When South Africans head for the polls April 22, they will do so without fear of intimidation and with a legitimate expectation that their national and provincial elections will be fairly contested and conducted.
On Election Day the sun will rise over the soft sands of the KwaZulu-Natal coast with its usual smogless dazzle, and will set with its predictable gold splash across the sands of Camps Bay, Cape Town, after 12 hours of pure shining.
Children in uniforms will walk single file through the Ixopo hills made famous by novelist Alan Paton, which are "grass covered and rolling" and "lovely beyond any singing of it." And the traffic will snarl through the suburbs of Johannesburg with just a tad more frustration as drivers hurry to vote before the start of the workday.
During the several weeks I spend each year in South Africa, I've become acutely aware of the concern of people of all races over some long-standing issues. Is the independence of the judiciary – which has been a proud feature of South African life for decades – in danger? What's being done about declining education standards, farmers' fears about land redistribution, and the government's apparent failure to deliver on housing and jobs? Are leaders falling prey to corruption and losing moral authority?
I draw comfort from the realization that many voters will turn first this week to God, inspired by a recent National Day of Prayer. In many cases they will finger well-worn paperback copies of the Bible, praying with passages that resonate with equal richness in Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, or the country's seven other official languages: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.... Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit" (Ps. 51:10, 12).
When such voters look back over the "salvation" they have known since apartheid ended 15 years ago, one suspects that many of them will have realized they cannot depend on governments to meet their needs. God does that – willingly and abundantly. They might also have been moved to consider the relation between human law and God's law, and how each operates. Human law – for better or worse – changes according to the dominating mental influences within a system or country; whereas God's law never changes, because God doesn't change. As the Psalmist put it, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether" (19:9).
Many South Africans have encouraged people across the globe to join them in prayer. On such occasions it's good to appreciate how spiritual intelligence enables prayer-based activity to be a science, not guesswork. Rooted in the truth of God as flawless divine Principle, infinite Spirit, and of God's creation, it includes everyone in South Africa as good and entirely spiritual. "A spiritual idea has not a single element of error," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, "and this truth removes properly whatever is offensive" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 463).
When voters think of elections, that "offensiveness" might include uncontrolled ambition, dishonesty, hardness of heart, willfulness, lawlessness. But earnest prayer shows that spiritual regeneration and healing are an integral part of God's law of harmony – the only law – and that national elections provide plentiful opportunities to explore the magnitude of what those truths mean. The Christ, the divine influence in human consciousness, doesn't judge according to skin color, religion, class, or education. It touches and guides people to do the right thing – to remain humble, courageous, eager to help and heal.
I can think of no one more courageous than a Zulu friend of mine who has never had more than a few Rands in his worn trouser pockets. When I asked him how he felt about the upcoming elections, tears trickled down his white beard and he answered in a voice that boomed like the Indian Ocean that pounded the shore just 30 feet below where we stood: " 'Alleluia!... the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!' That is all I have to say" (Rev. 19:6, New King James Version).
What a starting point for people everywhere who are taking time to pray this week for South Africa.