Monday, May 20, 2024

It’s Monday, May 20, 2024. 

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Harrison Butker, the Latest Heretic to Our Modern Secular Age: The Left in a Rage After Butker’s Commencement Address to Benedictine College

Most colleges would like to think that every once in a while someone would take note of a commencement address given at the college. That’s usually not the case, and especially it’s rare that you would have, say, a commencement address given at a small Catholic institution in rural Kansas make national headlines, but that’s exactly what happened in recent days when Harrison Butker, three-time Super Bowl champion kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, went to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and delivered a commencement address.

Now, in one sense, the college knew that some kind of controversy was likely to happen, and that’s because Harrison Butker had given a commencement address a year ago at Georgia Tech, that’s his alma mater and where he played also on the football team. On that occasion, Harrison Butker had also articulated a conservative Catholic understanding of marriage and the family and had encouraged the young people at Georgia Tech to understand the priority of being husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and he underlined the fact that there are different roles for men and women. That was Georgia Tech, and that was then. This is Benedictine College, and this is now.

Now, putting it all together. It is clear that the national media may have been, in one sense, just waiting for this. On the other hand, it’s also true that Harrison Butker took the opportunity to make headlines, knowing that he was likely to do so. Now, don’t hear that as a word of criticism in the case of what he actually said in his commencement address. What you have here is traditional Catholic understandings of marriage and the family. Traditional Catholic understandings of the roles of men and women are made quite clear in the context of an address to young people graduating from college.

Now, we’re going to take a closer look at what he actually had to say, but I want to go further and just point out that even as the positions, the ideas, the convictions that Harrison Butker had articulated in this address are distinctively Catholic in the sense of not being secular. They’re also very much in consistency with biblical Christianity, which is to say, in this sense, biblically minded Protestants actually are pretty close to being in total agreement with Harrison Butker as a traditionalist Roman Catholic on these questions.

Now, obviously, there are some distinctions, but the main thrust is that Harrison Butker dared to say that men and women are different and have different roles, and in particular, he gained headlines because he spoke to the distinctive role of women in particular and speaking to the fact that they wanted, in the main, to be wives and mothers and that he would just say that out loud basically, and it was something he meant to affirm, and in a fairly frank and friendly way. Harrison Butker pretty much got right to the controversy very early in his address and just consider these pointed comments.

He spoke of COVID as a background in which many larger moral issues loomed, “Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as growing support for degenerate cultural values in media all stem,” He said, “from the pervasiveness of disorder.” Then he went on to say, and I quote again, “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.” He went on to say, “He’s been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.” He goes on to say, “He is not alone.”

Now, something very interesting is going on here, and it’s a very important rhetorical strategy. It’s important, we decode, for a moment, what’s going on here. Harrison Butker is in trouble, especially among liberal Catholics, because he dares to say, just follow me here, that there are good Catholics and bad Catholics. The good Catholics are those who hold to Catholic doctrine and live lives in consistency with that doctrine. The bad Catholics, he doesn’t use the term, but that’s exactly what he’s saying here, defy church doctrine in their policies, in their understanding, in their positions, and in their lives, and yet they claim to be practicing Catholics and, sometimes, are often described simply by their activity as faithful Catholics.

Now, I have to hold out a caveat here that sometimes the way the Catholic Church deals with these things is a part of the confusion because you also have major Catholic leaders who want to speak of someone like President Biden, as the nation’s most prominent Roman Catholic. When it comes to that kind of confusion, honestly, you can’t have it both ways. But Harrison Bunker is making a serious point here, and this is where we need to understand that this is not just a Catholic issue. Here, the Kansas City Chief’s kicker is pointing to the president of the United States, who is famously, by his own self-identification over and over again, he identifies as a Catholic to his own political advantage, but he is basically living in defiance of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. So much so that, as we discussed on The Briefing a matter of weeks ago, prominent American Catholic leaders, including archbishops, have raised the question as to exactly how the Catholic Church should respond to a Joe Biden.

But let’s just go on and say that Harrison Butker’s main point was not to speak about President Biden as interesting, frankly, as that was, but to speak to the graduates of Benedictine College, and here again, he dared to be a heretic of sorts, at least in terms of modern secularism, because he did speak to the graduates. But I think what many in the media have missed as, they’ve gone after what they believe to be controversial comments. I think he did something extremely significant when he dared even to address the graduates as ladies and young gentlemen, and he was speaking to men and women with a different reference, and that’s something that’s basically politically incorrect these days.

