Reacting To What People Say, Not What They Don’t

Harrison Butker became the National Outrage of the Week this week with his viral comments in a commencement speech at Benedictine College regarding topics like women and homemaking.

To absolutely no one’s surprise who is familiar with social media, much of the volatile reaction is directed at comments he did not make. It’s my goal here, as has been the goal of Rambling Ever On since our inception (as we have stated numerous times), to bring some James 1:19 to the conversation. It is a core value of ours to be slow to speak (or in our case, write or post), slow to get angry, and quick to listen. Americans with internet platforms big and small quite often do the opposite in their reaction to news.

So I dive right in by highlighting some parts of his speech that seem clear to me that what he is saying is not controversial at all, at least among those who value the biblical nuclear family. You can read the entire speech in context here. Yet I quote him in the sections that have created the most unhealthy conversation online:

For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives.

Harrison Butker

First, he congratulates the women graduates on graduating. Even to be proud of it. If you read much of what is on social media, you may believe he told women their place wasn’t in academia or the professional world, but only in the home. “Get back to the kitchen where you belong” is how it has been framed by more than a few people with sizeable followings. This is a gross misrepresentation, as we will continue to see.

How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world…

Harrison Butker

He contrasts this with women who look forward to getting married and having kids, something all denominations of Christianity highly value (this being a Catholic school and Butker being Catholic himself). Yet he does not contrast them in a right vs. wrong way. He does not say, or even imply, that the former “successful career” in areas like “promotions and titles” is evil. Whatsoever. In case that is not obvious, he clears that up well by adding this:

…it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.

Harrison Butker

If Butker is claiming Christian women shouldn’t enter the workforce instead of having families, why would he say “one of the most important titles”? He doesn’t seem to be communicating this. He also got applause for 18 seconds after saying this, proving that many in his audience were thinking more of marriage and motherhood than career.

Rather, he is communicating something conservative Christianity believes and has taught for thousands of years. Something that does make people supremely angry in modern countries like America because they’ve followed the teachings of people like Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud, and Marx to their logical end and reject Genesis 1-2. He is exalting motherhood to its rightful place in a society increasingly devaluing it. His wife chose motherhood over career because she could (and not everyone can). Yet he is also not needlessly bashing women working. I find his approach to be nuanced and wise.

I even write this as a man whose wife works full-time as a teacher. I have written hundreds of words over the years about how important her job is in this crucial area of ministering to American youth. Yet it should not even be remotely controversial for me to say, since my wife is married and we have two children, that her role at home is more important.

I hasten to add that I realize that women have often been subject to misogyny and prejudice in American and world history to alarming levels. And that women working has created fights and division within conservative Christianity, often to our shame and detriment. I want to be as empathetic to that as I can as I write this.

Harrison Butker is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, yet the reactions to his recent speech at a Catholic College have given him more fame than any Super Bowl kick.

Yet those truths do not mean we must disagree in our reactions with Butker here, based on exactly what he says. We can bring those things up and speak about our emotions and experiences. But to me, it is unfair to infer from his words anything negative about professional women, in and of the topic itself.

He never says, or implies, that all women belong in the kitchen.

He never attacks the mere idea of women in the workforce.

He never claims Christian women cannot live fulfilled or God-honoring lives outside of the home.

To me, he is unequivocally attacking the idea that motherhood (like all of the biblical roles of family) isn’t essential to a healthy society. And that America has been on a decades-long march in many influential institutions to brainwash us into believing this.

Butker goes on to talk about men and there was some controversy there as well. But the complaints are so similar I think it suffices to say that the same holds true: nothing he says about men and leadership and masculinity is controversial in reaction to good biblical interpretation. It’s only controversial if you despise the Bible, or at least ignore it.

There is much more that could be said about the speech (his words on birth control sounded like something I disagree with, yet there are those I know and respect who do agree, assuming I understood him correctly), but I aim to be succinct here and not get bogged down in details. Everyone deserves for others to react to what they say, not what they do not. For others to be slow to react harshly to their words.

Because James 1:19 is just as biblical as Genesis 1-2.

Gowdy Cannon

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married over 8 years and have a 4-year-old son, Liam Erasmus, and a baby, Bo Tyndale. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chick-fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

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