This Blog was recently posted on GreatMan.us
In 1996, I wrote an article for a Promise Keepers publication that got some national attention. I was looking at that article recently because I’m thoroughly convinced that the GreatMan movement is a new generation’s version of the Promise Keepers movement. Forgive the outdated sports allusions in the words below, but do notice how the issues at hand were either very much the same or were enough different to point to the need for the GreatMan movement today.
The question I was asked to address was this: “This weekend marks the first major gathering of Promise Keepers in the San Francisco Bay Area, as members of this Christian men’s organization rally at the Oakland Coliseum. In your opinion, what is the group’s 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 about to be played next weekend. No, it won’t involve Jeff Hostetler throwing a touchdown or Rickey Henderson stealing another base.
It will be played by 45,000 men stepping on the field to answer society’s cry: “Where are you, Dad?”, “Where are you, husband?”, and “Where are the men of character and integrity today?”
If Promise Keepers has done its job, the jam-packed Coliseum should reflect the multi-faceted nature of our society. Doctors will be sitting next to mechanics, Asian-Americans will sit next to African-Americans, and Anglo men will join hands with Hispanics, 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 will not be blaming their state on the government or their bosses or their parents. For a refreshing change, they’ll be examining their own shortcomings and seeking to change themselves in order to better society as a whole.
In fact, I believe Promise Keepers is male privilege at its finest. Let me explain.
With privilege comes responsibility. I see Promise Keepers as a wedding of these two. Abusing, controlling “Me Tarzan, You Jane” leadership takes all the “privilege” that comes with it but is never there to assume 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 America’s children grow up without a father, it’s time for males to answer the charge that maybe we are responsible for some of the issues that plague our country today—issues such as the isolation and vulnerability youth, the increasing need young men have for affirmation and how ill-prepared many teen-age boys feel as they approach adulthood.
Promise Keepers is calling men to realize that by abdicating their places of leadership and responsibility, all aspects of society are damaged. Perhaps it’s time for men to stand before the cultural tribunals and confess that innocent perusal of pornography is not just a “guy thing” and that adultery is not just product of a “mid-life crisis.”
Recently, 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.”
Professor Wright doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
I can tell you that 45,000 men with tears rolling down their faces while they commit themselves to spend more time with their families, to turn their backs on sexual impurity, to work toward racial reconciliation, to confess their shortcomings to each other and to work toward deep personal change is not fruit of anger or a threat to anyone.
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 and his wife looks searchingly for a man who will keep his wedding vows, only then we will find out if the men who came to the conference left the Coliseum ready to play.
I will be at the conference, and I plan to leave ready to be the best man I can be. I believe there will be tens of thousands like me. Just watch us!