Bill McCartney is an enigma to folks within religious circles and without. Founder of the men's ministry Promise Keepers, he is a man whose religious fervor is both admitted and looked upon with suspicion. Some see him as the archenemy of feminism; others dismiss McCartney and PK as the latest fuzzy fad for the therapeutic culture. While many Christians see him in revivalistic terms—the latest great hope for the church—others are disquieted by his radical sold-outness. Is his spiritual intensity, they wonder, just one more manifestation of an impulsiveness and extremism that have been McCartney's trademark for years?
In his recent autobiography Sold Out, McCartney appears to have attempted an end-run on his critics by being the first to own up to a lifetime of failings and foibles. "Tucked away in the folds of my life are countless episodes that coldly strip away the mystique and pretense of what some think of me," he writes. He calls himself a "highly flawed, ordinary man who has made it through only with the help of an extraordinary God."
There is a certain drop-dead seriousness about McCartney that comes through despite his polite congeniality. One gets the sense that even while McCartney is listening, he is anticipating where the conversation will go next, keeping ahead of the game, getting ready to call the next play. Although he is ever the gentleman, he still plays hardball.
I begin to gain some firsthand clues to how McCartney operates when he reaches over and turns off my tape recorder during an interview with him and his wife, Lyndi. I'd asked about PK's curiously elusive position on gender equality in light of the group's clarion call for racial equality. His marriage, not PK, was to be the focus of the ...1
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