Promise Keepers a Step Behind the Times
COMMENTARY: Although the Promise Keepers' fundamental motives are well-intentioned, their philosophical principals and literal interpretations of the Bible are antiquated and inapplicable for America's post-1960s era

UCSD Guardian Opinion
October 13, 1997

On Sat., Oct. 4, over 800,000 men gathered at the Mall in Washington, D.C. to partake of a "Sacred Assembly" before God. Joining the men were hundreds protesting the Promise Keepers motives.

In the days leading up to the event in Washington, several newspaper articles and talk shows debated the Promise Keepers' motives and principle applications, examining why several groups oppose their objectives.

The Promise Keepers are a national evangelical Christian men's group founded in 1990 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. The group has held many conferences inside stadiums and sports arenas to bring men together for "worship, prayer and teaching." In 1996, the Promise Keepers held a conference inside San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. According to the Promise Keepers, more than 2 million men have attended the conferences.

This is all fine, but the problem is that they appear so earnest. Their statement of faith seems to be sincere enough. However, problems develop once you delve beyond the shining statements.

The Promise Keepers' philosophical principles are based upon a literal interpretation of the Bible. This could be the cause of many of the Promise Keepers' problems. Several leaders of the National Organization of Women (N.O.W.) have said that the Promise Keepers want men to control everything, including women.

All of their literature seems to urge men to "lead" their families. One often-used example is from Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper by Tony Evans.

"If you're going to lead, you must lead," says Evans in his book. "Be sensitive, listen. Treat the lady gently and lovingly. But lead."

Does this sound familiar? Hearken back to the primitive days, before the 1960s, when women were placed on a pedestal -- adored and admired, but not allowed to do the same tasks that a man is "supposed" to do.

Much of the material distributed by the Promise Keepers focus on the family and how the man is to be the center of that family. There seems to be no room for compromise on the issue. According to their material, the man has a specific role leading his family and community and the woman has a specific role in supporting the male.

It appears that several Promise Keepers consider an active woman to be trouble. In a discussion on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, one of the leaders of the Promise Keepers acknowledged that one of the prophets in the Bible was female. However, he added that she was a prophet because "none of the men wanted to do it."

Furthermore, the Promise Keepers assembled at Mall did not ask forgiveness for being sexist, although they were contrite for racism.

In addition to being sexist, the Promise Keepers have also taken a strict line against homosexuality. McCartney has referred to homosexuality as "an abomination of Almighty God."

This principle stems from their strict interpretation of the Bible, even though it is seriously out of tune with the times. The American Bishops of the Catholic Church issued a letter calling on families to love their homosexual children. However, gay men are welcome to join the Promise Keepers -- to be converted, of course.

It would have been hard for me to criticize a group that might create some benefit for some families despite creating this massive controversy. However, the group's veiled ambition for power should be of concern to everyone.

Several leaders from other Christian groups -- such as Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition -- have financially assisted the Promise Keepers. In addition, the chief organizer for the gathering at the Mall said that Promise Keepers would inevitably enter the political sphere; therein lies the problem.

If the Promise Keepers start to "endorse" candidates, much like the Christian Coalition does, where would it end? Several groups believe that the Promise Keepers are pushing for a theocracy -- government ruled by the church.

"We don't find ourselves in violation of the Constitution [of the United States]," McCartney said. "We've just got to make sure that the Constitution doesn't find itself in violation of God's law, God's written word."

So much for the separation of church and state as enumerated by the Constitution of the United States. If they are intent on ensuring that their interpretation of God's law is the law of the land, then those whose values conflict with those of the Promise Keepers would have a serious problem.

Submission is not the solution when it comes to the family -- no matter what the Bible says. One of the trickiest things about the Bible is the conflicting values throughout the text. For example, stoning people for their sins used to be a common punishment and, in fact, mandated by God.

How many people want to chuck a large stone at a person today? I am not saying that the Promise Keepers are the spawn of the devil -- they might actually be effective in reconciling families with long-lost absent male figures.

However, after taking a hard look at their philosophy and the controversy surrounding it, we would be asking for trouble if we did not protest some of the Promise Keepers' basic principles. Their philosophy urging men to be the center of the family is simply out of touch with the times.

The Promise Keepers come to us with good intentions, but then again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If we are not careful, we might find ourselves on that road with them.