PRO-S.O.C.S. (c) 1997

Promise Keepers (hereafter referred to as PK) is a Pentecostal revival movement started by Bill McCartney, former University of Colorado football coach, in 1991 after a personal crisis. McCartney has close ties with prominent leaders in the current fundamentalist movement, particularly James Dobson, head of the Colorado based Focus on the Family. Dobson is a current member of the Council on National Policy, Paul Weyrich's secretive political organization which is a conduit for campaign money and ultra-conservative religious public policy. PK should be viewed in the context of the CNP members' political and social goals.

Dobson is probably one of the most influential religious leaders in the radical right, although he cleverly separates himself from overt political activity. Focus on the Family has a yearly budget of more than $100 million dollars. The organization is able to reach many audiences and spread seeds throughout the nation to further prepare U.S. citizens to accept that a fundamentalist theocracy can replace our constitutional democracy. This, in their belief system, will further the cause of taking dominion over all aspects of public and private life in preparation for the second coming and the initiation of the Kingdom on earth.

Promise Keepers is just another way of reaching more people in this takeover endeavor and expediting the process. Catching on like wildfire, the growth of PK is impressive. From a small gathering of 72 men in Boulder, Colorado five years ago to a reported attendance as high as 72,000 men per rally, these events are held at stadiums throughout the United States each year. It is projected by the organization that over a million men will have attended this year alone. These gatherings are big business with PK paraphernalia sold from tents at rallies that would impress any handler of sports or rock stars. Mainstream media coverage of these events resembles the way sports or other entertainment events are reported. Any in-depth analysis of PK has so far been in research publications which deal with the radical religious right.

The 1997 tour of sixteen cities throughout the continental United States began May 2 in Detroit, Michigan and will end in Irving, Texas at the Texas Stadium on October 25. The theme this year is "The Making of a Godly Man." A rally was held in Houston on May 16-17, 1997 at the Astrodome. The highlight of this year's mission will be the massive October 4 rally on the Washington Mall.

A review of the "Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper," which is the founding text of the organization, raises serious questions. Anyone seeking membership must commit to these "promises," such as:

1. "honoring Jesus . . . and obedience to God's Word"

2. "pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises"

3. "practice spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity"

7. to be ". . . obedient to the Great Commandment (love) and the Great Commission (evangelism)."

In the "Promise Keepers Statement of Faith," a member is called upon to accept the Bible as written by God and therefore without error and that only through Christ can one find salvation. This is hardly an approach recognizing other faiths and doesn't address the issue of who will interpret the meaning of scripture that will be presented to members. There is real concern among social scientists, religious leaders and researchers that this philosophy could alter our social fabric coercing us into totalitarian rule not dissimilar from past and present regimes around the world. A copy of this founding document can be purchased from Promise Keepers for $5.00.

The basic structure of PK is authoritarian beginning with "Reclaiming Your Manhood," charging men to take back their roles as heads of the house by relegating women and children to subservient positions as chattel. In a passage from "Seven Promises" explaining "Reclaiming Your Menhood," PK leader Rev. Tony Evans, who is African-American and chaplain of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, asserts, "I'm not suggesting that you ask for your role back. I'm urging you to take it back." Following a PK rally he hosted at Liberty University in 1995, Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote, "It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying" and will be "replaced by a Christ centered men's movement . . ." At a PK event in Syracuse, N.Y., PK leader Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, urged those attending to be "the head of the household" with their wives as "responders."

Currently, leaders of the movement have been emphasizing "racial reconciliation" as a method of attracting minority groups. Prominent African-American clergyman, Rev. Dr. Amos Brown of San Francisco, has been outspoken in his opposition to PK, terming it "cult-like." Several large groups of African-American churches in the western United States have publicly denounced PK activities. While many of us see the importance of inclusiveness in our society, recognizing that we all belong to the "race" of humans, the basic structure of PK belies the concept of equality.

PK groups of five, each headed by a "shepherd" are the basic units. These group leaders meet in other groups of five, whose leaders report to a higher leader forming a chain of command similar to classic communist cell groups. Cell leaders "advise" members not only on religious issues but on "spiritual submission." The member "submits" to his shepherd and is told how to solve family problems, how to "handle" his wife and children who must, in turn, submit to him. The PK member is guided in matters of career, finances, movies to see, activities for the family (including if, where and when to take a vacation), and most troubling of all, how to vote. Submission to the shepherd is seen as submission to God.

After the Jim Jones Guyana/Kool-Aid deaths and subsequent findings of financial fraud, the shepherding movement fell into disfavor and was deemed to be a cult-forming process by mainstream churches. This same form of shepherding is being widely used by organizations active in today's radical movement, such as Word of God (WOG). WOG has close connections to Vineyard Ministries and PK's Bill McCartney. Many WOG members also belong to the Free Congress Foundation, another of Paul Weyrich's many political organizations which were formed through the Heritage Foundation with Joseph Coors' financial assistance - once again bringing personal religious agendas to the public, political arena.

Obviously, there is good cause to be apprehensive about the formation of a PK group in your church. John Swomley, professor emeritus at the St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, warns that Promise Keepers "is particularly dangerous because of the divisions it seeks to create within mainline churches" which do not accept the fundamentalist approach to faith. With the insistence on "biblical inerrancy" and the use of "cell" structures that report to others in a pyramid of hierarchy, a mainstream congregation could find itself under attack from an outside group which would undermine its traditional denominational structure and doctrine.


The information herein is a compilation of research projects by investigative journalist Fred Clarkson, Skipp Porteous, head of the Institute for First Amendment Studies, and others involved in educating the public about the radical agenda of the Christian Right. Clarkson is the author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy," which was published in February 1997. This valuable book contains the latest research about Promise Keepers, along with information necessary to fully understand the danger the ultra-conservative movement presents to democracy.


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