Gov. Jindal likes Jesus. So what?

Reason – which I usually like – is upset with 2016 GOP hopeful Bobby Jindal for urging people “to turn back to God.” Jindal is quoted saying, “America’s in desperate need of a spiritual revival… We have tried everything and now it is time to turn back to God.”

As a libertarian, Reason’s Nick Gillespie reasons that Jindal’s perceived preaching is distracting from the real demons which vex our lovely nation:

No, it’s not time to “turn back to God,” especially when it comes to politics and public policy. What ails the government is not a surplus of religiosity but a nearly complete failure to deal with practical issues of spending versus revenue, creating a simple and fair tax system, reforming entitlements, and getting real about the limits of America’s ability to control every corner of the globe. God has nothing to do with any of that.

First, that Jindal was speaking to a group of religious leaders makes the Governor’s comments slightly more relevant. Jindal was not making his case to a broad audience, but trying to incite action among people who care deeply about their faith and who lead others who care deeply about their faith. For an audience like this, Jindal has to make the discussion religious; why else should these people care about politics?

More importantly, it’s worth taking a look at what roles religious institutions can play in society. Congregations socialize people. They coordinate an economic and emotional safety net which society has deemed necessary. In the absence of religious participation, where have those duties rested? It’s been the government, which was enacted less effective social welfare programs – entitlements funded directly or indirectly by a combination of complex taxes and reckless deficits.

These are the exact problems which Gillespie puts front and center, minus foreign policy. Perhaps he is correct that “God has nothing to do with any of that,” but overlooking religious participation as a part of the solution misses the point. One of the really good things that came out of the more recent Bush administration was the concept of faith-based solutions to social problems. If you have a strong group of people who want to help cure social ills, and the government doesn’t have to spend tax dollars on it, why would you try to quench that desire?

Gillespie is correct that Jindal – or any Republican – does need to be mindful of the way they talk about such things. Political rallies cannot sound like a revival meeting, and the American people – religious or not – generally don’t like being preached at outside of church (and sometimes not even inside). Yet churchgoing voters are out there, their views are important and, ultimately, that their altruistic tendencies can create alternatives to lessen the strain on the social safety net.

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