The ten-minute guide to oppressing women

“Promise Keepers is here in St. Louis, but not without controversy…”
I’m surprised Promise Keepers doesn’t get more attention from the media, because you can always count on protesters. The biggest demonstration was a throng of militant abortion activists playing off this year’s “Storm the Gates” theme urging PKs to storm a local abortion clinic.

Strangely absent was Fred Phelps. He’s always good for a news story, although I would be afraid to interview him directly. I saw him at PK last year in Kansas City.

A half-dozen feminists were also protesting.

I didn’t see any incognito women this year, although I’m pretty sure I did last year. I saw some “guys” wearing really baggy clothes and sporting short but very feminine haircuts. Officially, PK is a male-only event. But I can’t imagine a woman in disguise getting kicked out if she’s recognized. PK really doesn’t have anything to hide.

Before I get into explaining what PK does and why, let me give my standard disclaimer: I’ve been to two PK events. I occasionally wear a PK t-shirt. There are some PK books on my bookshelf. I don’t know if I’ve read them. When asked if I’m a Promise Keeper, I answer yes. But I don’t agree with everything PK teaches. Since PK is inter-denominational, its theology is a very mixed bag. It’s heavy on decision theology, which bothers me a little. It’s very heavy on the Calvinist/Reform do-it-yourself attitude on grace, works, confession and absolution. There is confession, sort of, but no absolution. That bothers me. When you confess your sins, when you’re done, someone needs to reassure everyone of God’s forgiveness. Too often in Reform circles, there’s an unspoken “try harder next time” attitude. That’s present in PK. That’s spinning your wheels. But we already talked about that.

But I don’t agree with LCMS all the time either, and I’m on the board of directors of an LCMS church. So be it.

So I have some disagreement, but it doesn’t stop me from paying my 70 bucks to go and it doesn’t stop me from encouraging my friends to go.

So, how’s about some straight talk on PK?

Why no women? Mostly because they wouldn’t be interested. Last year, a one-time football coach named Joe White walked in carrying what looked like a telephone pole. Then he carried it up to the stage, put it down, grabbed an axe, and made a cross, right there onstage. Then he set it up. When he was finished with it, it took three people to hold up what he held up himself.

That’ll get a guy’s attention. And when a guy who can carry telephone poles around isn’t afraid to cry… That sends another message.

And then we found out he was dying of leukemia. This is what he was spending the rest of his life doing. So it must be pretty important to him.

This year, Joe White did almost the same thing, carrying an oversized cross around the perimeter of the Savvis Center rink in St. Louis. And at one point, later in the conference, he rode in on a motorcycle, rode up the stage, hopped off, and gave a 10-minute sermon on the power of God, in the style of professional wrestler bravado. It was the end of a combination video/skit that portrayed Jesus and the 12 disciples as a biker gang.

It’s not uncommon for a former football or basketball coach to come in and use sports metaphors to explain Christianity. It’s the language some men understand best.

Most women wouldn’t like it.

The other reason is that a lot of men act differently when women are around. Since getting right with God is a big focus of the events, it’s helpful if you help the men get over the act and be themselves before God.

What’s this take back your household thing? This is where the controversy arises. PK advocates that men take back the responsibility they’ve shoved off on their wives. Wanna know what form that took this year? A big, bald, burly black preacher telling us men to wash the dishes and take out the garbage. This isn’t about taking away a woman’s humanity. It’s about getting your butt off the couch, turning off the football game, and paying attention to your family.

Leaders give. Leaders serve. A real man serves. A real man gives, he said. Then he went on to say if you’re a man and you’re receiving all the time, he questioned their manhood. In more ways than one.

Both times I’ve gone, one of the speakers has advocated that the men take a basin and wash their wife’s feet (the way Jesus washed His disciples’ feet before the Last Supper) while confessing their shortcomings and asking forgiveness. Where’s the oppression in that? PK advocates humility and responsibility. Who wouldn’t want her husband or boyfriend to be more humble and responsible?

Above all else, PK advocates men taking the role of spiritual leader in their house. Many men are passive or apathetic about God. PK advocates that men pray for their wives and their kids. “My wife comes to me when she has a problem,” that same preacher said. “She doesn’t come to me because I’m a pastor, she comes to me because I’m her husband and she trusts my prayer life. Does your wife trust your prayer life, or must she turn to another?”

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve prayed for girls on a few occasions, with them present. There hasn’t been a one of ’em that didn’t like it. Women like it when a man prays for them.

Most of the women opposed to PK probably don’t understand that this is what PK teaches. Or they may be opposed to any conservative Christian movement.

3 thoughts on “The ten-minute guide to oppressing women

  • August 25, 2002 at 2:32 pm
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    “Conservative Christian group”

    I wonder whether that’s quite the right term? I tend to favour “radical”.

    “Radical” is a term that’s misunderstood and misused these days, and has been since …. oh, even before you you were born, Dave. “Radical” in maths means a root – square root or cube root or whatever. “Radical” in botany means the absolute tip of a growing plant root. “Radical” means going back to your roots – in Christianity it doesn’t mean “new wave” “humanist” – it means “re-formation” – going back to the origins of Christianity.

    “Conservative” in Christianity these days seems to mean “don’t rock the boat” – “go along to get along” – “do it the way it’s been done” – “don’t upset people”.

    “Radical” means “find where we lost the way, go back and pick up the right path again”.

  • August 25, 2002 at 10:02 pm
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    That’s a good question. PK definitely falls in the category of social conservatism, which was what I had in mind when I picked the word.

    But in LCMS circles, the conservatives want nothing to do with PK. Most of the LCMSers who go to PK are considered liberal, myself included.

    I guess “radical” works, but it sounds extreme, and I don’t see PK as extremist.

    Now I’m starting to remember why I’m not very fond of labels.

  • August 25, 2002 at 10:48 pm
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    Well, I would probably enjoy a sermon of the type you described Dave. I’m rather fond of sports and I do believe the man would have definitely had my full attention.

    Thanks for sharing it.

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