Harrison Butker: God’s Emissary

Poor Tim. He has to listen to me come unglued some days, as he did yesterday as we drove to our grandboy’s ballgame. Tim takes the brunt of my rantings whenever someone like Harrison Butker spews their particularly offensive brand of misogyny and patriarchy in the name of Jesus. Tim listens and empathizes but never attempts to defend men like Butker. Mostly because as the father of three daughters, he’s also offended by men who think they have the right to tell women how to live their lives.

As disturbed as Tim and I both were by Butker’s self-serving, self-righteous and yes, misogynistic commencement speech, I can’t help but think that Harrison’s momma had to be utterly mortified. Elizabeth Butker is an accomplished academic, a clinical physicist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute. Lawd, if that was my boy, he’d received the butt-chawing of a lifetime. The sheer arrogance, not to mention ignorance of his speech. Of course, my boy would never be so foolish. He is his father’s son after all, and the older brother to three women who’d Butker him if he dared to diminish them the way Harrison did a nation of women.

I just can’t with these silly men declaring themselves to be God’s emissary any more. “I’m on a mission from God,” says Butker and the Blues Brothers. If God has something to say, some directive I need to follow, I suggest God ought to find a better way to deliver that message than through a book penned, heavily edited, redacted and translated by a bevy of men with personal agendas and ambitions. I know the publishing world too well and how it works to be taken in by all that any longer.

Scripture, like the Constitution, is a living document that is constantly being reinterpreted by flawed humans. I highly suggest one ought to approach both with a lot of curiosity and a heavy dose of concern for the greater good for all humankind. Be wary of any rhetoric device that renders an “us” and “them” worldview.

Harrison Butker could have saved himself a royal ass-kicking had he taken such advice to heart. But for some ungodly reason, he thought an invitation to deliver a congratulatory speech was the perfect moment to dump on everyone, from women to men, from Joe Biden to local Bishops, from Gays to IVF recipents, and any Catholic who doesn’t embrace his particular dogma.

In case you missed it, here’s some highlights from Butker’s speech:

  • “Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values… Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith but at the same time is delusional enough to make the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally. (BTW: there is no such thing a pro-abortion rally. These rallies simply support the autonomy of women.)
  • Autonomy is something Butker doesn’t think women should possess. Women exist only to serve men in Butker’s worldview: “I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you, how many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world. But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.” He goes on to say that he wouldn’t be on center stage were it not for his wife giving up everything she ever thought of achieving and accepting her lot in life as his handmaid: “Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true. But if you ask her today, if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say, ‘heck no.'”
  • Butker warns those who don’t practice an adherence to the Latin Mass (TLM): “I’ve been very vocal in my love and devotion to the TLM and its necessity for our lives…I attend TLM because I believe just as the God of the Old Testament was pretty particular and how he wanted to be worshiped, the same holds true for us today. …The TLM is so essential that I would challenge each of you to pick a place to move where it is readily available.” For my part, I spent two good years of my high school education studying Latin and can still repeat “Gaul est en Europa” but I had no idea that God spoke Latin or wanted to be worshiped only in Latin. In all these years as a woman of dubious faith, God has never once spoken to me in Latin. It all sounds Greek to me.
  • Butker employs the lyrics of Taylor Swift to chastise Catholic priests: “Tragically, so many priests revolve much of their happiness from the adulation they receive from their parishioners, and in searching for this, they let their guard down and become overly familiar. This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time, because as my teammate’s girlfriend says “familiarity breeds contempt.”
  • And lest you think Butker wouldn’t dare attack Bishops, he had this harsh admonishment for them: The chaos of the world is unfortunately reflected in the chaos in our parishes and sadly in our cathedrals, too. As we saw during the pandemic, too many Bishops were not leaders at all. They were motivated by fear: fear of being sued, fear of being removed, fear of being disliked. They showed by their actions, intentional or unintentional, that the sacraments don’t actually matter. Because of this countless people died alone, without access to the sacraments, and it’s a tragedy we must never forget.
  • He went pretty easy on men, likely because he’s got skin in the game, but took a backhand swipe at them: Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities. As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction, and chaos set in….Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men. 
  • But being the arrogant Catholic that he is, Butker couldn’t resist imposing his notions on the use of birth control in any form. Men and women should just learn to deal with however many kids they end up with, or without: “This generation, and this time in our society must stop pretending that the things we see around us are normal. Heterodox ideas abound, even within Catholic circles. Let’s be honest, there is nothing good about playing God with having children, whether that be your ideal number or the perfect time to conceive. No matter how you spin it, there is nothing natural about Catholic birth control.”
  • It was as if Butker was afraid he’d never again get the opportunity to spew all his fundamentalism, patriarchy, white male privilege and misogyny over an audience again (Lord may it be so) thus he had to vomit it all over these graduates. He warned them about the temptations that awaited them: “Sadly, I’m sure many of you know of the countless stories of good and active members of this community who after graduation and moving away from the Benedictine Bubble have ended up moving in with their boyfriend or girlfriend prior to marriage. Some even leave the church and abandon God.” Imagine that. Insert eye roll.

Now I’m not one to want to pile on when a man is down and it’s clear that Butker has done more damage to the NFL and to men in general and to the faith he so piously and arrogantly clings to, so I’ll just end by saying saying Well bless that little ole’ wanker’s prideful heart. Lord God knows he needs it.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of No Perfect Mothers (Mercer University Press).

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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