From the outside, the Promise Keepers movement looks like a wonderful support group for Christian men who must learn to face difficult changes in life with courage, grace, and faith.
From the outside, Promise Keepers appear to teach men to apply the principles of Christian faith and love in our their relationships, in the family, society and in the church.
From the inside, however, the Promise Keepers are very different from what they appear. The men are not taught to gracefully face a changing world. They are taught to resist positive changes, such as the empowerment of women, the progress of minorities, and the increasing acceptance of lesbians and gays. Men in Promise Keepers are taught to become less tolerant, less empowering, and less progressive.
Men in Promise Keepers do not learn to be more faith and loving in all their relationships. They are taught to be more controlling of their families, more demanding of their friends, and more manipulative in their church.
I have heard several Promise Keepers interviewed on religious Fundamentalist Radio stations in Detroit. They told how men are taught to control the pastors of the church when those pastors take humane and responsible stances on issues such as women's rights, abortion, racial equality, or the teaching of evolution in public schools. The preacher is either forced to preach a message in line with the Promise Keepers ideology, or lose his job. This is not the Freedom and love Jesus taught to his disciples.
My brother joined the Promise Keepers six years ago. He believed they would teach him to be a more effective father and a more loving husband. He found that they tried to fill him with self-hatred and guilt for not voting for Republican candidates, not holding extremist conservative values, not raising his children to hate homosexuals, and for not forcing his wife to quite her job. After three years, my brother left Promise Keepers and has not returned.
Promise Keepers claim to stand for racial tolerance, but that tolerance only extends as far as inviting black men to sit with white men in their rallies. Their tolerance does not extend to demanding political empowerment, economic equality, or equal access to housing, jobs, and public education.
Promise Keepers wring their hands about the state of public education today, but their solutions would destroy the quality of education for all but a privileged few. They want to fund private and charter schools with our tax dollars to teach a narrow, irresponsible, and intolerant version of religion.
In other words, they want to make themselves the official and established religion of America. They want to break down the separation of Church and State. They want to be both the teachers of the Church and the controllers of the State.
The Promise Keepers are failing because their plans are totally out of sync with the greatness and freedom of our nation. The Founding Fathers rightly opposed giving all power to one religious faith, by deciding our nation needed freedom of thought, freedom of mind and freedom of religion.
The Promise Keepers try to look like a benign and positive movement in our nation. But in reality, it does not truly benefit their members or work for the betterment of Americans. Right thinking people should think carefully before they support them.
Michigan NOW is a statewide feminist, activist organization with over 4,000 members and 22 chapters.
"While we welcome the stated goal of helping men to be good fathers and husbands, we question the price," said Alicia Perez-Banuet, Michigan NOW President.
"Women are required to give up any equality they have and become submissive to men. There is an uncomprimising message of Biblically-mandated male domination. The well-financed, right-wing founders of Promise Keepers seel to create a theocratic male supremacist society which will reverse legal and social gains made by women."
NOW is not alone in opposing the Promise Keepers.
Other organizations include the Michigan Women's Political Caucus, Equal Partners in Faith, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Feminist Majority, to name a few."
There are 7 promises of a Promise Keeper. The National Organization for Women would like commitment to an 8th promise...a promise for respect of women's equality.
"As feminists, we have long urged men to take responsibility in the home. But when the Promise Keepers talk about taking responsibility, they mean taking control. They openly call for wives to submit to their husbands, and their wives openly talk about having to submit," said Perez-Banuet.
Michigan NOW continues to work for social and economic equality for women, and opposes those who will turn back the clock.
Many will wonder when they hear my statement, "Why waste your energies complaining about the Promise Keepers? They mean no harm; they are trying to overcome divisions of race in the church; they are trying to re-energize men to be responsible participants in home and church life. What's wrong with that?" Those particular goals, in and of themselves, are honorable. And most of the people who have attended Promise Keeper events, I believe, are sincere in their desire to fulfill those goals.
Unfortunately, buried within the means to these goals are subtle, and not so subtle, pieces of social injustice, backward theology, and graceless interpretation of scripture.
Consider the source. The men primarily behind this movement have a conservative social agenda. While they have been brought up to the realization that the scriptures addressing slavery need to be viewed through the lens of context, the eyes of faith, and the mind of Christ, they have yet to see the appropriation of a similar grace to the limited and speciously-manipulated scriptures addressing homosexuality.
