Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kenneth Zagacki


This study employs a Burkeian critical perspective to explain the growth and impact of the evangelical movement-organization known as Promise Keepers. Specific attention is given to the strategies of identification by which Promise Keepers manages the exigencies of identity, recruitment, and opposition. In addition, this study introduces the concept of the scriptural implant, a strategy of identification by which Promise Keepers attempts to secure the truth and authority of its discourse. Data for this study were selected from a range of sources, including published literature, audio and video tapes, and Internet materials produced by Promise Keepers. Interviews with Promise Keepers' leaders, who occupy national and regional positions of authority, provide additional insight into the rhetorical nature and function of this evangelical movement-organization. This study found that Promise Keepers managed the first exigence by constructing an alternative religious identity which grants followers the power and authority do things other identities, including religious ones, can't or won't do. To manage the second exigence, Promise Keepers' relied on the prior public persona of Bill McCartney, as weil the production of a professionalized system of recruiters and recruitment situations in order to attract and maintain the allegiance of followers. Finally, Promise Keepers managed the exigence of opposition through various metaphoric and scriptural implant strategies of identification, designed to locate the order's place and function within the body of Christ. As a case study in the rhetoric of a religious order, Promise Keepers offers important insight into the discursive practices of contemporary evangelicals, as well as contemporary evangelical movement-organizations in a fragmented, postmodern society.