How about if we cast a critical eye on every church?

Last summer, I did some spider-hunting around Murdock, Minnesota. It’s the typical slow, sleepy, small rural town (with spiders! But that’s every town). It’s unfortunate claim to fame now is that Asatru moved in and bought a church dedicated to the premise that white people, especially northern European white people, are better than others. They probably assumed that this would be a fine, comfortable fit with the predominantly German and Scandinavian folk of Minnesota.

Except the townfolk are less than thrilled with the city council choosing to approve the founding of a church.

The decision alarmed many residents, particularly residents of color who until recently lived comfortably in the majority-white town. Ms. Barron said she and other mothers had discussed taking turns to watch their children when they play outside. When the elementary school asked Latino families to participate in a video production, Ms. Barron said, many declined.

“I don’t feel threatened right now. But I feel worried,” she said. “What worries me is losing our sense of peace.”

Many residents fear that similar groups will try “to get some sort of toehold here because they feel this is some refuge where they can come and foment this hate,” said Pete Kennedy, 59, an engineer who has lived in the town for about 50 years.

Town leaders have insisted they had no choice but to grant a conditional-use permit, or CUP, because of legal protections that forbid governments from using land-use regulations to impose a substantial burden on people trying to practice their religion.

Interesting. I wonder if they’d feel the same principled concern when a new Baptist church, or Plymouth Brethren church, or Lutheran church, or Catholic church petitions for approval to take over some real estate in town. This is not to imply that the Asatru church should be allowed to do their thing (they are truly repulsive), but that what I’ve seen around towns in this region is that every vacant building is quickly occupied by yet another cult. When our movie theater in Morris went out of business, a group of fundamentalists threatened to buy it and turn into yet another church! Fortunately, they were foiled by a local co-op.

Maybe city councils around here should question every application by every religion to take over productive real estate and replace it with untaxable dead voids in our city planning.

By the way, here’s what it costs to start a church in rural Minnesota.

In June, it was sold to the Assembly for $45,000, according to county records.

Sheesh. You mean instead of paying off a lawyer I could have bought a whole church?


  1. hypnotoad42 says

    I’m from the nordic region, and for most of my life the connection to vikings and their gods and beliefs was quaint, and mostly history. It was a nice part of nordic culture and history.

    Even now, looking at how “Asatro” is being practiced in Iceland, I see little to nothing that touches on white supremacy. On top of that it preaches and speaks out against violence and hero worship in general.

    It’s with growing sadness I see the whole arena get co-opted and stolen by nazis and racists.
    I wonder if there’ll ever be a way to wrangle it back from the claws of …well..evil.

  2. hemidactylus says

    It’s a travesty that wondrous Norse myths were co-opted by Nazis and white supremacists. Terrible association.

    Marvel did something similar with Thor and Loki except their commodified bastardization towards nefarious ends was in service to a media franchise.

    Thor is now reduced to a plastic figurine that may induce bigorexia in susceptible youth. He should have a mouse ear hat to complete the transformation. Iconoclasts have a point. Take Thor’s hammer to the idols of the age. Hulk smash.

  3. says

    Thankfully here in largely secular Vermont (40% nones) we don’t have as much of that problem.
    The local old LDS church is now, gasp!, a mosque!
    Burlington resettled a lot of Somali and Bosnian refugees so many of them are Muslim.
    Many other old churches in Vermont are now homes, but my absolute favorite has to be this one:,-72.9453241,3a,30y,154.53h,96.71t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sf7CpTvlBC0eobdhqUmZsfQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
    Yes that old United Christian Assembly church in Underhill is now: Green Thumb Gardening & Hydroponics
    You know what they sell ;-)

  4. Artor says

    Yes, the Asatru Fellowship in Iceland is a Progressive organization that is a polar opposite to these racist fuckwits. From Wikipedia:

    In August 2014 Ásatrúarfélagið issued a statement against the abuse of their name and their religion:
    We strongly oppose any attempt by individuals to use their association with the Ásatrúarfélagið of Iceland to promote attitudes, ideologies and practices rejected by the leadership of the Ásatrúarfélagið. We particularly reject the use of Ásatrú as a justification for supremacy ideology, militarism and animal sacrifice. It should also be known that visitors have no authority to speak on our behalf. There is no advisor to the Ásatrúarfélagið and there is no spokesman other than our allsherjargoði. We respectfully request that visitors not claim any such authority based on their association with us.

  5. PaulBC says

    When our movie theater in Morris went out of business, a group of fundamentalists threatened to buy it and turn into yet another church! Fortunately, they were foiled by a local co-op.

    I recall a church in Sunnyvale that sold their property and moved to some cheaper locale. The building was demolished and replaced with condos as far as I know. That was well over ten years back, but it’s probably not the only time. It is funny to read about the opposite happening.

  6. vucodlak says

    @ PaulBC, #6

    I recall a church in Sunnyvale that sold their property and moved to some cheaper locale.

    My dentist used to have their office in a former church. All the patient rooms were in the sanctuary; they had walls of standard height, but the sanctuary still had a vaulted ceiling, and great big windows. It was actually kind of nice. On a sunny afternoon the light would stream through the big bushes they’d planted outside the windows, and make interesting patterns on the ceiling high above.

  7. says

    The worst excesses of American Fundangelical Christianity are present in Australia leaching off the taxpayer. One particular church fell on hard times and had to sell up. Muslims buy churches because they come with a right to use them as a place of worship so the local bigots can’t pressure councils to reject their use. Muslims tried to buy the church and all was going well until the church found out about their plans to use it as a mosque and withdrew it from sale. 12 months later the church was even more financially distressed and they sold up for considerably less than the original price. The buyer was a Malaysian businessman who used his business as a front to buy the church before handing it over to the Muslims. Now that’s karma or should it be kismet?