An Evangelical Christian Perspective: Schundler’s Just Society
When Bret Schundler weds his political ideals to his religious convictions, New Jersey voters get nervous. Maybe we feel this way because some of the biggest religious voices in our generation have preached a faith of intolerance and bigotry, or maybe we fear that the end results of wedding politics and religion will be a Taliban-type state. But if we listen carefully to Schundler, instead of fearing his religious fervor, we would appreciate that we are getting something more in Schundler than a wind bag politician.
When asked about his faith Schundler replies, “Everyone has a religion.” He is absolutely right! Everyone has an underlining philosophy of life. Call it a religion, call it a system of beliefs, call it a higher power; but everyone has a philosophy that gives a basis for political decisions. That philosophy may be darwinistic (survival of the fittest) or pragmatic (the greatest good for the greatest number of people) or the Biblical philosophy reiterated by Schundler, (“Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them” Matthew 7:12)
When evaluating a candidate, one must not only question where he stands on a particular issue, but question his underlying philosophy. During the course of his term, new issues will arise and we must be confident that his philosophy will lead to right choices. The American political system has shoved this kind of evaluation under the rug. Either we are too obtuse to think beyond immediate issues, or we are afraid that revealing our underlying beliefs will be the death of a political career. The latter is my hunch. How refreshing it is to have a candidate that honestly outlines his source of choosing right from wrong.. Have we forgotten that our founding fathers gave political speeches that were akin to sermons? They taught the people a system of political beliefs–nothing like the platitudes we hear today. Have we forgotten the religious words of John F. Kennedy who said
“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God”?
It is not the religious man that I fear, but the man who does not have any absolutes or systems of belief–those politicians who act on the whims of the moment or on whatever satisfies the polls. What kind of legislation will we get from leaders who act for the sake of political survival or merely to appease the voters temporarily? The Christian faith warns us to “beware of the error of unprincipled men.” (2 Peter 3)
Just having a system of beliefs is not the ideal; it must be a good system. This is where Schundler shines. He espouses the colonial American tradition that the role of government is to create a just society–quoting passages such as Micah 6. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Many are not aware of the political model to which Schundler is making reference to; he is referring to the Christian covenant theory of government. The duty of government is to seek justice and equity for the people—rewarding the innocent and punishing the guilty. This precludes that the government is not to create a religious state or to convert men; that is the covenant given to the church.
Therefore, we don’t have to fear religious intrusion from a Biblically-based Christian candidate. The very reason we have democracy in America is because our Christian forefathers were Biblically based. The Bible mandates that the church be separate from the state. But the Bible does ask the state to enforce equity and justice; and unless we get back to our Christian roots of “justice for all”, we may soon wail like the prophet of old, “No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. They do not know the way of peace . . . and there is no justice in their tracks.” (Isaiah 59)
Bradford E. Winship
Laurence Harbor, NJ