It’s been a tough couple of months for the Prices, with the drought, Ruth May’s illness, and the ants. Lately, Leah has also been unimpressed with Nathan’s enthusiasm for the Bible. One Sunday in church, Nathan delivers a sermon, and afterwards someone in the congregation asks about the upcoming election. Nathan is confused, until Tata Ndu explains that the people of the village will be “voting” on Jesus Christ. Nathan is furious. He will not allow Christ’s divinity to be put to vote, he claims. Nevertheless, the villagers ignore him, and proceed to vote with colored pebbles. Nathan is shaking with anger, and Leah prays that he “will never lay a hand on me again.”
This is a funny scene, because Tata Ndu is being more Western than Nathan the Westerner. Ndu, both consciously and unconsciously, is pointing out some of the contradictions in the condescending idea of imposing democracy or Christianity through imperialism and force. The humor of the scene is undercut by the reminder that Nathan hits his children.
Tata Ndu orders his villagers to proceed with their voting, despite Nathan’s urgings to the contrary. Ndu points out that elections are a “white tradition,” which Nathan must abide by. In the end, Christ “loses” the vote, 11 to 56.
This scene, comic though it is, parallels the larger, tragic situation of the Congo at the time: a vote was held, electing Lumumba to head the nation, and yet the Western powers refused to abide by their own democratic laws.