Who are the Promise Keepers?
In 1990 Bill McCartney, ex-coach of the University of Colorado football team, founded the Promise Keepers to "celebrate Biblical manhood and motivate men toward a Christ-like masculinity." The organization encourages men to keep Bible-based promises to their wives, family, and churches. The huge rallies and multimillion dollar budget show that the organization is a major force in the conservative movement.
What’s Wrong with the Promise Keepers?
They use religion to push their politically conservative agenda.
McCartney supported a Colorado amendment to block civil rights protections for gays and lesbians and has spoken at Operation Rescue rallies. In 1995 a protest outside a Denver Planned Parenthood clinic led to the arrest of PK employee Harvey Baynes. PK Leader Raleigh Washington has been quoted as saying "There is no way this group can restrict itself when it comes to public policy. We are producing leaders in this organization. They will enter the political sphere." PK is supported by right-wing luminaries such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson.
They denigrate the role of women.
Genesis 3:16 states that the husband shall rule over the wife. 1 Corinthians 3:11 says that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man,” and Ephesians 5 says “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife.” Promise Keepers cite these and other misogynist verses and openly call for wives to "submit" to their husbands. In Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, PK author Tony Evans demands that men reassert a dominant role in marriage: "I am not suggesting that you ask for your role back, I am urging you to take it back. There can be no compromise here." Bunny Wilson, a speaker for Chosen Women, a women’s PK satellite group, writes in her book Liberated through Submission that men should "rule with a hand of steel that is covered with velvet." She tells women to "go against" their "feelings, thoughts and opinions, and `yield pleasantly' to authority," including their "husband, pastor or employer." And just about any male authority figure. Wilson states "Our job is to submit to our teachers and our Professors...even if we know they are wrong. It is then in God's hands.” The Heritage Keepers, another women’s satellite group, preaches that "submission is a place of honor.” Wellington Boone, in his book Woman! You are a Kingmaker! writes that “Kingmakers are women whose purpose in life is making others great.” A statement released by the National Organization for Women (NOW) says the Promise Keepers' "ideology is one of power and control. It resembles the rationale of the batterer, not the savior." The PK want to roll back the hard-won advances the feminist movement has gained to better the status of women in our society. And doesn’t this treatment of women conflict with Jesus’ advice to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? (Luke 6:31)
They idolize subservience in men too.
The PK pay lip service to "racial reconciliation,” but PK speaker Wellington Boone, an African-American self-appointed Bishop, states "I want to boldly affirm Uncle Tom. The black community must stop criticizing Uncle Tom. He is a role model, who, when he was stepped on like a worm, at a point of crisis, evidenced the nature of the classic, model worm, Jesus.” Such statements, speaking positively of the stereotypical subservient slave, can only impede any progress toward racial reconciliation. Boone has also said: “I believe that slavery, and the understanding of it when you see it God's way, was redemptive” and “Blacks have had more than two centuries of training in being a slave of man. It can be added as a long-term qualification to prepare them to be a fine slave of God or to rule as a king.” But slavery was an atrocity, not training. The idea that an African-American would praise the virtues of slavery is truly horrific.
They are homophobic.
Bill McCartney, PK founder, called lesbians and gays "stark raving mad."
They foster a stereotype of the macho male.
In 1989 McCartney dismissed claims that two players on his football team committed date rape because "rape by definition is a violent act. And so I don't think that's what we are talking about here, although that's what the charges are." One Promise Keeper described Jesus as a macho man who practiced carpentry "when they didn't have power saws." Tony Evans said, “The demise of our community and culture is the fault of sissified men who have been overly influenced by women” and “The primary cause of this national crisis is the feminization of men.” McCartney said, “You do know, don't you, that we're raising our children at a time when it's an effeminate society. It's not the proper climate. We need young boys that are launched to be men and that has to be imitated for them by a godly man.” But this testosterone idolatry is psychologically harmful.
The Promise Keepers have the right to congregate. But others also have the right to protest their bad ideas. Asking men to keep their promises is a great idea, but not if the promises come at the expense of the mental health and welfare of their wives, children, gays and lesbians in society, and others.