Fighting Traffic

A lot of truth about God’s method for dealing with the troubles of humanity can be sifted from the theatrical extravaganza Traffic” starring Michael Douglas. Douglas plays Bob Wakefield, Chief of the National Drug Control Policy Bob for America. The movie exposes the harsh realities of the drug trade on numerous levels in the U.S. and Mexico. From the teenage addicts to the blue collar cops to the FBI to the Mexican army to border patrollers to millionaire dealers on both sides of the border, nothing is left hidden to the viewer. As the film nears completion and the darkness builds you are left with the idea that it’s truly a hopeless situation on all fronts. In fact, the harder the establishment tries to come down hard” or make an example” of the people involved the worse the situation becomes and more people experience the chain reaction of pain. However, the director leaves the audience with a glimmer of hope. The solution lies in forgiveness, grace and the promise to listen to people close to you such as sons, daughters and family members. I noticed a distinct parallel between this cure and God’s preferred way of dealing with the sins of the human race.

God does not want to force change on people or society. Yet He realizes that changing people is the only genuine way to change society, historically from the bottom up (as opposed to from the top down as governments exhibit). By accepting the forgiveness available through Christ, an individual can open the door to heart change at the core of their being. While this occurs, others are influenced and realize the opportunity Christ offers (and they told two friends and so on and so on…) until the demand” for what the world offers so diminishes that those in charge of the supply” need to find a new line of work.

In the movie, Bob Wakefield is in charge of America’s attempt to win the war on drugs. Since he has veto powers over various budgets, numerous congressmen try to provide him with best possible solutions (education on rehab, more imprisonments, better border policies, etc…). Eventually Wakefield checks out the front lines for himself and discovers the hopelessness of the losing battle and other head officials are at a complete loss as to how to stop the drug run. Meanwhile, things are hitting too close to home for Wakefield when he discovers his daughter Caroline, a straight A student, is a drug addict. His initial reaction is to be stricter and yell at his daughter that this behaviour is unacceptable. This merely pushes her farther away. You’re like the Gestapo”, she murmurs while high on cocaine.

Caroline and her friends struggle with intense anger and frustration with the phoniness of people and the constant sarcasm that is used to hide weakness and the fear of revealing one’s true self to others. Their only escape is drugs and sex. Yet even when a friend overdoses they can’t stop their dangerous lifestyles.

The problems these young people see are real throughout society but their choice for a way out is merely temporary. The world offers a plethora of answers for all the evils of society but these never work for the long term. The freedom that Christ provides through the cross is the only unchanging solution to any sin or dilemma. In Christ, people can find an identity that remains regardless of any given situation.

Other biblical themes can be discovered throughout this film. One is the escalation sin (small sins lead to bigger sins and more and more people become affected). Another is that hard times and suffering can actually bring healing and cleansing to individuals and families.

The message of grace becomes strongly evident as Wakefield searches the streets for his daughter. No longer is he in the mood to punish Caroline for her behaviour or her addiction. He just wants to find her. After days of searching he comes across her stoned and looking like she hasn’t slept in a week. He goes to her in tears and she looks up: Hi Daddy.” What a profound parallel to the parable of the prodigal son in which the Father forgives his son with the full knowledge of his depraved lifestyle, without caring the least of how others may perceive the situation. This is why grace is amazing”.

Shortly after this, drug czar” Wakefield is making a speech broadcast to the nation. He says, This war can be won…with new ideas, perseverance, resources, courage, our government, our families…my ten point plan…(to himself) I can’t do this…There is a war on drugs where many of our own family members are the enemy. I don’t know how you can wage war on your family…(end of speech).”

Following the speech, Wakefield heads straight to his home in Ohio. For all we know, he never goes back to Washington. The next scene is of his daughter at an AA type meeting. After Caroline shares her struggles with the group, Wakefield and his wife are given a chance to share their hearts. They end the movie with the words, We’re here to support our daughter and we’re here to listen.” This kind of parental response towards troubled kids could actually eliminate the demand” for drugs across America. The same kind of response from God, when accepted, can eliminate the demand” for all the sin the world has to offer.

Most of the characters in Traffic” struggle with the effectiveness of their lives. They doubt whether they’re doing any good in the long run. One character is told, You realize the futility of what you’re doing and you do it anyway.” Another is encouraged, You should feel good about this” but he responds, I feel like a traitor.” These characters have difficulty defining their ultimate purpose for their lives and aren’t really sure if they’re making any kind of positive impact on the world. Sadly, most of the earth’s population possesses a similar struggle, including those in the church. As someone who has been involved in ministry” and who knows people who have been deeply into the ministry scene, I empathize with the emptiness that can result from an ineffective ministry where criticism and apathy are the best words to describe the experience. The two most common solutions to alleviate these kinds of situations are to drop the idea of ministry entirely or to try harder” to be effective and keep all parties smiling and feeling good. Both these responses don’t work. Human effort or pleasing men both oppose God’s method of the cross, foolishness to all other options. Yet the foolishness of the cross and the power of Christ’s blood to take care of everything is the only thing that works. Somehow we’ve lost this message.

If the lives of Christians reflected the unconditional love and unlimited power revealed through Christ’s complete work on Easter weekend, the rest of the world couldn’t help but stop and check out the spiritual realities of the kingdom of God. When they see the church being just as ineffective as government programs in changing society for the better, who can blame them for not giving the ministry of reconciliation through Jesus Christ a chance?

To end on a positive note, in the last three years I have witnessed the regenerative power of the Spirit of God through the message of the cross in the lives of people (mostly young people) that others have noticed and been attracted to. Some were even attracted to the point of giving their lives to Christ. That’s when the power of darkness is overcome and we no longer have to fight traffic. Christ fought it long ago and the battle has been won. For good.

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