Keeping Promises

Next month, as many as one million men are expected to converge on Washington, D.C. to learn how to be Christian husbands and fathers. The event is called "Stand in the Gap" and it’s being organized by Promise Keepers. You would think that a million men taking responsibility for their families would be a welcome sight. But if you lived in Washington and picked up the paper, you’d be very surprised. Our cultural elites view this gathering with suspicion, outright hostility, even hysteria. The Washington Post recently published two op-ed pieces on Promise Keepers—both by feminists. The first, the so-called favorable piece, was written by Stephanie Coontz, who graciously conceded that Promise Keepers was not a fascist group, as others have claimed. She even conceded that men who joined Promise Keepers were "well-intentioned." But then Coontz characterized Promise Keepers’ core beliefs as "benevolent paternalism." In its push to produce better fathers and husbands, Coontz wrote, Promise Keepers promotes female dependence on men. In Coontz’s view, the wives of Promise Keepers mistake this paternalism for love because they are either too stupid or too weak to tell the difference. As Coontz puts it, "Given their limited educational and economic leverage" evangelical women try to evoke their husband’s love through "vulnerability" rather than confrontation. In other words, Christian women lack the power they need to assert their rights. The negative piece was written by Patricia Ireland, and it was pure paranoia. Ireland, who heads up the National Organization for Women, labeled Promise Keepers a dangerous group of "religious political extremists" and compared its leaders to the people who bomb abortion clinics. She labeled Promise Keepers founder, Bill McCartney, an "arch foe of women’s rights and civil rights." Why do feminists like Coontz and Ireland have so much disdain for the biblical teaching on marriage? Because in their world view, the basis of human relationships is rights—not love and commitment. That’s why, when Promise Keepers talks about husbands loving their wives sacrificially, feminists don’t get it or don’t want to. Scripture teaches that relationships—especially the marital relationship—should be based on love, not on the assertion of rights. The irony is that our culture’s move away from the biblical teaching about relationships has been disastrous for women. What radical feminists don’t understand is that only an appeal to sacrificial love can stem the male flight from responsibility—a flight that has left millions of women struggling to support their families. Coontz writes that she’s mystified by men who honor their commitments "on the basis of responsibility for someone who was dependent on them." What she doesn’t see is that if you take away this appeal to sacrificial love, men will continue to assert their rights to ignore their families and to fulfill their own desires. I hope you are on your knees, as I am, for the Promise Keepers rally. Bill McCartney and its other leaders are under brutal attack in the press, and the stakes are very high. For our families and our nation can be healed only if men learn to be real fathers from God, "the Father from whom all families take their name."


Chuck Colson


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