Uwe Siemon-Netto is religious-affairs editor and senior writer for United Press International. His distinguished journalism career began with covering construction of the Berlin Wall in 1950 and included war reporting in Vietnam. He will soon leave his UPI position to pursue other journalistic opportunities or a teaching position. His columns on religion routinely indicate a strong appreciation for historyan admirable characteristic absent from many religion news writers. In this interview with Christianity Today assistant editor Collin Hansen, Siemon-Netto discusses how historical awareness allows us to fulfill God's purpose for the church and discern the meaning of contemporary events.
Tell me how you came to believe that understanding history is so essential to your work as a religion writer.
I have an M.A. in theology and a Ph.D. in sociology of religion that I got very late in life. I was already half in the grave. Next year I will have been a journalist for 50 years. When I turned 50, I enrolled in the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago to do theology, and then went on to Boston University to get my Ph.D. with Peter Berger.
It became clear to me that by separating yourself from history, and especially the history of the church and Christianity, you become woefully shallow. And if you become woefully shallow, all sorts of things can happen, with the demise of the Protestant church in Germany as one example. Other examples are the "German Christian" heresy in World War II [when certain biblical critics rejected everything in Scripture they deemed too Jewish], and the incredible homosexual and feminist heresies that now abound. If you don't have something to relate things to, you are certainly at a loss.