CHRISTIANITY TODAY, the successful evangelical magazine, which is currently based in Washington, has decided to leave town. Apparently against the wishes of its editorial staff, but at the behest of its board of directors, the magazine will be moving its headquarters to a spot near Wheaton, Ill. All this would be little more than a matter of graceful goodbyes were it not for some rather peculiar reasons that have been given for the magazine's departure. For, in addition to certain editorial and financial conveniences that go with the move (Wheaton is a center of evangelical activity in the country), some of the magazine's board members have cited certain disadvantages that go with being here. Chief among them seems to be what is called the "pulluted" moral and spiritual atmosphere of our town.

The most explicit expression of all this we've seen appeared in Newsweek's account, which we quote: "Citing statistics on soaring liquor consumption and illegitimate births in the District - plus examples of Congressional hanky-panky - CT's board chairman, Harold Ockenga, announced last week that the magazine would move . . . 'Deleterious things happen to attitudes if a person lives here,' said Ockenga . . . 'The time has come to take a stand. After all, our magazine is trying to present Christianity in ethics and life-style.'"

Well, now, just a darn minute.It seems to us that if what Mr. Ockenga says is true, he makes a better case for staying than for leaving. Surely if we are the moral mess he proclaims, in this city, there is every reason for evangelists to stick around and try to change our ways. After all, perhaps the most famous evangelical Christian in the country has just moved into the White House, with a view to doing something along those lines. And what makes Mr. Ockenga think that small-town America is relatively sin-free, anyway? We'd put peyton place up against Washington any old day in the moral pollution sweepstakes, or, if you want to get a little classier about it, Yoknapatawpha County or Winesburg, Ohio.

It is, of course, true - we feel bound to tell you - that Wheaton, Ill., is a liquorless place, and no one would make that claim for the District of Columbia, unless he was out-of-his-head drunk. But even so, we think our town is a fit place to house committed Christian evangelists - providing them with just the right amount of inspiration. Of course, we already have lived here for some time, so perhaps you will just have to chalk up our boosterism to one of those deleterious things that can happen to people's attitudes in Washington.