In response to that article I wrote a letter to the editor complaining that the article was even included in the Strib. I emailed the letter to Mary Lynn Smith, the author of the Strib article, who respectfully and thoughtfully sent me two emails in reply. Because of the decency of her response I decided not to write any more at the time about the Strib's actions.
However on Sunday another article appeared. This past Sunday, Hopfensperger wrote about Knappen again. Two articles in thirty days? Sharing views of people who don't even respond to a reporter's inquiry for an interview?
I believe the Star Tribune is unnecessarily sharing views of people on the extremes of religion.
I have colleagues who preach outstanding sermons every week who have not and will probably not receive any coverage from the Strib. I don’t believe that these religious fanatics who the Strib has highlighted are more newsworthy than Pastor John Gay from the Presbyterian church in Coon Rapids; or Pastor David Parker from Presbyterian Church of the Way; or Pastor Neil Craigan from First Presbyterian Church in White Beak Lake; or Pastor Riz Prakisim, pastor of New Life Presbyterian in Roseville. And for those interested,
Pastor Gay’s sermons are at pcommn.org
Pastor Parker’s at pcotw.org
Pastor Craigan’s at fpcwbl.org
Pastor Prakism’s at newlifechurchroseville.org/home
And faithful reader, I can almost read your mind. “These mainline pastors don’t say anything controversial and the media wants controversy because that generates readers.” And your thought is certainly true. Hopfensperger’s article in the Strib garnered close to 500 comments and for a while was the most read article on the Strib’s web site.
However if the Strib is sharing extreme views about religion to garner readership, they should be up front about this. At a minimum the Strib owes the community an explanation for the criteria they use to share stories on religion.
When the media consistently focuses on the extremes in religious media coverage, the extremes will define many people’s understanding of religion. It’s like giving media coverage to a “healer” who masquerades as a doctor and promises that only eating eggs will cure cancer. The person might be interesting for a while, but don’t mistake the person for a doctor. When I want to have experiences on the extremes I’ll go to the circus—I won’t open up the Strib.
These purveyors of falsehoods who are receiving coverage might be called pastors of congregations, but they reside on the extremes of what a pastor would teach.
Chik Chikeles is a pastor of a church whose Facebook page has 322 likes. That’s at least 200 less than the number of likes on the Chain of Lakes Facebook page. He was the first person mentioned in Hopfensperger's article. Does this mean that I would only have someone from the Strib come to worship at Chain of Lakes if I do something strange and bizarre?
As I shared above, Daryl Knappen has been featured twice in the last thirty days in this Strib. In the talk that was linked in the Strib, he predictied martial law in the upcoming week. Interesting? Not really. Thankfully almost everything he predicted in his talk did not happen. In sharing this link to his talk on their web site the Strib was literally passing on “fake news.”
Are these "Christian nationalists" gaining more popularity and thus deserve media attention? I don't have any facts to back up the following statement, but I'm not convinced that their popularity has dramatically increased. Hopfensperger quoted Andrew White, a Purdue University religion researcher and co-author of a book on Christian nationalism, who said that millions of Americans accept these extreme views. I wouldn't be surprised if millions accepted these views ten years ago or twenty years ago or a hundred years ago.
I'm not convinced that these beliefs are new and more popular. It's not even really new that someone shepherding as a religious leader says things that are very strange. Jesus himself fought against people who proclaimed religious ideas that were certainly strange at the time.
I’ll give Hopfensperger credit for talking to main-line experts on Christian nationalism and by sharing a response from Christians against Christian Nationalism. In reading that section of the article I learned that over 19,000 people have signed an online statement condemning Christian nationalism. I signed the statement myself and encourage others to do so at this link, christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org/statement.
Building a congregation that encourages a faith with decency & kindness and a congregation who makes a tremendous impact in the community is hard in 2021. By focusing on the fringes of faith the Star Tribune is making this very important work even harder.