After several weeks spent in South Africa earlier this year observing preparations for the International Football Federation’s 19th quadrennial World Cup tournament, I concluded that the “rainbow nation” was open to a rallying call like this one delivered years ago by the Monitor’s founder: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man ... fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’....” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).
Between June 11 and July 11, 32 soccer-playing countries will compete in 10 stadiums in nine cities, each team, with their supporters, bringing their own culture to South Africa’s already diverse cultures. The final in the Soweto stadium near Johannesburg is expected to have a worldwide television audience of several hundred million.
Over breakfast in Ballito, on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Brian Jardine, area coordinator of the Baptist church in Gauteng, enthused over the togetherness felt not only by sports lovers but by “thinking South Africans of every race and religious persuasion” at this time.
“It’s really all about unity,” he observed. “As the Bible says, ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’ ” (Ps. 133:1, New International Version).
Unity is the word that comes most readily to the lips of Wendy Grayson-Tonge, whose TV set vibrates often with English Premier League football in her home in Edenbridge, Kent. Wendy, a Christian Science practitioner, who recently visited relatives in South Africa, says she was quickly caught up in the anticipation of a world event that can help unify a country that hasn’t had a better opportunity for people to pull together since the fall of apartheid 16 years ago.
Wendy said she’d be praying along with those churchgoers mentioned by Mr. Jardine for a sense of peace, “something we need in every place.” During her visit she saw that South Africans love their country and want to be proud of it.
“But it’s not a selfish pride,” she added. “They are acutely aware what a successful World Cup would represent to the world that’s of worth – of real value. So many of them believe in the universality of God, good.
But beyond the goal of overall success for this venture, are the opportunities identified by South Africans of all races. And this is where the most helpful analogy might well be the game of football itself.
Teamwork is essential. Patience. Concentration. Unity of heart and purpose among players, officials, and spectators. The field is wide. Imaginative flair – which some would describe as an expression of God’s nature – opens up spaces that clear the way to the goal posts. And only when the best openings have been created and the timing is right, can the ball be struck into the net. Most important, such tactics go beyond the football field into life. As Mrs. Eddy wrote: “The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God’s will must be universally done” (Science and Health, p. 202).
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.