Promise Keepers' march motivated by fundamentalist beliefs
This op-ed piece was syndicated by the Progressive Media Project and
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By Frederick Clarkson
The Promise Keepers' Oct. 4
million man march on Washington, D.C., is about more than guys hugging,
weeping and pledging to be better husbands and fathers.
The Promise Keepers seek the advent of a Christian nation, and possibly the
fulfillment of the biblically prophesied end of the world -- something they
believe could begin at this rally.
Promise Keepers envision moving beyond a fundamentalist take on gender roles
to a fundamentalist take-over. At a Promise Keepers rally at his Liberty University,
the Rev. Jerry Falwell said: "It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist
movement is at last dying, thank God, and it is possibly being replaced by
a Christ-centered men's movement."
Former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, who convened
the first Promise Keepers gathering in 1990, told the group's clergy rally
in 1995 that "whoever stands with the Messiah will rule with him." He urged them to "take this nation for Jesus Christ!" At another rally,
McCartney said, "Whenever the truth is at risk, in the schools or legislature,
we are going to contend for it. We will win!"
Win what? Promise Keepers backer Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ
believes the United States was founded as and must be restored as a "
Christian nation." At Promise Keepers events, a popular book on sale is his "The Coming Revival" (New Life Publications, 1995). In this book, Bright
insists that Christians must "[be]come actively involved in restoring every
facet of society, including government, to the biblical values of our Founding
Fathers." Bright would turn the nation over "to God from the top down, where
our laws are made" in order to enact "permanent change."
While the rise of a theocratic, Christian nationalist movement is disturbing
enough, there's more. Bright and others involved in Promise Keepers see themselves
as central players in an end-of-the-world scenario. The Rev. James Ryle --
who is McCartney's personal pastor and a Promise Keepers board member -- believes
the group is the fulfillment of a biblically prophesied army destined to destroy
sinners and unbelievers in the end-times. "Never have 300,000 men come together throughout human history," he told journalist Russ Bellant, "except for the purposes of war."
The name given to the Washington, D.C., march -- "Stand in the Gap: A Sacred
Assembly of Men" -- derives from the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. God, angry
at a society that had fallen away from his laws, looked for a man who would "stand before me in the in the gap on behalf of the land so I would
not destroy it, but I found none."
Promise Keepers leaders believe that the failure of fundamentalist men to
take charge in the home, in the church and in society has led to abortion,
homosexuality, crime, drugs and natural disasters -- which they take to be
warning signs of God's displeasure. The purpose of the march is to repent these
failures and to raise an army to stay God's hand, lest America go the way of
Sodom and Gomorrah.
What this army does next is a matter of conjecture, but it would be wrong
to dismiss its seriousness of purpose. Doc Reed, a Promise Keepers national
staffer, told a July rally in Worcester, Mass., that the march was not "our idea." Attendance is "a matter of obedience."
The Promise Keepers' experience in mounting dynamic stage presentations with
music, sets and lights suggests they are capable of putting on the best-produced,
most dramatic march on Washington in history. This should not, however, distract
us from the theocratic and apocalyptic ideology that drives the founders and
leaders of the Promise Keepers.
Frederick Clarkson is the author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between
Theocracy and Democracy" (Common Courage Press, 1997). For information
on newspaper or magazine print rights:
Progressive Media Project
Street Madison, WI 53703
©1997 Frederick Clarkson
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