Although the CVL currently has only about 800 individual or family memberships--each paying annual dues of $25--Falling claims that the group represents nearly 20,000 voters in North County who, given time and proper organization, can be mobilized on behalf of issues and candidates.
Falling emphasizes that he receives no salary from the CVL, though he said that he hopes to "eventually work into one" within a few years. The group now pays some of his expenses, primarily meals, but Falling said that he and and his family live on his "life insurance benefits" and honorariums that he receives when he speaks at churches in an attempt to garner new CVL members. In the past year, he estimates that he made less than $2,000 "from everything I've done" in connection with the group.
"I hope that eventually we can hire a full-time executive director so I can hit the road and really get this thing going," Falling said.
Even some of Falling's followers, however, question whether the group will ever be politically potent even in San Diego County, much less in thousands of communities across the nation.
One such skeptic is Kenneth Cunningham, a CVL member who finished fourth in a five-candidate race for two seats on the Vista school board.
"I'm afraid I feel that Christian candidates have very little chance of being elected," Cunningham said. His behind-the-scenes backing from CVL members, Cunningham added, perhaps helped to attract conservative and pro-Christian votes, but "also likely alienated an equally big or bigger contingent of non-Christian voters."
"The problem is that, to most people, the Christian message is seen as foolishness," Cunningham said. "To others, it is offensive. Only to the select few is it a message of life and hope. So Christian candidates have two choices--trying to hide their religious background, or trumpeting it and risking the likelihood of a backlash."
Falling, though, argues that the group is still in its fledgling stage and that it would be premature to conclude that it will never attain its goals, which are as sweeping as they are seemingly unrealistic--for the CVL or any organization.
In addition to the nationwide goals that call for 1 million members within five years and chapters in more than 8,700 communities within 10 years, a CVL brochure identifies three major objectives for each local chapter: becoming the largest organization of voters within the community within one year, electing a school board candidate and city council candidate within two years, and electing a majority to those governmental bodies within four years.
Drastically understating the obvious, Falling concedes that some of those goals "may take a little longer than we thought."
He takes heart, however, from seemingly small encouragements--such as the fact that the CVL recently sent its "first out-of-state kit" to a group that hopes to organize a chapter in Bend, Ore. Early next year, he hopes to help launch CVL chapters in Orange County.
Moreover, with the CVL scheduled to begin a weekly 30-minute local television program on Cox Cable in January--a show that Falling plans to expand nationwide the following year, assuming memberships rise sufficiently to pay for it--he contends that the group's ranks will "start increasing geometrically."
When that happens, Falling says, the days of politicians "thumbing their noses at us" by ignoring the CVL's questionnaires--or acting antithetically to its concerns--will end.
"When they feel the heat, they'll see the light," Falling said.
Many politicians and religious figures, however, regard the CVL as more of an ego salve for Falling than an embryonic political juggernaut, as typified by one minister who said: "He seems to see this as his shot at the big leagues."
"I think he's pretty ambitious for himself," said Rines of Trinity Episcopal Church. "His interest has always seemed to be more in campaigning on these issues than in being the pastor of a small church. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I think he feels he can really do something and make a name for himself in that field."
"His nationwide plans strike me as pretty big hopes on a pretty slim program," added Methodist minister Brashares. "But who knows? All kind of strange things have happened before."
Smiling, Falling says that he understands such doubts, but adds that they do nothing to shake his confidence in the ultimate success of the crusade that he describes as "a vehicle for getting back what we've had taken away from us."
"The issue is not Billy Falling," he said emphatically. "The issue is Christians getting organized and seeing this nation return to a Christian consensus. . . . I have faith that, however long or whatever it takes, we're going to see that."