knowledge, analysis, explanation and application of religion, and evaluation.
'Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.' 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17
Most Christians believe that our bodies are an important gift from God, and that they should be treated with respect. Consequently, most denominations teach that stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco and caffeine should be used in moderation. Some denominations, for example Methodists, have traditionally abstained from drinking alcohol. Illegal drugs are regarded as an extreme form of stimulant and all denominations teach that they should be avoided.
'The Christian … loves his neighbour and therefore examines the probable effect of his behaviour, his habits and his example upon his neighbour. He accepts his part in the responsibility of the Church in the way of education and rehabilitation.' (From a statement published by the Methodist Church on the Christian attitude to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.)
There are several reasons why young people might turn to drugs
The Christian church does not simply condemn drug taking, it often works in the areas where young people are vulnerable to try to show them a different way of living.
Lack of self esteem: valuing oneself doesn't always come easily. Christians believe that God loves each individual, and that each individual is valuable: see Luke 12:4-7. This underpins the Church's teaching and mission to young people
Escapism: from poverty, from a lack of opportunities, from unbearable home situations, from circumstances beyond easy control. Some Christian churches run projects in disadvantaged areas to try to alleviate these situations and feelings. TIC+ is one such Christian charity (www.teensincrisis.org.uk)
Peer pressure: it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, and young people can be vulnerable as it is often seen as more acceptable to do what others do rather than what is right. Many Christian churches run youth groups or café bars to provide a place and a group of friends for young people such as HYPeR in Harrogate (www.hyper.org.uk).
Love and forgiveness
While drug addiction is clearly far from the Christian ideal, within Christianity there is a strong tradition of forgiveness and of helping those who wish to turn away from doing wrong: see The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). In this parable, the father represents God. Jesus's message is that God is eternally generous and forgiving and does not turn people away or give up on wrongdoers.
The word Jesus uses in the gospels to describe 'love' is 'agape', which means an active concern for the welfare of other people. It is an action rather than primarily an emotion. Christians working with addicts today would model their vocation on the example set by Jesus. If God loves each individual in this way, then Christians believe they have a duty to show that kind of love to others.
In The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus makes it clear that the way to eternal life depends on how much a person helps others: 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in … I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Christians try to see Jesus in each person who needs their help.
Mother Teresa summed up this belief: 'Non-Christians and Christians both do social work, but non-Christians do it for something, we do it for someone. We do it for God. It is our love of God in action.'
The use of drugs as a spiritual aid
Many Rastafarians use marijuana ('ganga') as an aid to religious meditation. They might refer to Genesis 2.16: 'And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden … ', and also stress that in religious ritual it is used in moderation.
Historically, there have been prophets in the Judaic Christian tradition that have used some types of herbs and plants to enhance mystical experience.
Such practices are not regarded as comparable with the use today of illegal, chemical drugs that can lead to addiction and wreck lives.
Watch the programme, listening carefully to what Simon says. Jot down two or three things. Discuss in small groups what you think is the programme's key message. Decide in your group the point in the programme that you think was most important: it might be a turning point, or an emotional moment, or a memorable quote. Watch the programme again as a class: each group can call 'freeze!' when they want to pause the film. Members of that group then explain why they chose this point before the film continues.
What strikes you most about Simon's
conversion and faith
Talk about this in pairs and then make a list of things that were important to Simon before he became a Christian and a list of things that are important to him now. What do you think has made the most difference?
Imagine you are a Christian. Someone you know is having problems with drugs and you have heard about Simon. Write a letter to him as a fellow believer outlining what the problem is and what you believe you should do. Swap letters with a friend and write replies from Simon to each other's letters. What advice, from a Christian perspective, will he give? You will need to refer to the Background Information to do this exercise.
The work of the Nehemiah Project is motivated by Christian beliefs and values. Design a leaflet for this organisation, called 'All You Need is Love!', to be distributed to vulnerable young people. Use the information in the programme and in the Background Information to let people know what sort of work they do, and why.
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Contains a database of young people's quotes on a wide range of religious topics including, 'how can people live in peace?', 'what is freedom, truth and justice?', and 'what is your vision of a perfect world?'
A gateway site to other RE websites, religious organisations and faith communities, this site also contains RE updates and information about resources (including ICT and RE) for teachers.
The website for the Nehemiah Project, featured in the programme.