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the Body Politic
Vol. 7, No. 5 - May 1997, Page 62
Copyright © 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.

Watching PK: An interview with Al Ross

Promise Keepers Statement of Faith

1. We believe that there is one God eternally existing in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

2. We believe that the Bible is God's written revelation to man and that it is verbally inspired, authoritative, and without error in the original manuscripts.

3. We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, death on the cross to provide for our redemption, bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, present ministry of intercession for us, and His return to earth in power and glory.

4. We believe in the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, that He performs the miracle of a new birth in an unbeliever and indwells believers, enabling them to live a godly life.

5. We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of sin, was alienated from God. That alienation can be removed only by accepting through faith alone God's gift of salvation which was made possible by Christ's death.

We believe that we have a God-given mission to unite Christian men who are separated by race, sectarianism, age, culture and economics. We refer to something much greater than humanistic unification and more powerful than political equality.

Promise Keepers leadership have been involved in extreme Right Wing political activity for a long time. Coach McCartney himself has spoken at meetings of Operation Rescue, and had been on the Advisory Board of Colorado Family Values that launched the homophobic anti-gay Colorado Initiative.
Q: Al, what prompted you to start PK Watch?

A: The first issue of PK Watch, which is a journal to monitor the developments of Promise Keepers, is done. We started this in the context of some of the most important developments threatening our democratic system.

In the past four years we have seen three ominous developments in the United States. First was the institutionalization of armed paramilitary militia in nearly every state in the nation. Many of these militia identify justification for their organization in the gains for abortion rights. But their agenda includes a broad assault on our basic democratic values.

Second, in the past four years Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition became the effective grassroots base of the second most powerful party of the most powerful thermonuclear state in the world. And third, Robertson's organization is now flanked on the right by what we call the Third Wave of the religious right, this organization called Promise Keepers.

These three waves are not completely disconnected but mutually supportive with a social base in what's usually called the Religious Right. The First Wave is generally identified with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. The Second Wave is the Christian Coalition. The Third Wave is Promise Keepers.

Q: How do these organizations differ?

A: Each succeeding Wave is distinguished in its theological extremism, political extremism, and organizational sophistication and mass base.

Q: What is more extremist about Promise Keepers than the Christian Coalition?

A: I'll take the three organizations in order. In terms of theology, Falwell is a fundamentalist. Robertson is not only fundamentalist, but Charismatic, with various implications in terms of his political agenda from his religious orientation. Promise Keepers is non-denominational Charismatic. Both Falwell and Robertson come from a Southern Baptist background. The leadership of Promise Keepers, on the other hand, is out of Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

Q: What is Vineyard Christian Fellowship?

A: Vineyard was started in California by a chap named John Wimber. Vineyard is one of the most important structures of the new wave non-denominational right-wing churches. VCF now claims over 550 churches across the US and around the world. John Wimber himself was so extreme that he was fired from Fuller Theological Seminary, a bastion of conservative theology, because of a course he was teaching on charismatic beliefs.

Following his dismissal from Fuller, he launched Vineyard. Coach McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers, and President of PK, Randy Phillips, plus board member James Ryle, are all members of Ryle's Vineyard church in Colorado. Promise Keepers is heavy on the rhetoric of ecumenical beliefs. One of their key songs is Break Down the Walls. They talk about denominationalism in the same breath as racism as an "evil" that has to be dismantled. Their call for "breaking down the walls," while dressed in the cloak of ecumenical humanism, is in reality, a direct challenge to the mainline denominations which PK sees as "too conservative" which in PK-speak really means too liberal.

The leadership of this new movement has served up, not only another political challenge, but an important theological challenge to mainline denominations.

Q: That's how you were able to get all those mainline church representatives to a recent meeting in DC.

A: Right. The mainline denominations are increasingly concerned about the in-roads of the non-denominational charismatic churches which have a certain superficial appeal to young yuppies. The Sunday services are often serenaded by rock music, the pastor may preach wearing blue jeans, and it's a much more informal atmosphere. It's a seductive way to lure people into a political process which underlies these denominations.

Most of the new Third Wave churches are virulently opposed to reproductive rights and abortion and buy into much of the agenda of the Religious Right.

Q: They are also very anti-gay.

A: Oh yes, extremely.

Q: I find it vaguely amusing that these rabid homophobes are putting huge groups of men together in places where they are supposed to be hugging and kissing.

A: It's interesting that a lot of that has been misunderstood by people on the so-called Left. The hugging and emotion that goes on has nothing to do with any show of real emotion or comradliness. It's a symptom of the very sophisticated psychological manipulation which goes on in the stadium.

