Thousands of Christians gathered at Louisiana State University’s basketball arena Saturday for “The Response” prayer rally, hosted by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who called for a spiritual revival — not politics — to heal America.
Putting his faith before politics, Jindal bypassed an invitation to Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit, where a crowded field of about 10 potential Republican presidential candidates gathered to address issues they stand for before next year’s election. Instead, Jindal led an all-day prayer rally sponsored by American Family Association (AFA), where he urged attendees join in a revival — one that would “begin right here, right here in our hearts.”
Deemphasizing politics during the six-hour event known as The Response, Jindal focused on Americans’ faith in God, prayer and return to the biblical values — upon which the United States was founded — as the solution to the nation’s woes.
"Today is about humbling ourselves before the Lord,” Jindal told the thousands in attendance as LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Today we repent for our sins."
Prayer — not politics
Jindal made it clear Saturday that the prayer rally was not a step on the campaign trail — as many are anxiously anticipating his declared candidacy to become a Republican presidential contender.
"Today is not a political event — it's a religious event,” Jindal asserted. “It's not a political event."
Jindal emphasized that true change only comes from God and surrendered hearts to Him — not from policies coming out of the White House. He urged Christians in attendance and those viewing the livestreamed event to spread the Gospel in order to elicit real and lasting change.
"We can't just elect a candidate to fix our country,” Jindal contended. “We can’t just pass a law and fix what ails our country. We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country."
Instead of using the prayer rally as a vehicle to attack President Barack Obama’s policies that run contrary to Christian values, Jindal urged attendees Saturday to pray with him for the Commander-in-Chief and his family, as well as for the event’s organizer, AFA.
Ironically, the event was named “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis” — a direct contradiction to “The Shadow of Crisis Has Passed” theme touted during the President’s State of the Union address that he gave earlier in the week.
Jindal opened the event and held his Bible — not his political short list — during his appearances on stage, where he prayed and spoke three times. He left briefly to attend the South Louisiana Right to Life March against abortion, also being held at the state capitol on Saturday.
During the event, thousands sang worship songs and raised their hands in prayer and praise to God. Also incorporated into the arena rally were personal testimonies of numerous believers, including Jindal, who shared for 15 minutes with the crowd about his conversion to Christianity from Hinduism as a teen in high school.
Relating to the audience as an everyday person in casual attire — pacing the stage wearing a blazer and blue jeans — Jindal shared about his seven-year journey of becoming a Christian. He told the crowd about a high school friend of his who told him that he and his family would miss him in heaven.
Jindal also recounted to the rally participants how a girl in high school expressed to him her goal of becoming a Supreme Court justice so that she would be able to “save innocent human lives” from being aborted. Another influential moment that Jindal said helped bring him to Christian faith was a revelation he had while viewing a video of Jesus sacrificially dying on the cross for the sins of man.
Jindal then used his early encounters with Christians in high school to show how they helped spur his conversion to Christianity, saying that it would have never taken place if his friends hadn’t shared their faith in Christ with him.
"Let's all go plant those seeds of the Gospel," Jindal encouraged those in attendance. "Share the Good News with all whom we encounter."
Garnering support from every corner
Stressing the focus of the rally, The Response Spokesman and Mobilization Director Doug Stringer urged Americans to play their part in aligning America with God’s will once again.
“Pray for our nation at this important time,” Stringer exhorted. “There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”
Many Christian leaders from across the nation attended the rally, subtitled an “Appeal to Heaven in Prayer, Fasted-ness and Worship.” Participants included Southern Baptist Convention President Dr. Ronnie Floyd, National Day of Prayer Senior Director of Prayer Mobilization Lisa Crump, and Louisiana Family Forum Director Gene Mills. Renowned worship leaders such as Richy Clark and Israel Houghton lifted up God’s name during the event, along with the Christian Gospel band, Forever Jones, as thousands of attendees from all denominations, ethnic backgrounds and ages worshipped in unison.
Also appearing onstage at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center were several local elected officials and state lawmakers, including Sen. Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan), who prayed for “more born-again Christians” to join Louisiana’s Legislature.
