By Mona Charen, Creators Syndicate, Inc.
August 1995 – Divorce is the next big cultural issue to be faced by this society. After a bit of a rocky start (remember Murphy Brown?), we have now successfully established that unwed parenting is often harmful and destructive. You don’t hear today, as you did five years ago, cheery assurances that single-parent families are part of the “new family structure.” Instead, across the political spectrum, you find acknowledgment that the two-parent family must be restored and strengthened.
But while unwed childbearing took center stage, divorce was relegated to the shadows. Why? Its footprints are everywhere. The application form for my son’s preschool asks for the father’s name, mother’s name, father’s address and mother’s address. When an American pilot is rescued in Bosnia, we find a young man who is every inch the central casting image of the American fl yer, except for one new wrinkle–we hear from his mother and his father separately. Hallmark markets cards for divorced fathers to send to their children.
Divorce is such an accepted part of the national landscape that even cultural crusaders have sometimes held their fi re. To condemn divorce is to rebuke not just strangers but your sister, your cousins, your best friend and yourself.
The wreckage divorce has created in the lives of children is too massive to be denied. Conservatives, particularly those who specialize in thwarting the aims of homosexual activists, must confront the truth that heterosexual divorce creates more havoc in our society than homosexual unions. I don’t believe that homosexuals should have the “right” to marry or adopt children. But if you accept the statistic that homosexuals, gay and lesbian, amount to no more than 1% to 2% of the population – not the 10% they claim – and recognize that the subset of homosexuals who want to be parents is quite small, then their conduct (what ever you think of it) is really peripheral. Arguably, men have benefited from liberalized divorce laws and customs far more than women. For every woman freed from a tyrannical husband, there were 10 men who traded in their 40- something wife for a younger model. And while men’s incomes tend to rise following a divorce, women’s tend to fall.
So it is interesting that the first grassroots anti-divorce movement in America–Promise Keepers–is an exclusively male club.
Founded in 1991 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, Promise Keepers is a cultural, religious movement dedicated to making “godly men.” It’s called Promise Keepers because the men who belong vow to keep their promises, and do their duty, to their wives, their children, their churches and their fellow men.
Just since 1991, when Promise Keepers attracted its first stadium crown of 4,200 in Colorado, membership has ballooned to the hundreds of thousands. Rallies at Seattle’s Kingdome, the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Minneapolis Metrodome and more have attracted men of all ages, races and colors.
Though the movement is fundamentalist Christian and most of the men who attend the rallies are white and politically conservative (judging by a Rocky Mountain News reporter’s spot survey of bumper stickers in the parking lot), speakers at the rallies as well as the group’s leadership are racially integrated.
Bishop Philip Porter, pastor of All Nations Pentecostal Church in Aurora, Colorado, was among the first black churchmen to join Promise Keepers. “It’s going to take a power greater than politics to get us out of the mess we’re in,” he told the Rocky Mountain News.
Newspaper accounts of the Promise Keepers phenomenon always cite criticism from “women’s groups” about the “controversial” nature of the group’s message. The Washington Post did its best to caricature a recent rally in the capital as a touch-feely gabfest for Neanderthals.
Of course, feminists are bound to oppose anything that urges men to become self-confident leaders rather than cringing, guilty representatives of the imaginary “patriarchy.”
But across the country, thousands of wives, children and parents are recognizing that if all men were to do what the Promise Keepers undertake–to be faithful to wife and family, to lead and to support their communities–then most of the social woes we fi nd so intractable would simply evaporate.