Spiritual Lagniappe

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jindal2.jpegCao.jpegOne associates Louisiana politics with many exotic things, but Asian Catholic Republicans are not among them. Now there are two. The first is Bobby Jindal, born to Indian immigrants, who abandoned the Hinduism of his youth and converted to Catholicism. In 2007, he became the first Indian-American governor in the nation’s history. Then, over the weekend, Joseph (Anh) Cao defeated the disgraced William Jefferson to become the nation’s first congressman of Vietnamese antecedents. Before becoming a lawyer, he spent some time in a Jesuit seminary studying to be a priest.
Jindal and Cao both deserve to be considered Catholic intellectuals, but there the resemblance ends. A graduate of Brown University and a Rhodes Scholar, Jindal quickly established himself as a culture warrior. Here he is writing on “Atheism’s Gods” in the Catholic apologetic magazine This Rock in 1995:

The wave of political correctness, which has affected universities at every level, has also infected religious and philosophical thought. Whereas Western universities once existed to train clergymen and educate others in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, modern centers of higher learning are much more secular and skeptical toward anything remotely religious.

Currently being touted as presidential material, Jindal is a favorite of the social conservative elite.
Cao, by contrast, appears to be anything but a social conservative ideologue. According to Adam Nagourney’s profile in today’s NTY, he has spent most of his adult life as a political independent–an existential choice perhaps related to his fondness for Camus and Dostoevsky. While studying to be a priest he worked with the poor in Mexico and in Vietnamese refugee camps in Hong Kong, then decided to work for social change via politics, helping his community as a lawyer in post-Katrina New Orleans. “Politics and religious life,” he told Nagourney, “don’t mix.”
If anything, Cao seems most akin to fellow freshman congressman-elect Tom Perriello (D-Va), a “common good” Catholic who has spent much of his legal career working for international nonprofits dedicated to improving the lot of the least among us. It will be interesting to see how Cao fares in the House Republican conference.

  • JH

    Oh I must say I don’t lie the whole tone of this post. It got picked up by CHristianity Today and while I was searching for stuff on Cao.
    The election of Cao in New Orelans is of course a topic in Christian magazines and sites. I have commented that a major problem we have is that people that are friendly to social conservative views are often put into a box. That is that is all they are. We saw that as to Huckabee where the press seemed to be not very curious about his very successful Governorship of Arkansas. It might shock people but Governors , even Hucakbee, have to do things unrelated to lets say abortion.
    We saw this incredibly as to Governor Palin. Looking at her tenure as Governor I am not struck by a huge Social Conservative agenda. In fact her accomplisments had little to do with social conservatives causes. Yet the same disinterest and labeling occurs.
    NOW IT IS OCCURING TO JINDAL. Now no doubt he is a social conservative but he is a lot more than that. He did not get elected just because he was a social conservative. In fact those were not even the main issues in his races.
    There are no doubt difference between how Jindal and Cao view things. It should not be a shock that politicians even in the same party disagree. Even social conservatives disagree on many issues. I suspect that on social issues that Cao will agree ore than disagree with JIndal and the “social conservative” wing of the party. I think and I suspect Cao is much more of a Senator Sam Brownback Republican. By the way Brownback, that talks about issues of Catholic Social Justice and walks the talk does just fine in the Republican House conference. By the way CAO is an advisor to the Umited States Bishops Conference. WHo knows what he wrote there or did in that capacity. Strangely there seems to be little interest in this.
    But my main problem is how this article frames Jindal!! It is a familiar pattern and one that must be stopped. We don’t need to see it in religion magazines either. Now it is true Bobby is a social conservative and he has talked about his faith. But his rise in politics has little to do with social conservative causes. It has to do with his views on the Louisiana economy and reform.
    Besides writing a article in This Rock (Bobby was all of 24) one year later the Governor of Louisiana appointed Jindal to be secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, an agency which then represented about 40 percent of the state budget. This includes things like the vast Charity Hospital system that was amd is “dedicated to improving the lot of the least among us”.
    He saved the program and the hospitals and put them on a more sure footing. Now this might not very sexy to Social Justice folks just like I am sure how Bobby’s new proposed reforms top get medical care to the poor will not be on the front pages of Christian publication. I guess it is all too nut and bolts.
    He later became the youngest President of the University of Louisiana system in 1999. This includes all Louisiana universities that are not LSU. I can;t recall the various hot button social conservative issues being at play in his tenure. Also that year In 1999, at the request of the Louisiana Governor’s Office and the Louisiana State Legislature Jindal volunteered his time to study how Louisiana might use its $4.4 billion tobacco settlement.
    Then in 2001 he was appointed by President Bush to be Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation.
    Bobby then ran for Governor then went Congress, and then actually became a Governor. While social conservative issues are at play in these races making GOVT work for the people was much more the theme.
    Now I am not sure if the author’s purpose here was to paint Jindal in a box. Though I think the tone is a perhaps a tad negative. Sort of like Cao the wonderful Saint versus Jindal product of the religious right with articles on atheism. But we can see Bobby is a hell of a lot more that and that is one reason why people across a broad political spectrum voted for him.
    Christian publications, magazines, and other media do not need to make the problem coverage of SERIOUS politicians that happen to be active Christians worse.
    We don’t need a fourth serious contender on the national stage (the other three being Brownback, Huckabee, and Palin) as just having as their accomplisments social conservative issues. I don’t expect Christianity Today to discuss Bobby’s views on lets say Highways and Roads. However I hope we can advoid terms like social conservative ideologue that by implication seem to be linked to Jindal in the above article. I jhave no problem with religious magazines and other talking about Bobby’s social conservatism. In fact I welecome it. But I hope they are aware that others will be trying to peg him as only that and not to help that out when it can be avoided.