There were no champagne toasts at one gathering last night. While euphoria reigned elsewhere, there was a sober group -- both literally and metaphorically -- at a dinner held by the American Coalition for Traditional Values, an alliance of conservative, "Bible-believing" pastors who had as their star attractions the Rev. Jerry Falwell and former Interior Secretary James Watt.
Some 350 preachers and their wives, who have banded together to "work together in Christian love to help restore traditional moral and spiritual values," were not there to party. Rather they declared their holy war successful -- and continuing. Congressional candidates, three winners and one loser, were introduced, money collected and the battle cry sounded.
"1986 is a golden opportunity for us," said ACTV chairman Tim LaHaye, who recently moved the operation to Washington. "Low voter participation is anticipated for an off-year election so it's time to fire the boilers and get the church people out."
Their prime issues, Falwell said last night, are "the murder of the unborn," pornography, school prayer and "the spread of Marxism in South and Central America." They also intend to increase their clout in the federal bureaucracy, which now counts among its employes only 5 percent who are born-again Christians, LaHaye said.
"Can we accomplish what we need to do to save the republic?" Falwell asked the crowd.
Watt saw the story of his own political downfall as evidence of the "bloody battle" faced by the Christians in the room. He urged them not to remain silent as had the Christian community in Germany during World War II when faced with evidence of mass slaughter of Jews. The Holocaust, he said, was something he had never heard of until he was Interior secretary.
He was preaching to the converted, as it were, but sounded the trumpets with urgency. "Many of us will be bloodied," he said. "We are in a battle for life. We must win."
"Thank God we have four more years," said Falwell.