“And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:12 (The Israel Bible™)
A new video, provocatively titled “A Rabbi, a Priest and an Atheist Smoke Weed Together”, has gone viral, garnering almost two million views and shares all over the net. This diverse mix of beliefs cooked with a liberal dose of marijuana produced a compelling interaction between three very stoned men.
The video was produced by Cut, a media company that explores unusual topics, frequently testing the boundaries of social acceptability. Cut brought together Rabbi Jim Mirel, a rabbi emeritus at a Reform synagogue in Washington; Reverend Chris Schuller, a former Episcopalian rector at a church in Florida; and Carlos Diller, a self-described conservative homosexual atheist.
Their religious backgrounds were indeed diverse. Schuller recently posted to Facebook that he decided to leave the Episcopal Church and planned to “minister outside of its boundaries.” Diller, though claiming to be an atheist, was raised in Baptist and Roman Catholic churches. His break with the church came when he came out as gay in his teen years.
In the video, Rabbi Mirel and Reverend Schuller admitted they hadn’t smoked in many years, though Diller was a regular smoker. Reverend Schuller acknowledged that recreational marijuana use is viewed negatively by most Christians.
“They’re probably not to down on smoking marijuana,” he admitted. “There’s no Biblical precedent for this, really.”
After smoking for a bit, the three began to discuss their different beliefs. “No one can deny that someone brilliant did this,” Diller, the alleged atheist, said about the universe. “I don’t know who did it, but personally, I can’t depend on one person, and that kind of God sounds insane.”
While the rabbi remained silent, Diller began to express his doubts in faith to the reverend. After 35 minutes and much puffing, Rabbi Mirel joined in the theological discussion.
“You have a basic faith in the world, though you may not call it God,” he said to Diller. “I see you and I see the face of God.”
As they puffed away, the three seemed to connect, with the rabbi pointing to his unlikely new friends. “I like this guy,” Mirel said, looking fondly at reverend Schuller. “And I like Carlos too. Maybe this is the beginning of a friendship.”
“I’ll be your friend,” Diller responded. “I’m a rabbi’s friend!” he added in disbelief.
Noting that it was Ash Wednesday, Reverend Schuller described the Christian custom of rubbing ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead. Reverend Schuller and Diller took turns rubbing the marijuana ash into each other’s forehead. It was suggested that Rabbi Mirel join them, but he declined.
“I speak in churches and believe in connecting with Christians,” he explained to Breaking Israel News. “Not to be disrespectful, but I don’t participate in Christian rituals.”
“I did Birkat Hakohanim (the priestly blessing) instead,” Rabbi Mirel said. “It felt positive to me.”
It was a touching scene, as he placed his hand on the reverend’s head and blessed him, translating the Hebrew, and then blessing Diller. Later, the reverend said to the rabbi, “Jim, when you said the word shalom you gave me goose bumps.”
“It’s a good word,” Rabbi Mirel answered.
Breaking Israel News asked Rabbi Mirel why he participated in the controversial video. “I am at the point in my career where I can take these social risks,” Mirel explained. “I thought there was an important point to be made, and most rabbis wouldn’t do this.”
The rabbi saw it as a religious mission, and felt that he had succeeded in getting a powerful message across to millions of people.
“My intention was to try something different, to be myself, and present God in a positive way,” the rabbi said. “I think I succeeded in that. I thought that maybe some people who don’t normally connect to God might see it and feel like connecting to Hashem (God).”
He emphasized that he agreed to making the video because recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington state, where he lives and where the video was filmed.
“Marijuana can be very important in medicine, and Israel is a leader in that,” Rabbi Mirel said proudly. “I thought that by doing this, I might be able to take away a bit of the stigma. Marijuana can be used for positive purposes. In Judaism, we use wine in many of our rituals to uplift, to help the heart be joyous in the service of God. Obviously, the Torah does not advocate drunkenness, but we are supposed to serve God in joy.”