Religion: Apocalyptic Politics; Ties That Bind: Bush and LaHaye Have a History, and Share a Sense of Mission

Article excerpt

Byline: Howard Fineman

In 1974 an obscure 40-year-old Baptist minister from Lynchburg, Va., traveled to California to preach in the church of a popular pastor, the author of a Christian best seller about how faith builds character. But when Jerry Falwell arrived at Tim LaHaye's San Diego church, he had a lowercase revelation: LaHaye wasn't just a lively preacher and writer, he was a powerful political operative. LaHaye's organization, Californians for Biblical Morality, had mobilized evangelical Christians and, in doing so, had helped elect Ronald Reagan governor. "I realized I wanted to do the same thing on a national basis," Falwell recalled in an interview with NEWSWEEK. "Tim was my inspiration."

Of such moments is history made. Since the mid-'70s the rise of religious conservatives in pop culture, publishing and politics has been a profound trend in American life, reaching its zenith, perhaps, in the "Left Behind" series--and in the pastorate-presidency of George W. Bush. In politics, Falwell went on to found the Moral Majority, which helped elect Reagan president--and George H.W. Bush as vice president--in 1980. LaHaye and his wife, Beverly, were players in Reagan's Washington, too--he as a founding board member of the Moral Majority; she as head of Concerned Women for America. Until the heady '80s, Protestant evangelicals largely had shunned electoral politics. Now they were full partners in the conservative movement.

Which is where Bush the Younger enters the scene. He and LaHaye aren't close, but they go way back. By the late 1980s, Bush and Karl Rove had decided that the key to establishing "Junior's" political base in Texas was to reach out to evangelical Christians. Conveniently enough, Bush's job in his father's 1988 campaign was to focus on those voters nationally. …