But Harrison Butker did so intentionally, and remember, he did so last year in a secular context at Georgia Tech, but now in a Catholic context, he basically took the gloves off, and he did speak to young women and young men. It’s his comments to the women, the young women graduates of Benedictine College. Those comments have attracted the majority of the outrage, the cultural attention, the media fascination. Let’s just pause for a moment and look at what he said to the young women graduates of Benedictine College.

What is it that made people so angry? Butker said, “For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all you have achieved to this point in your young lives.” He went on to say, “I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you.” Let’s just pause there for a moment. Say, “Let’s understand what’s going on here.” An NFL kicker, a professional football player, went to a Catholic school and dared to speak to the women graduates of that small Catholic school in terms of Catholic doctrine, and he went on to tell them that they have been the subject of lies. You have had the most diabolical lies told to you. He then said, “How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career?”

He went on to say, “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.” He went on then to speak as a tribute to his wife Isabel. But here’s the point I want to make. This is a daring comment. This is a very courageous speech, and by the way, he’s either right or he is wrong, and I’m going to say that in the main, he’s emphatically right, and what got him into trouble was the fact he spoke to the young women, and then he didn’t say this on the basis of his experience. He said he wanted to speak to them, and he wanted to speak candidly about the fact that he would “venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

Then going on to pay tribute to his wife, without whom he said he couldn’t accomplish what he accomplishes, and she has this unique vocation or calling as his wife and as the mother of their children, and that’s the preoccupation of her life. What Harrison Butker did, as a professional football player, was to say specifically to women graduates of this Catholic college that professionalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That quite frankly, he would utter the heresy in terms of the modern secular world of saying that being a wife and a mother is, in the long run and in the Christian frame or the Catholic frame, as he was speaking specifically, it is a more important thing. Yet, I think what really aggravated people, I had to go back and read this several times and I listened to his comments.

As I listened, it was clear in his voice that what he was saying is, he really believes this is so, and I’ll go on to say I think he’s right. I believe that it’s so too, and what he was saying here is basically, he was authorizing the young women who were graduating from college not to believe that they were going to find their ultimate satisfaction in that profession, no matter its achievements, no matter its hallmarks. He spoke of a longing, which, by the way, is often something that women speak about. Young women, as well as older women speak about, this longing in terms of marriage and children, but it takes priority. That’s the issue, isn’t it? Because if you give yourself, for many years, to a profession as a young woman, you are basically, in many ways, cut out of at least a full-time attentiveness to being a wife and a mother.

Now, I’m not saying that such things are impossible. That’s beyond the conversation today. I’m just saying that I think Harrison Butker got himself into big trouble here by saying something that’s not only controversial, but I think something that’s basically true, especially when he spoke of yearnings. A transcript of his remarks makes clear he wasn’t being absolutely didactic. He wasn’t telling young women to go home. He didn’t say, “Abandon your careers.” His own mother is a research scientist, as it turns out, but he is emphatically underlining the fact that there is a superior vocation to any secular earthly profession.

He spoke of this, particularly in language to women, and this gets to something that the Christian worldview addresses very naturally. By the way, speaking of naturally, nature emphatically reminds us of, and that is that even though men and women are equally made in the image of God, we have different vocations. Those different vocations are actually reflected even in the conjugal union of marriage. Those different vocations are reflected in the fact that men to be husbands and fathers, are playing a very different role than women to be wives and mothers. Quite frankly, children, quite naturally, know the difference.

Part II

Creation Order Leads to Human Happiness: But Harrison Butker’s Words to the Young Men and Women at Benedictine College Led to Outrage

Now, before he went on to speak to the young men in similarly strong and clear language, consistent with Catholic teaching and, as I will say consistent, with the Christian worldview in this very clear sense, he went on to speak of birth control, and he spoke of heterodox ideas that abound even within Catholic circles. He went on to be very clear about his affirmation of Catholic teaching concerning artificial birth control. So he said that, and that makes very clear the priority of children. But then he moved on to speak to the gentlemen, the young male graduates, the young men, and he said this, “To the gentlemen here today, 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. This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we all see.”

