quits. (They had a harder time with the distinction betweenna Pentecostal and a “charismatic” and usually just grabbednwhichever term came to mind first.)nWhat was missing in the reporting on PTL was relativenperspective. Context. The necessity to place a question andnexpect an answer within a given context—are we in thenFundamentalist’s mentality here, or “the world’s”?—wasnsomething journalists couldn’t, or wouldn’t, grasp. As oftennas not, their ignorance appeared deliberate, a kind ofnleft-handed requirement of “journalistic objectivity” regardingnreligion. After all, the Fundamentalist’s mentalityncenters on “the evidence of things not seen.” And “news”nby definition excludes the evidence of things not seen.nThe fascinating upshot of all this objectivity-by-defaultnwas that Jerry Falwell, a man supposedly on the hotseat, gotnone of the longest free rides in media history. Moving innand out of context at will—a promise of “openness” here, anbiblical defense there—Jerry Falwell finessed every reporternhe talked to. And he talked, it seemed, to every reporternthere is. But his skill—and his luck—didn’t stop there. Henmaneuvered even within context, using Scripture both tondefine Jim Bakker’s sin and disavow “judgment” on it, tonthreaten Jim Bakker and “forgive” him.nWithin the religious story that didn’t get reported werenthe religious questions that didn’t get asked: ReverendnFalwell, in the case of Jim Bakker, are born-again Christiansnto follow the biblical directive to “judge not, that ye be notnjudged,” or are they to “reprove” the “unfruitful works ofndarkness”? Both? How? And how does one “restore” thenbrother one is working overtime to keep at bay? Jerry Falwellnhas answers. And the people with the most at stake in thenmatter—Fundamentalists of all denominations—wouldnhave found his answers instructive, in one way or anothern(which is why, given his current role, Jerry Falwell probablynwas relieved not to be asked). Everybody else might havenfound the answers interesting.nInstead, we got Larry King, with his hey-I’m-just-aregular-guynstyle, calling Jerry Falwell “Jer” and JamesnRobison “Jim.” (Jer never flinched. But Jim—who is callednJames—looked half startled, half peeved and demanded tonknow, “Are you talking to me?”) When all else failed, Larnjust slapped his forehead and said, “What’s goin’ on here?”nWell, what was going on here? Plenty was going on, andnnot just in Charlotte or Palm Springs or Lynchburg. As thenPTL revelations mounted and the cast of characters grew,nthe editorial commentaries began appearing—the analyses,nthe overviews. Most of these reflected the corrosive attitudenthat on its face a betrayal of public trust is nothing; it countsnas disheartening only if one is a member of the public innquestion and has personally proffered the trust. If not, letncynicism and glibness prevail: The weasels are everywhere,nand the suckers abound. It was an attitude from whichnemerged expressions of class hatred and religious bigotry,nalong with extremely selective questions about the marketnsystem.nWriting in The New Republic, Henry Fairlie got himselfnso worked up that he finally claimed Fundamentalismncontains “no theology” and therefore cannot be “religion.”nHis proof? Fundamentalism’s crude insistence on “personalnfaith” and a “personal reading” of the Bible, both of whichnignore “established and authoritative interpretation.” Thisnis an interesting, if predictable, approach to the peskynguarantee of “free exercise” of religion. If you don’t reallynhave a religion, well . . . And what qualifies as a religion?nApparenfly, it’s whatever belief Henry Fairlie decides isntheologically sufficient to pass his test of “established andnauthoritative interpretation.” (And just to keep things interesting,nthere is the fact that Fundamentalists themselves usenthe weapon of “established and authoritative interpretation”nto challenge religious beliefs they oppose, like Mormonisni.nAt the moment, however, the Mormons, the Fundamentalists,nand Henry Fairlie are all still in business—and whonsays America doesn’t work?)nMr. Fairlie also offered what is by now the standardncharacterization of TV evangelism’s followers: “the vulnerable,nthe anxious, the largely ignorant, the lost, the afraid,nand the all too often poor.” It is possible this characterizationnis accurate. It’s also possible that every person on earth,nwith the exception of Henry Fairlie, has suffered at least onenof these conditions from time to time. In any case, hownwould Henry Fairlie know? This obviously is not the kind ofncrowd he hangs out with—he being “a European” rearednon a Bible that “had been strengthened by centuries ofninterpretation by many of the best and most devout mindsnin Western civilization.” Gosh.nMr. Fairlie’s parting instruction was that we are to countnall TV evangelists “among the servants of Mammon.”nnnOCTOBER 1387 121n