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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Cliffe Knechtle answers MSU’s religious uncertainties

Samuel Hughes
Cliffe Knechtle, a pastor who travels to college campuses, is at MSU this week to answer hard questions surrounding Christianity.

An audience of nearly a hundred students congregated outside Mississippi State University’s Colvard Student Union. The voice of Cliffe Knechtle, a pastor who travels to college campuses to create open religious dialogue, rang out from the crowd’s center Monday afternoon.

“In the Deep South of the United States, I’m afraid that there is a type of cultural Christianity – that I appreciate in the sense that there’s often a commitment to a type of ethical system – and I celebrate that and appreciate that. But it’s this mistaken idea that, ‘I’m a good person, God smiles on good people and therefore I’m going to heaven,” Knechtle said. “No. The first beatitude is, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ To be poor in spirit means I’m in poverty before God morally, ethically. I don’t deserve it – I deserve his wrath. But he sends his son Christ to take the wrath that I deserved, in his body on the cross, that I might be forgiven and have eternal life, and I have to respond in humility to that.”

Like Monday and Tuesday, Knechtle and his son Stuart Knechtle will begin Q&A on the Drill Field today and Thursday at noon and will talk with students for two to four hours, barring Cliffe’s engagement elsewhere. Knechtle will debate with the group Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics of Mississippi State University at 6 p.m. tonight in McCool 112. Thursday, the Chi Alpha campus ministry will be hosting a worship service and Q&A with the Knechtles at 8 p.m. in the Taylor Auditorium.

New York City native Cliffe Knechtle is founder of The Give Me An Answer ministry and has been engaging with religious skeptics and believers on college campuses since the early 1990s, and is the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Knechtle’s discussions, and his rebuttals to difficult questions surrounding Christianity, have been well documented on YouTube and he has recently gained a large following on short-form media platforms.

Cliffe Knechtle has been holding open discussions on college campuses for more than 30 years. (Samuel Hughes)

Christopher Swinford, a junior criminology major, works as a dispatcher for Starkville Police Department. He held up a hand during a pause in Knechtle’s discourse, grabbing his attention.

“So, I work in public service – and this just has to do with trauma in general – I’ve seen some pretty messed up stuff, and I’m sure a lot of us have, it affects us to this day. It’s made me struggle with my faith all the time. How do I, as a Christian, move forward with my own life? Or anyone else who’s dealing with something they’ve experienced in the past – how do we look to Christ to help us move forward?” Swinford asked.

“Life contains a lot of good, but it also contains a lot of evil, and you better watch out with your expectations because if you expect life to hand everything good to you, you’re gonna be royally disappointed. And my concern is you will be disappointed with God,” Knechtle said. “See, the reason that Job did not get disappointed with God and shelf his faith was because he understood life is unfair. Life is unfair – God is fair. Never get the two mixed up.”

Swinford said seeing Knechtle’s religious discussions on TikTok has helped him reconnect to his faith.

“I’d fallen into that ‘If God exists, you know, this wouldn’t happen.’ But seeing his videos and seeing him make sense of the bad things that happen in the world kind of pushed me back into it, and now my faith is stronger than ever,” Swinford said, as more students lined the edge of the crowd, hoping to get within earshot of the discussion.

Darien Hardy, a junior cybersecurity major, is a founding member of Chi Alpha and is a member of the Secular Student Alliance of Mississippi State University. He said that a Chi Alpha member met Knechtle at a conference, and eventually the ministry invited him to MSU.

Hardy initiated Monday’s discussion by asking Knechtle about the validity of the Bible as an intellectual resource.

“When faith is just a tradition and nothing more, a lot of times you just do it because you’re told, you know, you go to church because you’re told or, ‘That’s what I grew up doing’ and things like that. But when it becomes, ‘Okay, I can actually believe this for myself.’ I think it makes it a lot more meaningful,” Hardy said. “And so I think a lot of people are searching for that meaning through getting to ask these questions that typically in a church service, they may not feel comfortable asking and exploring these ideas. I think it’s very beneficial to people who are believers, and people who are nonbelievers, from gaining a new perspective on something that is a very important aspect of a lot of people’s lives.”

After about three hours of Q&A, the dialogue ended and much of the crowd dispersed. Knechtle signed an autograph into a well-read copy of his book, “Give Me an Answer That Satisfies My Heart and My Mind: Answers to Your Toughest Questions about Christianity.”

“I am deeply committed to liberal arts education, free exchange of ideas – however different they are – and respectfully listening and then respecting each other enough to go over our disagreements and express why we disagree, what’s the evidence of what we believe is true,” Knechtle said.

About the Contributor
Samuel Hughes
Samuel Hughes, Former News Editor
Samuel Hughes served as the News Editor from 2023 to 2024.
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  • J

    JenniferMar 7, 2024 at 4:48 pm

    Is there a live stream?

  • K

    KevinMar 7, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    I wonder in Knechtle holds the idea that Christianity is supposed to only reform sinners individually and not society. The dispatcher quoted in the article sounds as if he was hoping for a view in which religion would be a tool to fix social ills.