But it’s important now to recognize that when Harrison Butker spoke to these young men, he didn’t say, “You don’t have a vocation in the home.” As a matter of fact, he underlined the fact that men do have a vocation in the home. That’s something that’s also counter-cultural. He didn’t say to the women, “You simply go home and men, you go into the world.” He reflected the priority of the home, but he went on to talk about the role of men in society, and I’ll concede the fact, he made some very strong statements here, and yet I think these are very strong statements that are also basically true and, frankly, fairly urgent in the society, but they’re so politically incorrect, you can understand why, in this case, it’s probably the case that some people were more or less just waiting for him to get to these things in order that they could produce salacious headlines.

I’m not saying the headlines aren’t newsworthy in this case because, quite frankly, if you have someone with the status of being so well-known as an NFL Super Bowl champion three-times, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, who shows up to speak about things this candidly and to do so in any kind of theological frame, when it comes to Butker, of course, he’s a Roman Catholic, that’s the point. 

But we need to recognize that if someone just stands up and says there is a right order, a creation order to society, and honoring that leads to human happiness and dishonoring that leads to all kinds of human injury, you’re going to find yourself in trouble. I think it’s fair to say that Harrison Butker knew that he was using very strong language, was making very strong assertions, and was likely to get this kind of headline response.

But you have to wonder how many young men on a college campus would dare to say anything close to this. Not only, you have to wonder how many of them would dare to say anything close to this, to say, a mixed company of young men and young women. How many would actually say this, just as young men to young men? And obviously, I’m not in a position to answer this question, I have to wonder how many of the young women who were in that crowd that day actually, in moral and personal terms, resonated with what Harrison Butker had to say. I wonder how many of them would be absolutely castigated by many of their friends, perhaps even some in their family, and would be isolated for all kinds of ridicule and scorn if they said, “On that issue of yearning, he’s pretty much absolutely right.”

Now, Harrison Butker went on to speak of other things, such as the traditional Latin mass, that are of interest to conservative Catholics. I’m going to let them deal with that, I’m simply going to say, when you look at this, you recognize, this headline news story that got so much attention over the weekend really is worthy of some of our attention, and frankly, the content of this speech, and in many paragraphs, the exact wording that Harrison Butker used here reflects a lot of thought and, frankly, a lot of courage. Sometimes I think we are absolutely shocked to see obviously true things said in public because they aren’t said very often. I’ll also be honest and say, as much as I address these issues myself and so many other Christians do as well, I think we have to acknowledge that there’s a certain knowledge that blowback is going to come even from some Christian circles, and that includes Protestant evangelical circles where, quite frankly, this kind of thing is treated as a Neanderthal recidivism.

It is also interesting, if predictable, that some people, particularly in the culture and maybe more, even specifically, in the liberal media, called for action to be taken by the Kansas City Chiefs to repudiate perhaps even to fire Harrison Butker, to do something about this, “You can’t allow this kind of thing to be said by someone who wears your team’s uniform.” It’s also clear that on the team there are at least some, including the wife of the owner of the team who evidently is not ready to let Harrison Butker go. 

It’s also interesting to look at this and recognize some of the media, such as Mike Freeman at USA Today. They are basically just so infuriated by what Harrison Butker had to say that he went on to ask, “Really, did I slip and fall into a time machine and travel back to the 1950s?” No, it’s not the case that there’s a time machine. We’ve fallen back to the 1950s. The problem is that, and by the way, Mike Freeman makes this point indirectly, if not directly, by the time you abandon biblical manhood and womanhood, the understanding of marriage and the family, that is the inheritance of Christianity by common grace, by special revelation in creation order. It’s all there. When you get to that point, you’re going to abandon pretty much everything, which is exactly what someone like Mike Freeman celebrates, give up marriage, redefine marriage, sexuality, sexual rules, LGBTQ, the gender revolution, all the rest. You see, the problem isn’t just that someone like Harrison Butker said, “We can’t go all the way in the sexual revolution.” He actually said there’s some absolute rules. There are some absolute truths. But if there are absolute rules and if there are absolute truths, and you and I as Christians know that there are such rules and there are such truths, and thus we are accountable to them, they’re real. 

It’s as simple as that.