Following big footsteps … seeds planted
Highlighting the faith-based nature of the highly visible event that he helped organize, Jindal likened it to Billy Graham’s revivals and crusades from decades past. Jindal told the crowd Saturday how the behemoth evangelical Christian leader was instrumental in inspiring him to become a Christian as a teen.
Ironically, Billy Graham led a mass prayer rally at LSU 45 years ago in 1970, when thousands attended a mass prayer rally on campus at Tiger Stadium. The evangelistic event spurred a revival in the state’s capital, which sprouted into the founding of a church that still remains on LSU’s campus, called The Chapel. Today, numerous members on Jindal’s staff, as well as a number of his advisors, attend that church.
Protestors displayed 'seething rage'
Dr. Alex McFarland, Christian apologist and co-host of a daily program on American Family Radio, engaged some of the protesters outside Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
"The chants were things like Haters, get off our campus and We love the Church of Satan," he reports. "And without repeating verbatim, a lot of what I heard [included] profanities, curse words about the governor, curse words about the American Family Association."
Some demonstrators held signs promoting acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.
"There was a palpable, seething rage coming off of this crowd – and they were so blinded," McFarland continues. "Even the LSU faculty [was represented]. There was one man, Kevin Cope, who was just spouting absolute derision or disrespect for the governor and just the very idea that the governor would publicly pray."
Dr. Cope, an English professor, is the LSU Senate Faculty leader.
McFarland made his comments Monday while a guest on AFR's "Sandy Rios in the Morning."
Praying for protesters
Even with the prayer event’s expressed purpose of rallying Americans to be bold and influential in their faith, it was not without its dissentients, as hundreds of protesters gathered outside LSU’s basketball arena to voice their objections against Jindal and the event’s sponsor, AFA, for their pro-life and pro-family stances.
Members of the LGBT community voiced their opposition to Christian ideals held by those sponsoring and participating in the event. The homosexual activists demonstrated against support for measures protecting states from the legalization of same-sex marriage. They also spoke out against laws protecting preborn babies from abortion.
Biblical perspectives on homosexuality, abortion and some other hot-topic political issues were discussed by speakers at different times during the event in order to incite prayer and calls for forgiveness. The rally also saw pastors on stage appealing to God numerous times to give elected officials His guidance when making political decisions.
In response to the anti-prayer event demonstration outside the arena, Jindal addressed the opposition and called participants in the rally to pray for the protesters.
Underpinnings and takeaways
Inviting all other 49 governors to attend in support, The Response was predicated its underlying principle, “According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene.” The prayer rally was formulated so that Americans from all over the country would “come together to worship God in Humble Posture, seek repentance and pray for reconciliation, reformation and revival.”
Before the event, Jindal issued a statement declaring, “America, our great nation, is in need,” calling other governors to join in the “apolitical solemn assembly of worship” to pray for “our great Creator to intervene on behalf of our people and nation.”
To bring Christians from every walk into unison at the rally, Jindal promised that it would not be about politics or preaching.
"There will only be one name lifted up that day — Jesus," Jindal’s written appeal stated. "There will be no politicians giving speeches and no preachers pontificating."
Jindal made the intent behind the rally as clear as he could.
"What we really need in the United States is a spiritual revival," Jindal insisted in a YouTube video promoting Saturday’s event. "We've exhausted all alternatives … It's time to turn back to God, to get the United States of America back on the right path. The Response is a call from Jesus to see a change in our nation."
In his appeal for governors to attend the prayer rally, Jindal quoted Scripture.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." —2 Chronicles 7:14
He also used this Old Testament verse to encourage participation in the event.
"Declare a holy fast; call a solemn assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord." —Joel 7:14
Jindal’s reasoning for the prayer gathering was summed up in one statement.
"Likewise, I believe now is the time for us to have a similar posture of humility, honesty and honor before The Lord on behalf of our nation," Jindal declared. "We need an appeal to heaven for heaven's intervention over us."