After his London speech and this weekend’s “prayer summit,” it is beginning to look a lot like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is running for president. The noted Christian politician who has described himself as an “evangelical Catholic” was the keynote speaker for The Response, a prayer rally held on Louisiana State University’s campus. Thousands attended the event to hear the governor speak on spiritual matters in what he ha repeatedly said is not a political move. While that might be hard to believe, especially given The Response’s history of launching candidates’ campaigns, he is right. It is increasingly clear that Bobby Jindal is running to be the Billy Graham of 2016, not the president.
Jindal led prayers; he testified about his conversion to Catholicism from the Hindu religion of his parents; he talked about the “spiritual ailments” of America; and he walked in an anti-abortion march all in the same day. He talked about Billy Graham himself, crediting him with at least part of the impetus for his conversion to Christianity, and echoed his well-known call for a “spiritual revival.” Honestly, Jindal sounded a lot more like a televangelist preacher than a politician.
Sadly, Jindal would make a terrible Billy Graham 2.0, mostly because this was a political event and he used it as such. Politicians who protest that they are being apolitical when attending prayer rallies and the like are being disingenuous at best. Religion is a huge part of politics in America, especially conservative politics. By appearing at The Response this weekend, Jindal was courting the evangelical Christian base of the Republican party and pitching himself as the candidate who thinks like they do, someone they can trust to uphold their spiritual concerns about things like abortion and gay marriage, someone who they can trust to “do the right thing.”
This is not the first time a Republican candidate has used The Response as the first step in their campaign. Rick Perry already did it back in 2011. Like his Louisiana counterpart, the Texan hosted the event in his home state and spoke to the gathered crowds of “spiritual matters.” It was and is a smart move since The Response represents one of the largest contingents of evangelical voters in the nation. Perry was able to reach 30,000 potential voters. According to reports, Jindal spoke directly to at least 3,000 sets of ears and probably more.
Those approximately 6,000 ears heard a lot about Jindal’s spiritual past and what he thinks the country needs. He told the audience that the country does not need a political candidate or a law to fix the country. The country apparently needs a spiritual revival. This is a “spiritual” buzzword for a supposed return to Christian values, including anti-choice and anti-marriage equality values which are so dear to conservatives’ hearts. He doubled down on some of these ideas on Sunday when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his views were “not evolving” on things like gay marriage. It looks as though Jindal is staying as conservative as he possibly can right now.
Basically, The Response rally was a huge political event that no one wants to call a political event even though it is one. If that sounds confusing, consider Jindal’s choice to court evangelical voters despite his own denomination’s determination that the event was “too political.” The Louisiana Catholic bishops told the AP that the event was too political for them to be comfortable attending. Apparently, the staunchly Catholic Jindal did not agree. But then how could he? The Response was Bobby Jindal’s first step towards running for Billy Graham 2016. Or president. There is not much difference at this point.
Opinion by Lydia Bradbury