Part III

A Parable of Our Secular Age: Larry Hogan Makes 180 Degree Turn on Abortion for Political Expediency

But next, I want to turn to the fact that we now know what the senatorial election is shaping up to be in Maryland in November. After Maryland’s primary, we know that the two candidates that are going to be running to fill the slot of retiring U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, they’re going to be Angela Alsobrooks, who is the county executive of Prince George’s County, and the recently retired former two-term governor of the state of Maryland, Republican Larry Hogan.

So those are the two nominees they’re going to face off against one another, but that’s not really the big news. The big news is simply on the side of Larry Hogan, who, in the course of the last several days, has basically done a 180-degree turn on the issue of abortion. So when you have Larry Hogan running for governor twice, he was the 62nd governor of the state of Maryland from 2015 to 2023. Larry Hogan was understood to be kind of vaguely pro-life, but he has now come out entirely and in what he claims is consistently pro-choice. He recognizes that this is a change, although he’s arguing that there’s a basic continuity in his position, but the national media and the local media there in Baltimore and in Maryland, they’re able to document pretty carefully, pretty quickly the fact that this is a massive shift for Larry Hogan, and it is one that is political in its nature, completely explained by the fact that in his perception, to get elected to the United States Senate, statewide election, there in Maryland, he’s going to have to be, basically, in his view, pro-choice.

Hogan gave an interview to the New York Times last week, and he said that he’s in favor of going back to the status quo that was represented by the Roe v. Wade decision. So what he means is that there could be some limited restrictions on abortion, but in the main, a woman would have an unrestricted right to abortion throughout much, if not most, of her pregnancy, and effectively, under the regime of Roe, it was very difficult to have any meaningful limitations on abortion. They were certainly challenged. But the point here is that he now describes his own position as a pro-choice position, and he went on to say that this should be a matter between a woman and her doctor, which is another way of saying that regardless of the fact that technically, what he’s at least saying he supports is a return to Roe. If he says no one should come between a woman and her doctor, that basically is a rejection, at least by logic of any legal restrictions on abortion whatsoever.

Now, I want to be careful that isn’t exactly what former Governor Hogan contended for, but in this 180-degree return, and that’s the way some political observers in Maryland are noting this. The fact is, this is a radical change, and quite frankly, his position opens the barn door wide open when it comes to legalized abortion. For Christians, this is just a massively important issue. What could be more important than the sanctity and dignity of human life, including the unborn life in the womb? This tells us something about the political moment.

It is clear that just about everyone in Maryland saying, “If he wants to win, he’s going to have to abandon any kind of pro-life position.” As a matter of fact, the big argument in the state of Maryland about former Governor Hogan’s announcement is whether it’s credible, whether people are going to believe him. He himself said, “I guess we’ll see in the election if people believe me.” But he’s trying to argue this is a basic continuity. He’s actually not just running with some kind of quiet support now for abortion rights. He understands evidently, and has made the calculation that if he’s going to win, he’s going to have to win largely because of his support for abortion rights.

Now, for Christians, this is a wake-up call, not just in Maryland, but I mentioned this development precisely because we’re going to see more of these sellouts. We’re going to see more and more politicians who said they were with us when the going was easy on abortion, and now that the going is hard, all of a sudden 180-degree turns, all of a sudden they’re saying things they never said before. And they’ve made a calculation, it’s a political calculation, and at the pragmatic level, they’re either right or wrong. But we as Christians can’t think only in those pragmatic terms. We take them into consideration, their background and foreground issues for us in terms of at least understanding the landscape. But quite honestly, you’re talking here about former Governor Hogan basically abandoning all conviction on this issue. He’s making a purely pragmatic decision, and at least some around him are pretty much honest. That’s exactly what’s going on.

For Christians, this should show us that, on the one hand, it’s just good to know we’ve got nowhere to go. It’s just good to be reminded of the fact that we can’t do a 180 on this issue because we really do believe what we say, and that is that every human life is sacred, and deserves our respect from the moment of fertilization until natural death. That means we cannot violate our consciences regardless of the political context, and quite honestly, we can’t continue to respect politicians who turn on a dime on this issue and turn out to have had no deep convictions whatsoever. They were willing to say things that would get pro-life votes until all of a sudden they made the decision, “There aren’t enough pro-life votes. I’m going to go for the pro-abortion votes.” That’s exactly what you’re looking at here, and quite honestly, no one’s with a straight face trying to even argue that’s not what’s going on.

