When Panamanian military strongman Manuel Noriega was indicted in February by U.S. officials on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering, we found ourselves once again facing the ugly realities of the illegal narcotics trade in America. It seems that no matter how loud and how often we “Just Say No” to drugs, the problem does not go away.
It is indeed a complicated, multi-faceted dilemma. We are dealing with a domestic crisis of horrific proportions: Americans currently consume 60 percent of the world’s illegal narcotics. The drug war is an international concern that has entangled many national leaders besides Panama’s infamous dictator. Consider this list of leaders from neighboring countries who have been caught in the web of Latin American drug smuggling:
- Haiti’s Jean-Paul Claude, a senior military leader, is suspected of aiding the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S.
- A major dealer in Colombia’s giant cocaine cartel, Juan Ramon Matta, has relocated to Honduras and has become friends with senior officers and politicians in Tegucigalpa. Matta is wanted in the U.S. for the murder of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer.
- Prime Minister Lynden Pindling of the Bahamas received payment of $400,000 to allow marijauana shipments to pass safely through the Bahamas en route to the U.S. Two Bahamian cabinet ministers are also linked to drug trafficking.
- Military commander Atienne Boerenveen of Suriname was convicted in 1986 of conspiring to sell safe passage of cocaine.
- Drug Enforcement agents in the U.S. say that the Colombian government is so infiltrated by informants that it is virtually impossible to bring charges against the drug lords. U.S. officials have run up against similar problems among Mexico’s Federal Judicial Police.
It could never be said that the U.S. government has not made a forceful and expensive attempt at stopping the influx of cocaine and other illegal narcotics. In the last few years, we have spent upwards of $1.5 billion dollars annually to launch an all-out attack on the menace – but we have been met with minimal success. Millions of dollars have been poured into increased police enforcement, a 30 percent increase in customs agents on our borders, a high-tech surveillance system along the Rio Grande, expensive drug testing programs, costly drug treatment centers for the chemically dependent, and the“Just Say No” educational campaign.
But with all the money spent, we have little to show for it. Dr. Charles Schuster, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated in a recent report, “Clearly, the nation’s high school students and other young adults still show a higher level of involvement with illicit drugs greater than can be found in any other industrialized nation in the world.”
One would think that $1.5 billion a year would go a long way to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S. But sooner or later we are going to have to face the fact that the war on drugs is not just a matter of stricter laws and more advanced detection equipment. Until we recognize the spiritual side of this battle, millions more lives will be destroyed and the Latin American drug lords will continue to rule over us.
Rebuilding the Walls
Despite increased law enforcement in our cities and the tighter controls in our airports and seaports, there is an obvious leak somewhere. The amount of cocaine and marajuana smuggled into this country staggers the imagination – the DEA says the astronomical figure is “impossible to calculate.” But how are the drugs getting in? Where is the breakdown?
The Bible has much to say about a nation’s “walls” and “gates.” Walls in Scripture represent much more than physical protection; they symbolize the protection of God that He gives to a nation when the people honor Him and obey His moral requirements. A nation that is walking in covenantal obedience to the God of the Bible will always prosper and be protected from its enemies.
On the other hand, a nation that dishonors God, neglects His covenant, and rejects morality will begin to experience what life is like without the protective walls of His favor and blessing. And without that divine safeguard, no amount of human effort will be able to stop the enemy’s influence or advancement.
Psalm 127 reminds us that our national walls are kept safe and secure by God alone, and not simply by a defense budget or other natural means. It states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (verse 1).
Our billion dollar anti-drug budget is nothing but an experiment in futility if we fail to address the root problem of our national sin. In Deuteronomy 28, we read of the awful curses that come upon a nation that has broken covenant with God. Among those curses we find several which explain how God will send enemies to rule over the disobedient nation:
- “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them, but you shall flee seven ways before them …” (verse 25).
- “Your sons and your daughters will be given to another people” (verse 32).
- “A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors” (verse 33).
- “[Your enemies] shall beseige you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land” (verse 52).
Is this not what has begun to happen in our nation through the power of illegal narcotics? America seems to be fighting a losing battle against this scourge from the south. Our teen-agers, and even grade school age children, are being seduced by the lure of cocaine. Our inner cities are literally under seige by the “crack” dealers. The minds of millions of our citizens have already been permanently damaged by this unseen force which enters our ports and crosses our borders every day.
If we want to devise an effective strategy to stop the narcotics trade, then our first move must be to recognize this assault for what it really is: a curse from God for our national sins. No other plan of action will be successful unless we make repentance the first item on our public policy agenda. We must then call upon God to deliver us from the control of our enemies.
When the leaders of the American colonies faced certain defeat by British forces during the Revolutionary War, our generals and statesmen did not hesitate to call upon Almighty God to defend the nation – nor did they refrain from calling upon the general population to do likewise. Throughout our early history, American presidents called the nation to prayer and fasting for deliverance from evil, safety in war, and strength of national character.
Yet today, calling upon the name of the Lord has become a “sensitive issue” that has spawned lawsuits and a growing controversy on the place of religion in politics. Secularists today reject the need for a wall of divine protection around our nation; instead, they worship the “wall of separation” that they have erected between church and state. We cannot have both: we will either return as a nation to God, and see a rebuilding of the walls of His covenant protection around us, or we will forever shut ourselves away from His mercy with this “wall of separation.”
Conquer or Be Conquered
When God led His people Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan, He commanded them to utterly subdue the Canaanites and bring the entire region under their domain. When they failed to do this, God allowed the enemies whom they spared to rise up against them and defeat them. He was making a very serious point: we will be conquered by the very enemy that we do not defeat.
The scourge of illegal narcotics passing through our borders should serve as a reminder to the Church in this nation that we must take seriously our responsibility for our southern neighbors. We must be faithful to bring the claims of the gospel to bear upon the nations closest to us lest God allow us to be conquered by the evil influences originating from that region.
One-third of the cocaine which arrives in the U.S. flows through Mexico. The Mexican government is rife with corruption, bribery, and deceit on every level. Why? Because missionary activity still has not brought the claims of Christ to bear upon the government and the institutions of that nation. It is a reproach to the Church in America that our closest neighbor is still enslaved by poverty while we enjoy the benefits of a biblical economy. When will we take the principles of economic liberty to these people?
What about Panama, the outpost of General Noreiga? Panama is a nation that has been totally opened to American influence for many years because of the Canal Zone; but where are the Christians who can assist Panamanian leaders in building a Christian republic that will truly respect the rights of every individual citizen, and deliver the people from countless military dictatorships? Where is the Christian influence in Colombia – where fear of the powerful drug cartel now rules the churches, the courts, and the legislative assembly?
The wickedness that is breeding in Latin America does not have to overtake us. We can conquer if we will make the right choices. God can deliver America and the world from the power of the drug lords. As we join together to repent of our national sins, and to pray for deliverance from the judgment of illegal drugs that has come upon us, may the Church be fervent and obedient as we labor to establish Christ’s government in this hemisphere.