Christian Men Gather to Support Traditional Beliefs
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) _ The football stadium at the University of Colorado is sold out for tonight’s event, and it has nothing to do with football. It’s 52,000 Christian men, committing themselves to God and their communities.
The gathering is sponsored by Promise Keepers, a group that preaches what it calls a traditional Christian message: opposing abortion, encouraging sexual purity and proclaiming that the man is the leader of the home.
Critics say the group preaches hate.
″It certainly isn’t an appealing message by normal societal standards,″ acknowledged Promise Keepers spokesman Kevin Skattum. ″Without hesitation, we’ll call sin what it is. We certainly realize that all men and women are sinners.″
The group was founded four years ago by Bill McCartney, coach of the Colorado football team. He came up with the idea during a car trip with his friend Dave Wardell.
″I can see stadiums full of men, Christian men coming together to worship,″ Wardell said McCartney told him.
″I said, ‘Sounds good to me coach, how are we going to do this?’ McCartney said, ’I have no idea but I do know one thing: we can pray.‴
Four years later, the prayers have been answered. Conference attendance has jumped from 72 for the gorup’s first conference to 62,800 for a two-day gathering in Indianapolis last month.
The group says it has a full-time staff of nearly 100 and an annual budget of $3 million. It plans to add more regional conferences next year and expects to have 1 million men converge on Washington, D.C., in 1996.
″You’ve seen the downward spiral of morality in this nation,″ said McCartney, Colorado’s coach since 1982. ″It can all be traced to an absence of Almighty God. Men of integrity - promise keepers - are what’s going to turn this thing around.″
McCartney attributes the group’s growth to ″the favor of the Lord.″ Others see a less heavenly force at work.
The National Organization for Women is sponsoring a ″Celebration of Diversity″ in Boulder on Friday and Saturday to provide an alternative to the Promise Keepers rally.
Elaine Cook of Boulder, a long-time civil rights activist, thinks the group is advancing a conservative political agenda. Mary Celeste of the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project said the group wants to subjugate women and discriminates against homosexuals.
McCartney has been criticized for calling on Promise Keepers to ″take the nation for Jesus Christ″ and for describing homosexuality as ″an abomination to Almighty God.″
He made the comment about homosexuality while standing in front of a University of Colorado logo, earning a reprimand from school President Judith Albino.
Wardell said the criticism aimed at McCartney sometimes goes over the top.
″Kids on campus spit at him, flip him the bird, swear at him,″ he said. ″People look at him as some sort of a right-wing fundamentalist bigot.″