James E. Johnson, the man spearheading the "love" inauguration celebration that so irritated the Ronald Reagan camp earlier this month, says the impetus behind his D.C. Armory wingding was the belief that the power of prayer might help Reagan survive his presidential term. Since 1840, every president elected in a year ending in zero has died while in office, giving rise to the so-called "zero factor" in presidential politics.

"We felt that chain of events could be broken through prayer," says Johnson, who is heading the $135-per-head, bipartisan, quasi-religious inaugural party. The Reagan camp, however, didn't much appreciate Johnson's invitation, which gave the affair the look of an "official" inaugural event.

Johnson, 52, is a former assistant secretary of the Navy (under President Nixon), an ex-Marine, former insurance salesman, and lecturer on peace and international brotherhood. When a society columnist wrote gushingly about Johnson's planned "Presidential Inaugural Celebration With Love" last month, she listed an impressive list of educational degrees.

Actually, the A.B. degree Johnson said he earned at Santa Ana College is an A.A. degree -- that's a two-year degree, but, when queried on the subject, Johnson said, "Most people don't know what an A.A. is." There is no such degree as a Ph.D. in business law offered by Chapman College in California, as Johnson said he earned; in fact, he has an honorary degree from Chapman. His B.S. from George Washington University is in general studies, not business administration. And the Ph.D. he has came from a unaccredited college in Los Angeles, Union University.