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SBC leader welcomes invitation by McCaffrey to join war on drugs

WASHINGTON (BP)–The White House’s leader in the war against illegal drugs is calling for religious groups to become more involved in the effort, and a Southern Baptist specialist on substance abuse welcomed the invitation.
Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, recently announced his agency is reaching out to religious communities, encouraging them to speak against drug use and to expand faith-based initiatives to deal with the problem.
McCaffrey, who became the “drug czar” in 1996 after retiring as a four-star general in the Army, has already spoken with Catholic, Lutheran and Mormon leaders about the effort, and his office has contacted several other organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches and Progressive National Baptist Convention.
It is up to Christians to respond to McCaffrey’s invitation, said Barrett Duke of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“I appreciate his call to the American people to solve their problems, rather than promoting a program to solve their problems for them,” Duke said. “May God help us step outside of our comfortable churches to bring help and hope to those who think drugs are the only answer.
“General McCaffrey’s call provides Christians with two opportunities — the opportunity to help people already abusing drugs or already addicted to permanently escape their bondage and the opportunity to help people avoid the trap of drug abuse and addiction. Christians bring a unique component to the struggle against drug abuse — the power and hope of Jesus. As Christians, we possess a message and witness that Jesus really can change lives. There is no bondage so great or person so lost that Jesus cannot help and give a fresh start. There is no person whose life is beyond reclaiming. Though all faith-based groups offer hope, Christians have a proven track record of a message of hope that works.”
At a news conference announcing the initiative, McCaffrey said some of the country’s best drug treatment programs are faith-based. His announcement of the outreach was made after he spoke at National Day of Prayer activities on Capitol Hill May 6.
During his speech to a packed room in a House of Representatives office building, McCaffrey recalled asking the head of a program if the spiritual were involved in recovery from drug addiction. “Yes, with a small ‘s,'” the leader responded. “After three years, I would argue the spiritual has to be a big ‘S,'” McCaffrey said.
The initiative will honor church-state separation, according to McCaffrey’s office. It is not necessarily a good idea for faith-based programs to have too much federal involvement, McCaffrey told reporters. He presented no specific program for religious groups to adopt in combating drug abuse.
Fourteen million Americans use illegal drugs, including 4 million who are chronic abusers, according to the drug control office. About 61 million Americans, however, used illegal drugs in the past but no longer do, the office reported.