Jerry Falwell was seated in a hearing room on Capitol Hill, ready to testify on the tuition tax credit bill. The first question from its sponsor, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wasn’t about tuition tax credits at all, however. Moynihan asked why his name was on Moral Majority’s “hit list” of congressmen who are targeted for election defeat.

The question was good-natured and so was Falwell’s reply. But the point of his response probably was missed by most of the people in the room: it was that Moral Majority does not have a hit list; it never did, and never will. Moynihan had it confused with another organization.

A large problem facing Moral Majority as it regroups for the issue campaigns that he ahead is getting people to realize just what it is and what it is not. If a U.S. senator does not have it straight, is there any hope for the rest of the people?

Falwell himself has not made things easy. He is seen each week by millions in his role as Falwell the fundamentalist preacher on the “Old Time Gospel Hour.” Yet in his Moral Majority role, he wishes to be known as Falwell the concerned citizen, who is seeking to restore the country’s moral roots but not asking that all its citizens become born-again Christians.

Confusion is thus inevitable. But there have been truckloads of invective from commentators in the secular mass media accusing Falwell of the ultimate sin of a pluralistic society: trying to force everybody to believe in his brand of religion. Yet this is precisely what the Moral Majority has not been trying to do, and the prevalence of the myth betrays an astonishing ignorance of fundamentalist Christianity. The American press is not bashful about burrowing into any problem it lumbers upon, but the misconceptions in ...

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