Here’s What I Wish Harrison Butker Would Have Said

The Chiefs kicker missed an opportunity to mention our common call to evangelize.

Mark 16:15
Mark 16:15 (photo: Shutterstock)

As a Benedictine student, I had the opportunity to cover the Harrison Butker commencement address as a journalist.

But I decided to play football with my friends instead. 

Even though I may have missed the most controversial story of my young career, I have no regrets because Butker’s commencement speech fell short, way short, in my opinion, of being a moving address.

I say this not because of what he said, but what he did not say.

When I first listened to the speech and saw the controversy on X, I wanted to throw my weight behind Butker wholeheartedly.

I agreed with almost everything he said and appreciated that there was a Catholic celebrity standing up to proclaim the truth, calling out leaders who needed to be called out.

“Let’s give him a standing ovation,” I thought. 

But after listening to some podcasts and reading some opinion pieces on the matter, I threw the challenge flag, took a hard look at the commencement speech, and overturned my initial appreciation. 

Like most college students, many at Benedictine frequently buy into the culture-war mentality that has overrun the internet, often throwing their support behind whatever “trendy” traditional Catholic idea has swept over social media. 

Butker spoke about some of those trends, sharing his opinion on controversial topics that have dominated Catholic discourse.

He shared opinions that the majority of the graduating class already held. That is why he received a standing ovation — he said cool stuff that everybody liked. 

Butker failed to realize that what we want to hear is different from what we need to hear. 

Young people do not need to see a Catholic celebrity repeating the things they read on the internet; they need to see a Catholic celebrity who radically strives to follow Christ’s mission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” 

At Benedictine, the idea of mission is important. It is one of the administration’s favorite points of emphasis: that, as Ravens, we are to go and transform culture in America. 

Beautiful, right? However, Butker never suggested a method to change the culture or provided strategies for spreading the Gospel. 

And there is no way you are transforming culture — let alone evangelizing — by following his lead, taking a microphone, and spitting off opinions, even if that is what he told us to do when he said, “The world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves. ... We fear speaking the truth, because now, unfortunately, the truth is in the minority.”

Yes, he shared his opinions, many of which are probably true, but he failed to even recognize, let alone mention, the greatest truth — that God sent his only beloved Son to suffer and die for our sins. He was raised on the third day, proving victorious over death, and we are invited to partake in his mission to invite others into a relationship with Christ. 

If Butker reminded students of that truth and mission and shared how he, as a professional athlete in one of the most secularized, materialistic sports, strives to be an authentic witness to the Catholic faith and evangelize the Gospel, that would have been a profound speech, in my opinion; if he had shared how his deep love for the Eucharist transformed his life instead of expressing his opinion on the traditional Latin Mass, I think that would have warranted a standing ovation. 

But, instead, he played with what the college students wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. And the few times that he did issue a call, mostly revolving around vocation, he never mentioned the common vocation that we all share, which is to love and bring others to the Church. 

Social-media algorithms and narrowed feeds constantly expose young people to content that aligns with their preexisting worldview. We rarely receive the messages we need to hear. If we are exposed only to the views that we want to hear, we grow complacent and content with our place in the crazy world. 

But when we are called higher, called to a mission for Jesus Christ and his Church, we will not just stand and clap — we will go out and live radically. 

We don’t need more conservative (or liberal, for that matter) “Catholic” culture warriors; we do not need social-media apologists who hide behind conservative or liberal talking points. 

We need men and women who will invite other people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and into the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. We need authentic witnesses of what it looks like to live life with Christ. 

If Butker had shared that mission, that vision and that fundamental truth of the Church, his commencement address would have gone through the uprights.