But quite honestly, in terms of the response to former Governor Hogan’s 180-degree turn on this issue, what’s perhaps most interesting and most troubling is the fact that there’s so many people in the state who are saying, “That’s just not good enough.” In other words, you have the person who’s going to be running against him. You have Angela Alsobrooks, who won the Democratic nomination. She’s saying, “Look, this isn’t adequate support for abortion.” So that just shows you how, on the left, they’re going for broke on the abortion issue. They think they have the wind at their back.

So, even if someone like Larry Hogan abandons any kind of pro-life position for basically “pro-choice,” he would say, or a pro-abortion position, even that’s not going to be good enough. You’re going to have to come out in avid support of abortion. You’re going to have to come out and basically say that abortion is a moral good, or you’re going to have to just refuse to acknowledge any morality to the situation whatsoever and just reduce it, like the pro-abortion movement insists on reducing it, to a matter between a woman and her doctor as if there are no moral considerations, and there’s no other party of consideration at all.

But there’s another response to Hogan’s announcement that’s worthy of our attention. This one comes from Ed Kilgore, a political columnist. He’s writing in New York Magazine, and his article is entitled “Larry Hogan and the Lost Tradition of Pro-Choice Republicanism.” He makes the point that if you go back to the early 1970s, support for abortion among Democrats and Republicans, for instance, in the Senate, was basically equal, something like 40% of Republicans and 40% of Democrats fully supportive of abortion, some opposed, and others somewhere in between. That’s not unfair.

If you go back to the early 1970s, quite honestly, you’re going to find some pro-abortion Republicans, and you’re going to find some pro-life Democrats. But the point is, we’re not in the 1970s. By the time this issue has worked its way through the political process, through successive elections, and in particular, presidential elections every four years, you go through the moral and legal constitutional transformations of the United States over the course of, say, the period from 1970 to the present. Take that 50 years. Here’s the bottom line. As you do look at that period, the two parties now have fundamentally different identities on these basic issues, and that includes abortion.

Frankly, it’s really hard to imagine right now anyone close to prominence in the Democratic Party or statewide election in most states in the Democratic Party who’s not avidly pro-abortion, and I didn’t say pro-choice, and I intentionally didn’t say pro-choice. I mean pro-abortion, and frankly, it’s hard to imagine, or at least it was until maybe we need to wonder about it today, at least over the course of the last several decades, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine someone getting close to leadership in the Republican Party who isn’t pretty consistently pro-life, at least in terms of declared position. Now, is President Trump running for reelection, changing all that? Is the Republican Party going to change on this issue? Is it the case that Larry Hogan is now a sign of the future? Is this a pattern others are going to follow? We’ll have to see, and we’re going to have to watch this issue very closely.

Part IV

An Unstable, Dangerous Part of the World Just Got More Unstable and Dangerous: Iran’s President and Other Leaders Appear to be Dead After Helicopter Crash

But today I also want to recognize, as we close The Briefing, that big news came from Iran just last night with the indication that Iran’s president is believed to have died in a very significant helicopter crash that also took the lives, it is believed, of many other Iranian leaders, and so we need to recognize this as a major news story, and quite frankly, this is something that is likely to capture a great deal of the world’s attention over the next several days.

Now, there are all kinds of unanswered questions. What happened to the helicopter? Why in the world was the helicopter flying in a mountainous region in the fog? Who came up with that plan? As of the last several hours, the Associated Press is reporting from Dubai, and I quote, “rescuers found a helicopter that was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister, and other officials that had apparently crashed in the mountainous regions northwest of Iran the day before, though no sign of life was detected.”

Now, one of the things we have to keep in mind is that Iran has been playing a very malevolent role as a Shiite Islamic state and theocracy, and Raisi was considered to be perhaps next in line to be the Grand Ayatollah or the spiritual head. He was already the head of government, and so this is going to raise all kinds of questions about the stability of Iran. It raises huge questions as to how the regime could have allowed something like this to happen. We also just have to factor in, this means further instability in a very unstable and dangerous part of the world, so we’ll be tracking this story with you.

In the meantime, thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to Twitter or For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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