Years ago, way back in 1997, I went to an event in DC called Stand in the Gap. It was organized by an evangelical Christian organization called Promise Keepers. Their goal was a “sacred assembly of men,” a million or more strong, aiming to be the biggest national gathering for repentance before God since the days of Judah’s King Josiah, several millennia prior.
The lineup featured a number of speakers I respected. On a whim, I hopped on a Metro downtown to check it out. The Mall was packed, the assembled crowd stretching from the steps of the Capitol all the way behind the Washington Monument. If you know me, you know I can't sit still very long - so I spent most of the day walking laps around the edge of the event. It probably took 90 minutes or so per lap, just from navigating through the sheer mass of people - but I walked the circumference three, maybe four times, took in the entire event, and pretty much saw all there was to see. If it wasn’t a million people, it was probably a million and a half. (I've been with 100,000+ at the Horseshoe, and this was at LEAST an order of magnitude greater.)
Sometimes I’d just pause to listen, other times I’d listen while walking. I can’t claim to remember the exact words of all the speeches, of course. But I clearly remember the theme and content consistently delivered through the event. One after the other, prominent speakers called men to accountability for the breakdown in the family structure across our nation; to grieve that divorce was as prevalent in the Christian community as in culture at large; that men needed to honor their covenant commitment before God to their wives; to focus on building their marriage and loving their families as much as they did building their careers or pursuing their hobbies. I specifically remember African-American pastor Dr. Tony Evans delivering a fiery challenge to the black men in audience, citing statistics on households without men - but challenging all men, that if they intended to sleep with her, they better be willing to marry her, honor her, treasure her, and be there to raise their sons to do the same. I saw lots of men, of all races and ethnic backgrounds, weeping, repenting, asking God to forgive them for their selfish actions. And I saw lots of wives and girlfriends weeping right alongside them. I saw this for hours, walking the perimeter lap by lap. I left feeling I had experienced a powerful day of spiritual renewal, along with a million or so others.
One thing I didn't experience was protestors. Well, I guess on one lap around I saw a single group of 4 or 5 angry looking women, chanting together with signs and t-shirts, in one spot, on the very edge of the activities. (I also saw a few stand-in-the-gappers graciously provide them cold beverages.) That was it. By the next lap, the protestors were gone.
Of course it never occurred to me that day to expect any protestors. Nothing I experienced was remotely anti-women, or anti-anything-else for that matter. Unless you count anti-self-absorption. While I didn’t hear every word spoken from the PA system, the event themes were pretty obvious, as evidenced by the tens and probably hundreds of thousands of men I personally witnessed throughout the day crying out for God’s forgiveness for falling short and behaving selfishly in their marriages and families.
Imagine my surprise the next day, during an email exchange with a Midwestern cousin, to discover how horrified she was that I had been in DC for the event. “I’d have never imagined you going to an anti-woman protest like that!” She had been reading the articles and watching the coverage. There were protestors everywhere and things were probably going to get ugly. The purpose of the march was for men - no, for privileged middle-class heterosexual white men - to band together against modern feminism and perpetrate oppressive Victorian-era subjection of women! Fortunately, there were only a hundred thousand of these neanderthals who actually showed up, not the million the organizers hoped for - but women ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE were outraged (and the African American community was suspicious too!) “I just don’t see you being at such a hateful event!?” my cousin bemoaned.
In other words, her media feeds were all reporting on a completely different event than the actual one I attended.
I didn’t understand the full extent of the “game” going on at that point - but my eyes were fully opened. Was that the blue pill or the red pill that I just took? I’m not sure. But that was clearly the day they lost their ability to tell me what I should think (or shame me if I wouldn't.)
(My cousin and I figured it out pretty quickly, by the way, and got along just fine after. I pray you do, too.)
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