When I was a Pastor in California, the local paper, The Pleasanton Weekly, did a series of articles asking questions based on current events. Below is a repost of one of those questions regarding Promise Keepers.
Q: This weekend marks the first major gathering of Promise Keepers in the Bay Area, as members of this Christian men’s organization rallies at the Oakland Coliseum. In your opinion, what is the groups value in today’s complex society? How do you respond to criticism that it advocates a continuation of male privilege?
A: Perhaps the most important game in the history of the Oakland Coliseum is being played next weekend. No, it won’t involve Jeff Hostetler throwing a touchdown or Rickey Henderson stealing another base. It will be the sound of 45,000 men stepping on the playing field to respond to society’s cry—“Where are you, Dad?” “Where are you, husband?” “Where are the men of character and integrity?”
If Promise Keepers has done its job, a random view of the jam-packed Coliseum should reflect the complexity of our society, Doctors will be sitting next to mechanics, Asian-Americans with African-Americans, Anglo men with Hispanic men, all trying to figure out what’s wrong with our culture and all trying to sort through the complex issues facing men today. In stark contrast to the “victim mentality” so prevalent today, these men from all walks of life will not be blaming it on the government, their bosses or their parents. For a refreshing change, they’ll be examining their own shortcomings and failures, and seeking personal change to better the larger society. Promise Keepers is male privilege at its finest. Let me explain.
With privilege comes responsibility. I see Promise Keepers as a wedding of those two. Abusing, controlling “Me Tarzan, You Jane” leadership takes all the “privilege” that comes with it, but is never there to assume the responsibility when that faulty ideology crumbles down in the form of broken homes, shattered lives and strained relationships.
C.S. Lewis wrote: “It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my sex. I am crushingly aware of how inadequate most of us are, on our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us.”
Promise Keepers echoes that feeling. It is all about accepting responsibility. At a time when almost 30 percent of children grown up without a father in the home, it’s time for males to answer the charge that maybe we are responsible for some of the issues that plague our country, cities and individual homes today. Issues such as the isolation and vulnerability youth feel today, the increasing need young men have for affirmation, demonstrated through gang involvement, and how ill-prepared many teen-age boys feel as they approach adulthood.
Promise Keepers is calling men to step to the plate and realize that by abdicating their place of leadership and responsibility, all aspects of society are affected. Perhaps it’s time for men to stand before the cultural tribunals and try to justify that innocent perusal of pornography as just a “guy thing,” that adultery is a “mid-life crisis,” or a host of other things that men often feel have not effect on people in their lives.
Recently, in a newspaper story, sociologist Stuart Wright of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas called Promise Keepers, “an attempt to raise the authority status of angry white men who find themselves declining in privilege and power.” A pretty serious accusation. Maybe Wright would label me one of those angry white men, but 45,000 men with tears rolling down their faces with a goal to spend more time with their families, turn their backs on sexual impurity, work toward racial reconciliation, confessing their shortcomings and working toward changing them doesn’t appear as anger, nor a threat to anyone.
Except, of course, for those afraid of responsibility and accountability.
When the speeches are over, the crying has stopped and the last car leaves the Coliseum parking lot, the jury will still be out on the success of Promise Keepers. When each man walks through his front door, and his children come looking for him, his wife looks for a man who can keep his wedding vows, then we will find out if the men who came to the conference left the Coliseum ready to play.