The air yesterday morning was sharp, the skies brilliant, the trees still dappled. The world, or at least the world as it shows its face in Fairfax County, seemed clean. An occasional roadside meadow showed a horse or a cow grazing. It was all positively bucolic.
Positively, but only for a moment. Enter the portals of the Calvary Road Baptist Church, bastion of the Moral Majority in northern Virginia. Turn around and look back. Even on a flawless Sunday morning, the world out there no longer seems so enticing. It's big, it's evil and rife with temptation.
From the pulpit, Pastor David M. Rhodenhizer sees a storm brewing, skies blackening, possible devastation. His congregation murmurs with "amens" as he predicts thunderheads on the horizon.
"We could very well be on the verge of losing this great republic," Rhodenhizer said. "Today has been designated as 'Election Sunday.' As pastor of Calvary Road Baptist Church, I feel it is my God-given responsibility to teach you about the political and moral issues."
In this congregation, Moral Majority beliefs and Ronald Reagan walk hand in hand. Rhodenhizer said a majority of the parishioners, himself included, will be voting for the Republican candidate tomorrow.
Although the pastor said from his pulpit that he would not endorse a particular candidate, his preferences, or rather his aversions, were plain. Make a list of all the emotional issues of this campaign, put "anti" in front of them, add them all up and you get "vote for Ronald Reagan." No need to actually say it.
Rhodenhizer is 28 years old, which he concedes is a young age at which to head what's been designated by the International Christian Educators Association as "the fastest-growing church in Virginia."
He came by his affiliation with the Moral Majority, the fundamentalist right-wing Christian political action group, naturally. He grew up attending Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., which is Jerry Falwell's home base when he's not out being Moral Majority president. He graduated from Liberty Baptist College, also founded by Falwell in Lynchburg.
"I guess you could say Jerry's my mentor," Rhodenhizer said.
The pastor is immaculately groomed. For preaching, he wears a pin-striped suit, and a gold "Jesus Lives" lapel pin. His dark hair is receding slightly, his chin doubling.
As he begins to rail against the evils that are America today, his peachy-pink complexion deepens to a fighting red. His flock encourages him with judiciously placed "amens."
On the Equal Rights Amendment:
"The ERA won't add to the rights of women. It'll take them away. . . I believe women should have equal rights in salary if they do the same work as men. But I believe we should make women higher. Let's not put them to work in a ditch. Let's put them in a heated office. I enjoy opening doors for women. I don't want my wife on an equal level with me. I don't want her in a ditch beside me fighting a war . . . [The book of] Ephesians says 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands. . .'
"There were more abortions last year than deaths on the highways. I believe abortion is first-degree murder. Any candidate who would stand for abortion is a part of that first-degree murder and he will be held accountable to God."
"We love homosexuals but we hate their sin."
And so it goes, as a ponderous piano leads the choir through lyrics like "When liberty's at stake, America's the first to know/We love America, we love to see Old Glory wave, we love our country, the land of the brave."
The choir is winding up. Rhodenhizer is saying that "life is but a vapor, life is but for a moment" and asking for "a hearty amen" here and there. v
The service ends. There is milling about.
It was beyond a doubt Reagan country. One woman admitted she was still undecided, but for the rest, there was no question.