"Real Men keep their promises."
I remember that bumper sticker from the 90s when I was a teenager in Texas. I didn't know it was attached to a kind of cult.
This article is 14 years old, and may well have appeared on this site before, but I'd like to reference it anyway because I see parallels, of course.
Excerpted from John P. Bartkowski’s forthcoming book, The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men (Rutgers University Press, 2003)
Careful observers of PK could notice telltale signs of the movement’s decline soon after Stand in the Gap. Just four months after that event, the organization laid off its entire office staff because of its dwindling finances. Armed with the catchy slogan, “Open the gates in ‘98!” PK had decided to drop its conference admission fee of sixty dollars at more than a dozen venues across the nation. The donation–only strategy of fundraising was designed to attract a more economically and racially diverse group of men to PK conferences. PK had long promoted reconciliation among men from different racial, socioeconomic, and denominational backgrounds under the banner, “Break Down the Walls.” Yet, the most significant breaking that took place in 1998 was the financial sort. PK was in desperate need of cash.
The organization’s cancellation of its long–planned millennial march was another sign of its decline. Dubbed “Hope for a New Millennium: Light the Night,” that event was billed as the follow–up march to Stand in the Gap, and was introduced to PK faithful there on the National Mall in 1997. The goal was ambitious—have PK men across America descend on capitol buildings in each of the fifty states at midnight on January 1, 2000. This “Y2K” reprise to 1997’s Stand in the Gap was anticipated to lend even more visibility to the movement. Yet, by early April 1999, the millennial march fell prey to the Y2K bug. Caution apparently being the better part of valor, PK leaders told men to remain home with their families to face what was expected to be a precarious transition to the new millennium. Many wondered if the event had been cancelled primarily because it would have been an embarrassment, a testimony to the falling fortunes of PK.
PK lost much of its newsworthiness soon after laying off its staff and canceling its millennial march. In the blink of an eye, the high–profile media attention PK once enjoyed had evaporated. Gone was coverage of massive PK stadium conferences and the personal testimonials of lives changed that had graced the covers and feature stories of all the nation’s top weekly news magazines. And front–page headlines captured so effectively by the group suddenly became a distant memory. Those left scratching their heads from diminished news coverage would see the writing on the wall with a quick glance at the numbers. The Promise Keepers’ annual budget dwindled from $117 million in 1997 to $34 million in 2001, and its surviving office staff of one hundred—those rehired after the layoff—was a skeleton troupe when compared with the veritable army of three–hundred and fifty that it employed during its heyday.
More convincing yet, the movement’s stadium gate draw became a mere shadow of its former self. Once able to attract more than 50,000 men to each of more than a dozen football stadiums during its “conference season,” the movement adopted the more modest goal of filling convention halls and civic centers of about 15,000. One of the more striking examples of the drought in attendance was found in Minneapolis. PK attracted 62,000 men to the Metrodome in 1995, but could muster only 16,000 men to Minneapolis’s much smaller Target Center in 2000. Similar drops in attendance occurred in other repeat–venues throughout the nation.