Bobby Jindal has had more than his fair share of crises as governor of Louisiana since 2008, such as the continued recovery after Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. Online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Jindal about his new book, Leadership and Crisis (Regnery Publishing), which details his conversion to Christianity and offers policy recommendations on issues like the death penalty, immigration, and the economy.
Why did you convert from Hinduism to Christianity?
I'd love to tell you I had a sudden epiphany, but it took me seven long years. My best friend gave me my first copy of the Bible, but it wasn't the Christmas gift I wanted, so I threw it in the back of my closet. The first time I thought seriously about matters of life and death was when my grandfather died. I picked up the Bible to start reading, and I spent many years reading books by authors like C. S. Lewis and Chuck Colson. Years later, my best friend invited me to hear him sing at a nondenominational church on Louisiana State University's campus where they showed a movie. When I saw the actor playing Jesus being crucified, it hit me that he was on that cross because of Bobby Jindal, my sins. How arrogant for me to do anything but get on my knees and worship him. The most important moment in my life was when I found Jesus Christ.
I'd like to explore how your Catholic faith has affected your policies. For example, you advocate the death penalty for perpetrators of child rape. How do you reconcile that with the teachings of the Catholic Church?
We're made in God's image, and it's tragic that the modern world doesn't take the value of life more seriously. I describe the case of a little girl who was brutalized by her stepfather and will never be able to have children. We should do everything we can to go after these monsters. The Catholic Church and many churches teach that the death penalty should be reserved for the most serious crimes, and I agree. I was frustrated when the Supreme Court took this option off the table.
Indiana governor Mitch Daniels called for a truce on social issues until economic issues are resolved. Is this possible?
I think that it's absolutely critical to get the economy growing without raising taxes or increasing the deficit. I'm also proud to belong to a party that stands for the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage. Those values remain important during good and bad economic times.
You are the son of immigrants, and you suggest the first step to stopping illegal immigration is building a fence on the border. Some argue from a Christian perspective that this is not welcoming the sojourner.
We have to secure the border. It's kind of silly to kick people out when they get an education and they're ready to contribute to the economy, and yet we're turning a blind eye toward folks sneaking in illegally. People contribute their backgrounds and their heritages, their ideas, their customs into America. But we risk becoming the Tower of Babel if we lose assimilation. We can't repeat the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty law. We're sending the signal that we will reward breaking the law.
In your book you talk about the country becoming more secular. What can be done about that?
There are ways the government can create a more receptive environment in the public square. We can make sure our kids are educated in the foundations of Western civilization. But the primary responsibility shouldn't be on our government's shoulders, but on our shoulders as parents and Christians to make sure we're teaching our children foundational values.
I do think our society is hungry for revival. Many institutions we traditionally put our faith in have crumpled, and people realize that material things are not ultimately the source of our salvation. I can't promise you that just because you're a believer the hurricanes won't come, that there won't be an oil spill. As Christians, we're secure in the knowledge that in the Book of Life, our God wins. He gets off that cross. He beats Satan. We're not called to be despondent. We are called to be salt and light and to be planting the seeds of the gospel.
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Previous Christianity Today articles on Bobby Jindal include:
Converting Bobby Jindal | Does Louisiana's new Catholic governor spell hope for his Hindu homeland? (January 14, 2008)
Can Gov. Bobby Jindal Recover? | Even conservatives are saying his delivery needs work. (February 25, 2009)
Sarah Pulliam Bailey also recently interviewed former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. CT also recently posted an interview with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and previous politically-related interviews have included Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich.
CT covers more political developments on the politics blog.
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