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  • Writer's pictureLuke Johnston

A Protestant Response to Harrison Butker’s Commencement Address

I wouldn’t normally wade into a debate involving Catholic theology, professional athletes, and Taylor Swift. Nevertheless, the intense response to Chief’s kicker, Harrison Butker, has been a sobering reminder of just how alien and hostile Orthodox Christian beliefs have become in our culture. Therefore, as a pastor, Kansas City native, and Chiefs fan, I pray my words will offer some clarity and insight into the points he addressed.
One section of Butker’s speech appears to have caused the most pushback. This is when he addresses the women in the crowd and tells them that they have been lied to most prominently in our nation. What is the lie? That titles, careers, and degrees are equally important, if not more important, than being a mother/homemaker. He goes on to tell the woman that many of them are likely more excited about being a spouse/mother than their degree (being a Catholic college).
The fact that this statement has struck such a nerve of hostility toward Butker tells us where modern feminism has taken the majority culture. In an attempt to make all things equal between men and women – our society has made career an idol. (This is true among both men and women). Therefore, the building up of the nuclear family has taken a back seat to the aspirations of female achievement. This has been the case for some time now and has created a series of problems for families in our society.
I believe Butker was trying to make the point that as you earn degrees and chase a career, do not let titles or success become more important than being a spouse or a parent. This is true for both men and women. Christianity has long taught that there is a hierarchy of calling into which God has designed for us.
First, we are called to serve God and advance the kingdom as Christians (Matthew 28: 16-20). Second, if married, we are to serve our spouse and support them and the marriage (Ephesians 5). Third, if we have children, we are called to minister, support, and nurture them (Ephesians 6:4). Fourth, we are called to our profession (1 Thessalonians 4:11). In all this our career is subordinate to God, our marriage, and our children. For the Christian, a career is a means to an end. Chiefly, it is to serve the higher callings of kingdom advancement and support of family. This, of course, can come in a variety of professions. The world needs Godly plumbers, clerks, lawyers, janitors, professors, nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. For the Christian, whatever their career, they are to do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
This does not mean that all women should get married and be mothers (or men be fathers). Marriage and parenting is a high and specific calling. Still, it is not for everyone (1 Corinthians 7:8). Following Christ and bringing Him glory, on the other hand, is the primary calling for all people.
Butker wants his hearers to understand that if you are a mother/homemaker, it is a higher calling than one’s profession. In this sense, it is a mistake even to call ‘mother’ or ‘spouse’ a profession. It is not just a job or responsibility but a specific, essential calling to advance Christ’s kingdom. We should not sacrifice or undermine this calling for anything. If your career gets in the way of being a spouse or parent – change your career. The same is true if it compromises your faith and witness.
Again, this does not mean that women shouldn’t pursue meaningful careers. They should! The Christian perspective is that this career should not supersede the calling of marriage or childrearing (the same is true for men).
  I agree with Butker that we should encourage men and women to get married, have a family, join a church, and significantly impact the world for Christ. The nuclear family is the bedrock of a society. When a family operates as the Bible prescribes, it is a powerful and excellent tool for the kingdom of God. In this way, Butker is right to point out that there has been an attack of lies against families and traditional values.
We need more men and women who put God first, their families second, and their careers third. This will only create a better world, with better communities and better employees/businesses.
All of this is to say that those who disagree with Butker on these points do not merely disagree with him or Catholic values; they disagree with two thousand years of orthodox Christianity founded on the very words of Christ and His apostles.
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May 17

Very well said! As one who raised children as a single parent and as a mom with a career, I can affirm that our family's story, far from contradicting Butker's points, affirms exactly what many find most controversial. I'm thankful for a graduation speaker that will swim against the tide with Christ's truth, and for your extension illustrating God's design for Christ-ward priorities!

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