The racial wall they would rightfully tear down is simply being replaced with a more menacing wall from which they can keep out, through attack, the gay community. And while even casual readers of the Bible can see through the New Testament's cultural context and understand the scripture's demand for a mutual yielding from partners within a household, the Promise Keeper leadership would reverse the tide of Christian freedom for women.
They adamantly deny this, of course, but at the same time their teaching clearly asserts male privilege, particularly in matters of spiritual formation and household decision making.
While sincere in their belief and in their convictions, they must be admonished for cutting Jesus Christ out of their faith. Their faith is a reversion to law - set it in stone, define the foles, replace personal relationship with Christ with a strict legal and often culturally - determined code. They are driven by fear to exercise their own worldly power in ordering the world after their own image - fundamental, male and straight. No matter the beautiful traditional language in which they couch their preachings and teaching, their means are perversions of the radical grace Christ lived and the gospel freedom Christ proclaimed.
And so I go on record warning my fellow brothers in Christ who want nothing but to do the Christian thing: Be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Don't mistake the power and pageantry of a mass gathering for the moving of the Spirit. Don't disengage your mind when your hearts are swept up in the music. Don't underestimate the power of evil to speak using even the language of the scriptures.
Remarks prepared by Jeffrey Montgomery Executive Director, The Triangle Foundation Promise Keepers News Conference Triangle Foundation
Promise Keepers is downsizing. Its meeting schedule is cut, attendance at its all-male carnivals is way down, and the staff back in Colorado is dwindling. Promise Keepers has failed to keep its promises, and those are but three indications of the movement's failure.
Promise Keepers has failed because it's a movement based on false idolatry and false notions. It's a movement that is built on fear, distrust and taps into the worst motivations of the people attracted to it.
It has failed because it was a stupid idea to begin with.responding to an invented, created problem that does not exist. It's like the bomb shelters of the fifties.. A grand solution to a non-existent thereat.
In this case it's some kind of threat on the so-called "traditional family," whatever that is. As though that traditional family was a great and perfect thing. It was a family where women lived in fear if they divulged abuse by their husband, it's a family where and gay or lesbian child lived in fearand suicidal depression because it was a place in which coming out was a total impossibility.
In short, it was a place that promoted lying, dishonesty, and where personal growth and fulfillment were unheard of.
Extremist movements that want to tell people how they're supposed to be living their lives. They see problems and rather than deal with them in helpful, growthful ways, deal with them in ways that seek control and power over people.
They also do not exalt people, or allow people to live honestly.
We se this in the so-called "ex-gay" movement, one of the worst and most destructive of the fabricated ideas from the radical, extremist right.
We see this, certainly in Promise Keepers. an equally damaging, destructive and anti-family spawn of the extreme right.
Both use religious-sounding language and context to propagate their unhelpful messages, both rely on people who see something in their lives that they think may need attention.
But rather than help with ideas and suggestions that promote better relationships, that call on the individual to find the best in themselves, they lay out a program that is not at all helpful, promotes division and calls for submission.
In this case, it is instructive that the only person to whom one can submit is a man! So much for equality.
No matter how much a promise keeper propagandist -----opposed to any of the well-intentioned rank and file promise keeper, who is being duped and cheated by the ethically and morally bankrupt leadership------ despite what a PK talking head will tell you, this is a movement that has been dreamed up by men ----primarily white men--- who are scared of loosing privilege, unearned privilege.
They are afraid that women are moving too successfully into positions of leadership.. in business, in their homes and in their churches.. They are terrified that their precious place of head of household, king of the castle, is in jeopardy.
Not only do women threaten this, but also the advance of any so-called "minority" group threatens these men.
So what a better antidote than to create a movement that is riddled with carefully tailored and creatively interpreted Biblical quotation to help make these men feel better as they try and deal with their own fears, their own sense of inadequacy.
Promise Keepers is not about helping men live better lives. It's about a better way to make bigotry and prejudice sound better and for people who only respond from fear to think they are living the word of God.
Promise Keepers does not keep its promises. PK, like the so-called "ex-gay" ministries destroys families, destroys people and helps to promote an outdated and outmoded way of life when the straight white man was in charge.