Spreading “biblical” hate speech about transgender people apparently got Promise Keepers booted from using a venue at Belmont University for a fall event.
Although details are sketchy and contested, the bottom line appears to be that the evangelical men’s organization — recently relaunched with a strong Christian nationalist emphasis — had booked the Nashville university’s 1,700-seat Fisher Center for the Performing Arts as one of several venues for September “Daring Faith” rallies, described as “an event and challenge for men of integrity.”
On June 20, Promise Keepers publicly accused the Baptist-affiliated university of not living up to its own standards of diversity and inclusion by cancelling the Promise Keepers event — a decision apparently made at least in part because of a social media post from Promise Keepers about gender identity and Pride month.
A Belmont official said the Promise Keepers had published comments that “unnecessarily fan the flames of culture wars and are harmful to members of our community.”
Promise Keepers leaders responded they were just saying “biblical” things a Christian university ought to agree with.
A university statement further explained: “We (are) unequivocal in our belief in the value of each human being, and we are committed to engaging in constructive conversations that demonstrate kindness and seek understanding. We will not knowingly provide a space for any group whose language we believe to lack that same respect.”
That disrespectful language from Promise Keepers appeared on social media and on the group’s website, where a “declaration” was posted to denounce Pride month.
“We will not stand on the sidelines and remain quiet. As fathers, husbands, grandfathers and young men — we see the dangers of gender ideology and the harm it causes,” the post declares. “At Promise Keepers, we affirm that God made human beings in his image to reflect him. He created male and female with equal worth and dignity — and there was no mistake in that design.”
The declaration says modern people “are increasingly confused about their identities” and “children across the United States are actively indoctrinated into intense inner turmoil about who they ‘really are.’”
Promise Keepers believes the Bible “is very clear on this topic,” the statement continues. “And we also see the way gender ideology has damaged lives, mutilated bodies and torn apart families in our own communities.”
The language from Promise Keepers aligns with rhetoric used by evangelical Christians and Republican politicians to push anti-transgender bills in state legislatures across the nation this year. It also closely mirrors a resolution on gender identity adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention last week.
The Promise Keepers declaration asserts that “gender ideology is an idol of our culture and that, as sin, it is poisonous.”
Although these statements from Promise Keepers were alarming to Belmont officials, the president of Promise Keepers characterized the declaration as “a very biblical, sweet, loving statement without anything that any reasonable person would object to.”
PK President Ken Harrison told The Roys Report that while “everyone should feel welcomed and loved” in the church, they must be confronted with, “This is what the Bible says.”
What “the Bible says” on gender identity is highly disputed. Moderates and progressives do not see the Bible addressing transgender identity at all. Conservatives see strict gender roles originating in Genesis and forming the basis of God’s “created order” headed by men.
This theological view, known as complementarianism, permeates the SBC today. Belmont’s own heritage is from the SBC and the Tennessee Baptist Convention, although the university broke away from denominational affiliation some years ago. Belmont’s Nashville campus sits just a few miles away from the SBC’s national headquarters building.
In recent years, Belmont has worked to honor its Christian heritage while expanding to serve an increasingly diverse student body.
Promise Keepers, meanwhile, has moved the other way. Founded in the 1990s as a ministry to encourage Christian men, PK was known for its massive stadium rallies and its October 1997 “Stand in the Gap” assembly on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that drew about 800,000 people.
Two decades ago, the organization appeared to die out, but then it was resurrected in 2021. From the start, its new iteration has been more political, more socially conservative and more outspoken than the original version.
In a 2021 podcast with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, Ken Harrison said liberals and the LGBTQ community are “destroying the identity of the American people” and “Christian men are not standing up for what’s right.”
One of the group’s Nashville board members, who apparently was part of negotiating the original deal with Belmont, is Steve Berger, who was present at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and has been associated with far-right ideologies that led to his resignation as pastor of Grace Chapel in Franklin, Tenn.
Berger also is listed as one of the keynote speakers at the “Daring Faith” rallies.
In response to Belmont cancelling the Promise Keepers event on campus, Harrison and Promise Keepers have gone on the offensive, publicly shaming Belmont for being part of the liberal establishment.
Harrison said: “It’s ironic that a lot of these institutions of higher learning — and a lot of leftist organizations — say they want to have a conversation. Well, here we put out a statement and what do they do? Cancel us and refuse to speak to us. So it goes to show the hypocrisy.”
Belmont officials dispute that description, saying the school’s reasoning “was thoroughly and respectfully discussed, and we believed we reached mutual understanding.”
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