It is difficult to comprehend the alarm bells and hand-wringing with which some quarters greeted news of the massive Promise Keepers rally in Washington, D.C.

For those unfamiliar with Promise Keepers, it is basically a movement for men to make a renewed commitment to their wives, their children and their families. Promise Keepers pledge to love and honor their wives and to recapture the head of the family role traditionally assigned to the father.

The movement is also animated by evangelical Christian faith and by a willingness to reach out to other men to help overcome problems associated with violence, anger, sexual aggression and disintegrating families.

Founded in 1990, Promise Keepers is considered one of the fastest-growing Christian evangelical movements in the United States. Exact membership is difficult to calculate, but some estimate Promise Keepers numbers as many as 1.2 million men in North America.

Although Promise Keepers might be faulted for a spectator-sport approach to faith building, it is curious to note the criticism and fear-mongering its growth has engendered.

Many liberal elements, particularly the National Organization of Women (NOW) in the United States, are fearful of the organization’s emphasis on fathers as the symbolic head of the traditional family. They have also expressed disapproval of Promise Keepers’ unabashed Christianity and its rejection of the homosexual lifestyle.

The movement has aroused suspicion and mistrust among feminist groups who suspect a hidden right-wing political agenda in Promise Keepers, and its founder Bill McCartney.

“The Promise Keepers talk about men taking responsibility but what they
mean is taking charge,” said Patricia Ireland, leader of the National Organization of Women. “I see the Promise Keepers and I am afraid. I am very afraid and I am very angry.”

It is indeed a curious commentary on our times when an organization urging
its members to love and honor their wives, protect their children, share a vibrant faith, and uphold the traditional view of the family, should generate such fear and anger.

And why such anger in the first place? Could it be because the National
Organization of Women is threatened by healthy, stable families which exhibit clear, equal roles for father and mother? Could it be that a re-emphasis on the hierarchical family model is an obstacle to women’s (read liberal women’s) objectives?

The National Organization of Women and its like-minded colleagues cite the need for education to offset the fear and ignorance that so often muddy the social and political waters. Perhaps a little education, coupled with an honest examination of their real motives, is needed on their part.