This autobiography is aptly named — it is first and foremost a look at South African politics as well as the role of a Christian democratic party within that system, from the viewpoint of the author.
Cheryllynn Dudley, who held office as a Member of Parliament for the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) from May 1999 until May 2019, is a white woman with strong Christian convictions. This placed her in a rather unique position in a particularly interesting sphere of influence for two decades of her life.
She learned much over that time and this book is a bold — and successful — attempt to share her insights.
Concerning her role as a Christian, she talks of how she changed in her manner regarding dealing with people she wished to influence as well as represent Jesus to.
She learned to listen better to others and be more gracious. She also learned that many a time, in her role as a politician, what may have looked like compromise of her Christian values was actually a more effective approach to moving towards Kingdom goals.
An example of this is that instead of having a goal of the total abolition of abortion, she realised it was more realistic in the SA context to work towards a system that allowed for more education of those seeking this procedure. In this way, an important goal of Christian governance could be achieved — that of giving people better choices.
I certainly gained a better understanding of the role of the Church and of Christ followers in the realm of politics. This is important at this time when the Church is coming to the fore in this arena, particularly in South Africa in the run-up to the next election. Already, as a result of Christian prayer and initiative we in SA will be having changes to the electoral system which will give many Christian leaders the opportunity to play a significant role as independents, directly accountable to their constituents.
The notion of working to give all the people of the country better choices, rather than imposing specific Christian doctrine on anyone, needs to be an important principle of Christian governance. So religious freedom needs to be an essential value. This ties in with the essence of biblical truth, which is that God always offers us choice. This was an important clarification for me, personally.
Another Christian principle which comes out strongly in the book is that of honouring others. Dudley speaks with great respect and indeed, in some cases, fondness, of numerous of the people she came into contact with in her years in Parliament. Very often these were people in other political parties. In fact, I now have possibly a truer perspective of the ANC, many of whom are clearly hardworking, ethical men and women working for the good of the country.
This book is also a good reminder of all that SA has been through over the last two decades, and of course it is particularly interesting to have an insider’s perspective.
Dudley writes also of her travels — both within the country and internationally — as well as her involvement in various committees and conferences, so the reader gets a some good insights into the day-to-day life of a politician. Obviously it is, in many ways, an extremely stressful life, and Dudley is open about the toll this had on her mental health at one stage.
Altogether, I found this to be an extremely worthwhile read. It is informative and gives much food for thought.