Promise Keepers on the Mall

Promise Keepers on the Mall

Many readers of Dissent may associate mass demonstrations in Washington with liberal or radical gatherings such as the 1963 civil rights march or later protests against U.S. intervention in Indochina and Central America. But political and cultural conservatives have an equally established tradition of rallying in the capital. In 1979, for instance, Jerry Falwell’s “I Love America” rally at the Capitol served as a prelude to the founding of the Moral Majority. And because Washington represents the “geographic soul of America,” Bill McCartney, founder and CEO of Promise Keepers (PK), chose the Mall as the site for “Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men” on October 4, 1997.

Not since scandal brought down Jim Bakker and the PTL (Praise the Lord) Club a decade ago has a conservative religious group received as much concentrated media coverage as Promise Keepers in the week before the assembly. Thus PK’s emergence provides an opportunity to evaluate current trends among theologically conservative Protestants, the latest tactical turns by the Christian political right, the quality of reporting and punditry about these matters, and the left’s response.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels