Regular guys with promises to keep Men: Meet Glenn, Todd and Dave from Millersville. They're on their way to the Promise Keepers' rally and a day of praying, hugging and fasting. The hard part comes later.

October 04, 1997|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Meet three regular Joes bound for the Promise Keepers' Land this morning. Glenn, Todd and Dave -- who could pass for extras on "Home Improvement" -- will be three dots in a crowd of a half-million or more on the National Mall in Washington.

The trio from Calvary Temple Church in Millersville planned to be on the bus at 9 a.m. With all their hearts and minds, they plan on praying, hugging and fasting from midday to sunset during "Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men."

The rally is the creation of Promise Keepers, a Denver-based evangelical men's group that has become one of the nation's leading religious organizations. It's all happened in just seven years, thanks to essentially white, middle-class, middle-aged, soul-searching guys. Thousands of them have gotten on the bus.

From Anne Arundel County, Glenn Corbin Jr., Todd Bolin and Dave McCreary are their brothers' Promise Keepers. Two nights before their trip south, the men met at Calvary Temple to compare and share notes.

Corbin, a heating contractor, is 44. He's been married 25 years and has three kids. Corbin became a Christian just eight years ago, but credits Promise Keepers for "making me take a hard look at my parenting and husbanding skills."

And what did he see? A man, not unlike his father, who was born busy with work. Work, work, work. Get ahead. "I compared myself to other men and how successful they were. I strove to get a Lincoln," when a compact would have been enough, Corbin says.

Too busy for friends. Too busy to listen to his wife. Too busy for the Bible, he says.

"The whole basis of the Bible is that man is head of the household," he says. "And what Promise Keepers does is to train men to rise up and be leaders in their households."

The game plan

This philosophy is in keeping with the "seven promises" of Promise Keepers and its CEO, Bill McCartney, a former college football coach who now packs stadiums another way. The game plan is this: Men need to honor Jesus Christ, form close friendships with other men, practice moral and sexual "purity," love their wives and kids, support their local churches, overcome racial and denominational prejudice, and encourage other men to follow suit.

Men, McCartney has said, have dropped the ball. Todd Bolin agrees.

"Men have lost their identities," says Bolin, 31, an automotive technician from Severn who got married at 19. He says he didn't learn to become a good husband until Promise Keepers showed him how three years ago.

"My father gave it his best shot, but he just didn't have the best training," says Bolin, a father of three. "I've done a lot of growing up. I'm trying to really listen to what my wife is saying."

He's also trying to "be slow to anger and quick to listen." Yes, Corbin agrees.

That's right, says Dave McCreary, who could pass for Nick Nolte in a generous light. McCreary's stats fit the Promise Keepers profile, too. At 42, he's been married 20 years, has two kids, and works as a concrete construction contractor. He also doesn't seem like the in-touch-with-my-feelings type. But he's a changed man, his wife says.

"He's a better husband," says Anita McCreary, who along with other women are busy nearby, setting up tables for a church function.

A better husband how?

Well, he can show his emotions, she says. Doesn't have to be macho -- "It's OK to cry." By the way, she's not put out because women aren't invited to the Washington event. "Men should have time of their own."

OK, so why not go have a beer or cigar together? Catch a ball game? Why join hundreds of thousands of men for a daylong communal confession, one highlighted by motivational speakers, a call to the altar and a call for donations?

Dave McCreary fields this one. Promise Keepers is much different from, say, playing golf with your buddies -- and these guys do love their golf. You have to experience a PK event to appreciate its spiritual magnitude, he says.

"You get a spirit moving inside you," McCreary says. "It's a rush."

McCreary says Promise Keepers has taught him that men and women are different. Maybe that sounds like a no-brainer, but the distinction isn't always as obvious as it sounds. A Promise Keeper should know the difference.

"You recognize women have certain needs they like to be romanced," McCreary says, as if that's been hard to say for years.

The guys are on the same page on every front. Morality is a mess. Just look at TV, all those soap operas with him and her in this bed and that, McCreary says. And don't get him started on Ted Turner, although it's not quite clear what Turner has done.

Men have been irresponsible, the men say. Men have been poor husbands, poor fathers and brothers. "We're destroying ourselves," Bolin says.

The guys also agree that Promise Keepers is more satisfying than their respective Lutheran and Pentecostal backgrounds. No more rituals and do's and don'ts carved in stone.

"Stiff-collared religions," as Corbin says.

"I'm not interested in religion," Bolin elaborates. "I'm interested in having a relationship with God."

A family affair

Glenn, Todd and Dave have invited their sons to join them for the trip to Washington. Todd haseven asked his father to join him on the bus, but he wasn't hopeful for a father-and-son experience in Washington.

And through Promise Keepers, Dave hopes to become closer to his stepson. Glenn, who chartered the bus, couldn't wait to get rolling.

WK "It will be a renewing of the faith," he says. The ultimate field trip.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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