Gov. Bobby Jindal will host a mass prayer rally on the LSU campus in January called “The Response,” sponsored by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group based out of Mississippi.
American Family is covering the cost of the event, scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Maravich Assembly Center. The mass meeting is billed as a group meditation — a response, if you will — to the multiple crises facing the country.
“What we really need in these United States is a spiritual revival. … It is time to turn back to God,” said Jindal in a video invitation to The Response. “It’s time to light the spark that starts the spiritual revival that will put these United States of America back on the right path.”
Standing on a stage surrounded by thousands of fellow Christians on Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called on Jesus to bless and guide the nation’s military and political leaders and “those who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.”
“Lord, you are the source of every good thing,” Mr. Perry said, as he bowed his head, closed his eyes and leaned into a microphone at Reliant Stadium here. “You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”
In a 13-minute address, Mr. Perry read several passages from the Bible during a prayer rally he sponsored. Thousands of people stood or kneeled in the aisles or on the concrete floor in front of the stage, some wiping away tears and some shouting, “Amen!”
The rally was seen as one of the biggest tests of Mr. Perry’s political career, coming as he nears a decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination for president. While the event will be sure to help Mr. Perry if he tries to establish himself as the religious right’s favored candidate, it also opens him up to criticism for mixing religion and politics in such a grand and overtly Christian fashion.
In many ways, the rally was unprecedented, even in Texas, where faith and politics have long intersected without much controversy — the governor, as both a private citizen and an elected leader, delivering a message to the Lord at a Christian prayer rally he created, while using his office’s prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote it. Mr. Perry said he wanted people of all faiths to attend, but Christianity dominated the service and the religious affiliations of the crowd. The prayers were given in Jesus Christ’s name, and the many musical performers sang of Christian themes of repentance and salvation.
Several days later, Rick Perry announced he was running for president in 2012.
It’s hard to imagine that Jindal will benefit outside Religious Right circles from being yoked to the AFA. The Times-Picayune reported on what the AFA has been up to lately, and included a “prayer guide” that the organization distributed when it announced the Jindal-led rally:
“We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation ‘under God’ it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.
“This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.”
Here’s the thing. I bet there’s not much distance between Bobby Jindal and me about the need for a spiritual revival in America. I bet we share the same moral views about most things. But I find it exasperating that once again, a Republican politician is conflating his own political ambitions with the Gospel, and once again, a prominent Religious Right organization is conflating the Gospel with the ambitions of a Republican politician.
Jindal’s people are saying that this will not be a political rally, but one that focuses solely on matters of the spirit. Nonsense. Anything involving the governor of a state, especially one who is widely believed to be planning a run for the White House, is political. And we have the Rick Perry precedent. It seems that Jindal is trying to become the standard-bearer of the Evangelical-fundamentalist wing of the GOP. I don’t think Jindal has, well, a prayer of being the GOP nominee, but he’s angling for the No. 2 slot on the ticket. If he can deliver the Religious Right bloc, that’s something.
I am not an Evangelical, nor am I a fundamentalist, but I am a religious and social conservative who certainly would like to have a president who shared my beliefs and concerns. But one of the biggest mistakes we Christian conservatives make is thinking that electing politicians who share our views is going to straighten the country out. How many times do we have to learn this lesson? It doesn’t work, and only serves to make the world think that the Body of Christ is the Republican Party at prayer. I’m not all that worried about religion corrupting politics (and any liberals who are ought to first pluck the log of liberal religious political activism out of their own eyes), because religious believers, progressive and conservative alike, have a right to bring their faith to the public square.
I’m worried about politics corrupting religion, which has been a particular problem on the Right. I’m worried about politics corrupting the way American society sees the Christian faith, but I’m more worried about politics corrupting the way American Christians see our faith. Bobby Jindal is not helping. Ronald Reagan didn’t die for our sins, and though we should hope and pray for righteous leaders, no president of the United States can take away the sin of the world.