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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wide right

May 22, 2024

The Kansas City Chiefs kicker’s Christian values message misses mark with flawed theology.

Joe Harris

By Joe Harris

Joe Harris has been the St. Louis reporter for Courthouse News Service since July 2005. He covers the courts in the eastern half of Missouri and all statewide political issues.

Full Disclosure #1: I’m a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I’ve seen Harrison Butker kick more clutch field goals than I can count, and I’ve seen him miss a few too. But I’ve never seen him miss so badly as he did during his commencement speech as Benedictine College last week.

He hit on all the big conservative Christian talking points — women being submissive to men, LGBTQ bigotry and toxic masculinity. As someone who was raised in a devout, liberal (yes there is such a thing), Catholic household, I’m saddened, though not shocked, by Butker’s ideas.

Full Disclosure #2: I have a side gig outside of Courthouse News. In my spare time, I’m a freelance sports reporter. I have covered everything from preps to pro sports in Missouri for 25 years. I’ve been in more locker rooms and talked to more coaches and athletes than I can count and I can tell you this: the dumb jock stereotype is largely a myth. If you have a room of 50 athletes, more than likely you have 50 well thought out opinions on hot button topics.

I don’t know Butker, but I’m willing to bet he’s not dumb. So, I’m willing to give him the benefit that his infamous speech last week at Benedictine was well researched and heartfelt.

Full Disclosure #3: I understand where Butker is coming from because I was a part of the ultra-conservative Christian cult mentality for over a decade. I was a leader in a conservative evangelical church as I rebelled from my liberal upbringing. Thankfully I returned to my roots, but it does give me firsthand insight on the conservative Christian mindset.

One of the biggest misconceptions that those of us on the left have is that our conservative Christian friends are dumb. They aren’t.

Misguided? Yes. Well-meaning? Yes. Can that misguidedness translate into thoughts and attitudes that are bigoted, misogynistic and hateful at times, which are the antithesis of what Jesus stood for? Absolutely.

I’m not angry or even surprised by Butker’s comments. But I am sad for Butker, his wife, his family, his church and all the Christians who have bought into this poisoned theology that comes straight from the pit of hell.

I have no doubt that Butker had good intentions when telling women that their true joy should come only from child bearing and homemaking. I know many good people who agree with him.

They’ve been duped.

Yes, the verses Butker referenced are in the Bible and conservative Christians hold that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God.

Full Disclosure #4: I read the Bible every day. I try to live by its teachings. I believe it is a gift from God and a great source on how to live life to its fullest.

But the Bible is merely a tool and tools aren’t effective if they aren’t used properly. To use this particular tool, one must apply historical and cultural context as well as various studies and books written by theologians to decipher fact from fantasy.

Butker talked about women being deceived by “diabolical lies” that they may find true happiness in their careers rather than in the kitchen.

Since Butker cares so much about the truth, here is a fact he and many other Christians conveniently ignore: the Bible at its base was written by men, for men, at a time when women were regarded as property. This is especially why historical and cultural context must be applied with anything having to do with women’s roles. To not do so leads to what we’ve had for thousands of years — the abuse and subjugation of half our population.

Unfortunately, many Christians consume the Bible in a vacuum. They believe everything fed to them by their pastors and small group leaders. Critical thinking is discouraged and any question of authority is viewed as a sin almost worthy of eternal damnation.

Pastors and priests are flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. Most of them have the best intentions, but elevating them to a spiritual level that is above reproach is dangerous and lends itself to abuse of God’s word.

I’ve heard many sermons talking about a woman being submissive to her husband, but hardly any talking about how women, some of whom were business owners, actually funded Jesus’ ministry. Most theological historians also believe some women were in Jesus’ inner circle — a fact highlighted by the mostly women who stood by Jesus when he was nailed to the cross — but the Bible’s male writers of course couldn’t sell that to their patriarchal society.

The same lies and poisoned theology have been used to ostracize and demonize the LGBTQ community, African-Americans, immigrants, science, Jews, Muslims and any other group or idea that stands as a threat to white male rule.

That’s not how the real Jesus lived or what he stood for. He invited women, those who did not adhere to sexual norms and anyone else deemed not good enough by society’s standards to his table.

Numerous polls have shown that church attendance is down and has been steadily decreasing over decades. Conservative Christians are quick to blame “the culture” or the “liberal media.”

But I think it is simply that there are many more people like me who believe in Jesus and then read their Bibles, asked tough questions, sought tougher answers and came to the conclusion that there is a disconnect between the Jesus we follow and the thoughts, beliefs and actions of people like Butker. We see leaders and people we love tie Jesus with the hate and intolerance of Trump’s Republican Party, and we can’t reconcile the hypocrisy.

As a result, we look for God in other places such as nature and meditation. And He finds us. I’ve felt closer to God during meditation than I ever have in a church.

Butker had a chance to use his platform to make a real statement. God knows those of us still clinging to Jesus in an era where Christian nationalism seems to be more important than the Gospel could certainly use one.

Instead, he booted it wide right.

Go Chiefs.

Follow @@joeharris_stl
Categories / Op-Ed, Politics, Religion, Sports

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