JUST IN CASE that $787 billion fails to yank us from misery, all rising G.O.P. stars should have experience exorcising the demons of terrorism and economic uncertainty. At least this seems to be the reasoning, since a witch-hunter prayed over Sarah Palin asking God to “Save her from Satan,” and now it appears that in 1994, Bobby Jindal wrote a graphic essay describing the exorcism of a college friend.
In Sarah Palin’s case, it’s all a media conspiracy to make her look like a radical idiot. In young Bobby’s case, though, he’s clearly confusing sexual and spiritual tension.
Confusing spiritual and sexual tension is not uncommon in groups with titles like “University Christian Fellowship.” Boy meets girl at awesome, spirit-filled fellowship group. Electricity jolts when their hands touch during group prayer. Is it the power of the Holy Spirit or hormones? Is it God or the desire to get it on “in the secret, in the quiet place”? Sometimes it’s very hard to tell.
In the essay’s sprawling, emotional story, Bobby and Susan have a complicated relationship. Bobby calls it a “fairly distant friendship” that is also “an intimate friendship”—not romantic at all, he insists, even if he is “her knight in shining armor” and they are ceaselessly discussing their emotional dependency. Only his “fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment” keep them apart.
One night, Susan clearly fails to experience the “emotional high” that usually accompanies their campus worship service, so Bobby invites her—as just-intimate-friends—to a Christian a capella concert later the same night. (Because Christian a capella concerts can't fail to produce an "emotional high.") It’s another date that’s not really a date and … surprise! Susan has had all the putting off she can take. She comes with him, but leaves in the middle, sobbing.
This could not be due to the fact that she is madly in love with Bobby and Bobby is asking her out on dates that are non-dates. No, it’s probably demons.
Or cancer. This time it’s cancer. (Or maybe just surgery to remove a mole—whatever it is, it’s dangerous enough to require intercession.) Despite all his efforts not to let this young woman see his spiritual tenderness, Bobby cannot help but lend his loving support in preparation for her descent onto the operating table. Here is a particularly beautiful passage:
Against my will, I found myself reaching out and holding her hand. I promised to stand by her forever, to be the rock against which she could lean, to accompany her to the doctor's office and the operating room. … We were both startled to find my arm around her shoulder, but she asked that I continue to hold her for just a few moments longer. I happily complied and we embraced her problems away; along with my soothing words, the simple gesture of a hug was enough to bring peace to Susan's heart for one night.
Clearly, Bobby is a spiritual sexy beast whose spiritual, non-fleshly touch can soothe a girl’s wounded heart.
But that peace does not last for long. Later (after he gets angry with Susan for standing him up on a non-date and they have a just-friends-but-intimate-friends spat and stop talking) Susan complains that she is haunted by bad smells and visions. Bobby is incredulous. Susan is pissed:
Susan angrily lashed out at me, telling me she never wanted to talk with me again since I did not love her, and ran out in tears. I tried following her, to no avail. I did not understand what I had done.
Bobby, whose tender touch could once soothe Susan’s heart, has done nothing wrong. It’s most logical to blame demons instead.
The group has a prayer meeting for Susan, and the first sign of demonic influence is that Bobby fails to experience his usual “emotional high.” As if this weren’t enough, Susan begins to writhe on the floor and scream Bobby’s name.
In a voice I had never heard before or since, Susan accused me: "Bobby, you cannot even love Susan." … Then the full impact of the words hit me. Forgetting the frantic students around me and even poor Susan lying on the floor, I thought of our conversation the day before.
Bobby takes the opportunity for some self-psychoanalysis as Susan thrashes about. Is he possibly emotionally distant? Was his ex-girlfriend correct when she said he was incapable of actual love? Is this really all about him? Clearly, this is all about him, as is proved when he tries to pray but finds that “some type of physical force” (not be the girl writhing next to him) is distracting him. This is probably a great time to check his own pulse, and he does so.
While Bobby searches his heart for douchebaggery and attends to his own medical needs, Susan tries to escape all the spiritual warriors holding her face to the Bible, but they drag her back and actually call in “a rival campus Christian group” for reinforcements—a sign of true desperation.
Suddenly (most likely due to Bobby’s sudden embracing of Marian theology) Susan’s writhing miraculously ends. The spiritual tension evaporates. All is as peaceful as that one time that Bobby hugged Susan:
As I was leaving in a crowd, Susan's sister, who had met me once years before, called my name and asked that I "commit my nightlife to prayer."
This is terribly cryptic to Bobby, a probable sign of profundity. In his humility, Bobby is quite shocked that “others continued to single me out for attention,” but he quickly recovers his spiritual aplomb: “I nodded and looked gently at Susan, who thanked me for coming.”
But here is the real revelation: “Susan, who had experienced visions and other related phenomena as a child, thought her intense flirting with guys and straying away from God had led to this punishment.”
Yes, Bobby. This was all about you.
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- Introducing the Confront-Your-Prejudices Book Club on G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”
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