Given the recent deluge of coverage in both the Louisiana and the national media over the essay Governor Bobby Jindal wrote in 1994, in which he details his participation in an unsanctioned (and yes, for true believers, that should make a difference) exorcism while a student at Brown University, I’m somewhat surprised to be the first person to really point this out: Bobby Jindal’s story is a complete and total work of fiction. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s how Jindal himself recently responded to questions about the essay, which was titled “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare” (bold mine):
Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates issued a statement from Jindal Tuesday: “I wrote a lot of stuff in high school and college. While other kids were out partying, I was reading and writing. I’m sure some of that stuff is goofy. I just hope they don’t review my grade school work.”
“Goofy” is a light-hearted euphemism for a few other adjectives, like “fictional,” “comical,” “made-up,” “satirical,” “exaggerated,” and “factually-impaired.” And when you consider that Governor Jindal, who was then a young, earnest, and recent convert to Catholicism, provided all of his characters in his essay, with the exception of himself, pseudonyms, it becomes much more suspicious.
Although this once-in-a-lifetime and extremely rare event occurred on the Brown University campus, allegedly in front of at least a half of a dozen participants and somehow without the involvement of an ordained priest, during the eighteen years since, no one– not a single participant, including the subject of Jindal’s essay, a woman named “Susan”– has ever stepped forward to confirm or corroborate Jindal’s riveting personal essay. Having read and reread this essay for years now, I believe it is safe and most responsible and respectful to evaluate and criticize Governor Jindal’s essay as a piece of solipsistic and poorly-actualized fiction: A supernatural account riddled with contradictions, fake names, and thinly-veiled sexual tension between Susan and Jindal, and a story that stars Jindal as the unwilling hero. Unlike Columnist John Maginnis, who suggests Jindal’s exorcism essay revealed his “heart,” I strongly believe the essay demonstrated the ways he confronted his own fears, naïveté, and insecurities through physical and emotional detachment; “heart” would be the last word I’d use.
And there is likely a very simple explanation for all of this: The self-proclaimed “goofy” story is almost assuredly a work of complete fiction by a small, young, but fiercely smart convert- indeed, a kid whose native religion thoroughly embraced the notion of demonic possessions. Hinduism, it is worth noting, is the religion of his family and a religion to which Mr. Jindal had followed until his freshman year at Brown, and both religions, Hinduism and Catholicism, accept exorcisms as a valid and powerful religious ritual.
Mr. Jindal may have been comfortable to craft a convincing-enough story that he helped exorcize and subsequently cure his friend of cancer. But now, two decades later, he seems willing to acknowledge the story he wrote was, essentially, a work of fiction or, to use his euphemism,”goofy.”
But, for years, Louisiana Democrats sheepishly criticized him AROUND but not ON this issue, perhaps worried it would insult our Catholic brothers and sisters. You dare point out that story, which has followed and plagued Jindal for his entire career, is a lie or merely one of those goofy stories all college kids exchange, and you risk being called discriminatory. (Or something like that).
So, I’ll try to help out here: Bobby Jindal’s “personal essay” is actually a fictional short story. The events he described never happened. He is the only person in the story with a real name; everyone else is fake. The exorcism he describes actually violates the tenets of Catholicism and, at times, borders on felony false imprisonment. It’s not an exorcism story; it’s a story about a freaking panic attack. Kudos to the 23-year-old Jindal for getting your short story published, but it’s now time to be honest and stop cowardly stooping behind religion to whitewash your utter and complete misrepresentations. I wrote several dumb stories in college, one about a modern-day virgin birth. The difference is: I ensured people knew it was a work of fiction.