Promise Keepers leadership have been involved in extreme Right Wing political activity for a long time. Coach McCartney himself has spoken at meetings of Operation Rescue, and had been on the Advisory Board of Colorado Family Values, the launched the homophobic anti-gay Colorado Initiative. Even our relatively conservative Supreme Court struck that down as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

PK has analyzed the prior two Waves and decided they have begun to max out in ability to recruit. So what they have done is develop a psychological map of the average American male. They figured out guilt points, whether you were a good father or a good husband, as useful access points for political manipulation. Using those two "fault lines" of American male psyche, they reached in deep and pulled men in to what is clearly a political movement.

Falwell had his Moral Majority, which was a relatively loosely structured organization with a clearly conservative agenda. Pat Robertson's group was exponentially beyond anything that Falwell could put together. The structure of the grassroots base and the clarity and extremism of the political agenda in the Christian Coalition went well beyond anything that Falwell was able to put together.

Promise Keepers, as the Third Wave, takes it one step beyond CC. Although PK is supported by the entire panoply of the leadership of the Religious Right, the key driving force behind Promise Keepers is really James Dobson of Focus on the Family, a $130 million operation based in Colorado Springs. Dobson has positioned himself, along with Gary Bauer of Family Research Council who functions as Dobson's little pit bull, to the right of the Christian Coalition. Both Dobson and Bauer have been increasingly attacking Robertson from the right, criticizing him for "selling out" to the Republican Party.

When people go to PK meetings and buy their books, you will see the books are published under the imprimatur of Focus on the Family. That's not coincidental. FoF has also provide enormous logistical, financial, and propaganda support giving a lot of publicity to PK on the Dobson radio broadcasts around the nation.

Q: Is PK Watch going to dig into the financial situation?

A: Yes. We will be. We just finished the first issue with a superb article from Fred Clarkson and our next issue will focus on right-wing women's groups. In addition to packing stadiums with tens of thousand of men who are receiving an explicit message that women should be in submission, PK is now creating auxiliaries. These organizations are filled with women demanding that women be put in submission for the good of the family. We'll have a major expose of that in our next issue.

Q: How often is PK Watch being published?

A: We'll try to publish bi-monthly and the subscription price is $20.00 a year for individuals and $30.00 for institutions. We felt the need to have a regular journal to keep pace with the rapid growth of this organization. The size and scope of this thing are really impressive. I've been studying these right-wing movements for over 30 years now, and I've never seen anything on this scale.

Last year alone, PK staged 24 football stadium rallies of almost exclusively white male Christian men with an explicit message that women should be in submission. They brought over a million men to these stadium events. Just the organizational infra-structure to stage something like that is awesome. Two Februarys ago, Lee Corkorinos, editor of PK Watch, who worked with me at Planned Parenthood before we set up the Center for Democracy Studies, went down to Atlanta.

Lee went to study the rally where coach McCartney brought together 39,000 clergy under the auspices of Promise Keepers. It was the largest meeting of clergy in human history. Pat Robertson in his wildest dreams couldn't imagine doing that.

While the stadium events attract most of the publicity, in fact, the strategic focus and goal of PK is not the stadium events alone. Those events are there to attract cadre and motivate them then funnel them into setting up small group cells across the U.S. The cells usually contain about 25 men lead by PK cadre. There are now about 10,000 of them across the country. The men are lead through various steps for spiritual development. The key manual for this was drafted by three of the senior staff of Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ. It's in the small groups that people who have no idea what the real political agenda of PK leaders is, begin to get manipulated into that agenda with the psychological hook that comes from the small groups.

In these groups men are expected to discuss their sex lives, their relationships with their family, what they read, and their financial situation with the PK leader. This can develop psychological dependence with the ability for intense cult manipulation.

It's probably not coincidental that coach McCartney comes out of the Word of God movement. WoG was a Catholic charismatic cult in the 70s based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. WoG was so contro-versial that a number of Catholic bishops petitioned the Pope to shut them down.

McCartney was a coach in Michigan at that time and became heavily involved in Word of God and wrote about it in his autobiography. When he moved to Colorado he was listed in WoG documents as their representative to Colorado. Getting back to Vineyard, when Wimber launched his church, he hooked up with Kevin Springer who had been one of the senior Word of God people in Michigan. When McCartney moved to Colorado, he moved into and became a member of Vineyard Christian Fellowship. McCartney's pastor, James Ryle, became one of the senior board members of PK. The President of PK is also under tutelage of James Ryle. Clearly, the leaders of PK are from a background of fringe non-denominational religion with a right-wing political agenda.

Q: Al, if my readers want to subscribe to PK Watch and begin following the Third Wave of right-wing movements in America, where should they write?

A: PK Watch c/o Center for Democracy Studies
177 East 87th Street Suite 404
New York, NY 10128

Q: Thanks for the update, Al. We'll stay tuned.

Promise Keepers calls men from all nations to reconcile with God and each other in the name of Jesus Christ. Our objective is based in the covenant-keeping nature of God. Because He is faithful to fulfill all of His promises, He is our model (Numbers 23:19)

We adhere to the historical truths of biblical orthodoxy and identify our statement of faith as our foundation.

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