“On Words and Vocations”

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto makes an excellent point about the deformation of the language.
Almost 60 years ago, George Orwell wrote a book, 1984, where language was controlled by the government.  “Free” could mean “Free from fleas”, but could not mean “political choice.”  In that society, people could not voice, or even comprehend, certain issues because words were not available.
We are in a world where words and language bombard us.  The subtle differences are often missed.  When people hear “evolution of the automobile,” they think of how much it has improved over 100 years.  They mentally associate this with “evolution of earth,”  With the car, evolution involves careful planning, design, and development.  But with the earth, the theory of evolution is random chaotic events increasing order, like a tornado in a junkyard creating a new skyscraper.  We know that creation happened in 6 days at God’s word.  No evolution was involved.  When people tell me that their presentation “evolved,” I asked them if they set it in the sunlight, shuffled the pages, and traded random pages with the recycle dumpster to improve it.
We have to stick to our language.
P.S. Another example where language is critical is in the creed: “conceived by (the power of) the Holy Spirit.”  Some “theologians” write that this means that God willed for Mary to be pregnant by Joseph.  This is in opposition to our belief that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Even though we may say the same creed as another church, we may be confessing two different things.

Carl Tarum

I am one–among a number of Witness readers–who is disappointed and embarrassed by the Advent  Issue  article “On Words and Vocations” by Uwe Siemon-Netto.
I am certain those two full pages could have been used for a worthy editorial rather than denegrating flight-attendants, parking attendants, bridal attendants, etc.,etc.
Sadly, the  author may have needed a glass of kindness and respect rather than a tumbler of Scotch from the hand of the flight attendant he had so rudely reproached.
Im my humble assessment, this is another example of why the synod is diminishing in numbers  at the rate of 2,000 per month and why more are reading less of what is published throughout and on behalf of the Synod.
David T. Stein
Pastor Emeritus


In the article “On Words and Vocations” (November issue), Dr. Siemon-Netto made the statement, “Planned Parenthood does not plan parenthood but assists people in becoming non-parents.” Perhaps if people (especially teens) who are having sex outside of marriage would use Planned Parenthood’s services, there would be fewer abortions or babies being born out of wedlock.

Jean Wrenbeck


I just read through The Lutheran Witness, November 2007. I cannot imagine why you included the article “On Words and Vocations.” Frankly, I would judge it inane and certainly not relevant in the Witness. I am sure there are many “editorials” out there that are much better suited to the Witness than this one.
Please do better–for the sake of the church!

James J. Vehling
Woodbury, Minnesota


The “On Words and Vocations” article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto is without a doubt the most negative article I have ever read in the Witness. Dr. Siemon-Netto labels what he does not like as “demented,” “absurd” (twice), “grotesque” and “nonsense.” He admits to being “angry” and “resent”ful and to being “troubled.” Dr. Siemon-Netto seems to have a large chip on his shoulder.  Concerning the flight attendant, Dr. Siemon-Netto quotes St. Paul, writing, “‘…Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called,’ applies to cabin crews as much as to anyone else.” Has it occurred to Dr. Siemon-Netto that perhaps the gentleman was “called” as a “flight attendant” rather than as a “steward?” Or did Dr. Siemon-Netto have prior access to the gentleman’s job application form or his current position description? His exegesis of the New Testament Greek word diaballo is questionable. The only occurrence of this verb in the New Testament is in Luke 16:1 where it is translated “accused.” Yes, it literally means “throw across,” but has to do with throwing an accusation against someone, not a “distortion” as Dr. Siemon-Netto claims. I seriously question the appropriateness of including this article in the Witness.

Rev. Jim Rogers


The appearance of such an article in a respectable secular periodical would raise questions about the integrity and sanity of the editors in allowing such drivel to appear in public print.  That it should appear in The Lutheran Witness is unexplainable.  If this is not now obvious to the editors on second thought, then what I would have to say in detail would be hopeless.
That the editor should be expressly connected to Concordia Seminary by the credits makes me forward this to the sem to ask: How can this happen? Can this continue?
That the president of the Synod can permit this without censure/correction (after being informed) makes me wonder if, after such loveless stuff, we really want to set the world Ablaze.
Rev. Edwin Sohn, Emeritus
San Leandro, CA


Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto may come across as an ogre, but he’s probably a pussycat.  If he thinks he can keep the Queen’s English locked up and static, he’s tilting at windmills.  If he insists on using “steward” and “stewardess,” then the female counterpart of his own title would be “Doctoress”  and her earlier degree would be “Mistress” instead of Master’s.                             

Get real, Doctor. Language is constantly changing and nothing you or I can say or do will keep that from happening. I do think you might have shown more consideration/respect in dealing with the flight attendant, even though he might have been first to press the wrong button.  If, instead of “dissing” him (and by implication “dissing” all parking lot attendants) you had engaged him in civil conversation, you might have learned something and made a friend to boot. He had no time or opportunity to defend himself or his employer’s policy on inclusive language. 

So, let me try: The issue here is NOT political correctness.  The issue is SENSITIVITY combined with RESPECT. Look at these contrasts and note what images come to mind: usher–usherette, drum major–drum majorette, bachelor–bachelorette, master–mistress. Now consider these gender-neutral terms: poet, nurse, author, scientist, musician, architect, engineer, athlete, realtor.  It is the vocation that is important, not the fact that the vocationeer (new word?) is male or female.

It is significant that the feminine term is usually DIMINUTIVE.  The use of diminutives can easily lead (consciously or unconsciously) to devaluation of the work (lower status and pay) and ultimately to devaluation of the worker. Aggressive insensivity to this issue has driven many Christian feminists, male and female, from the LCMS (our gift to the church-at-large?) Fortunately, some of us remain.  The good Doctor will have to live with that immutable fact, though he may considier us ogres and ogresses.     

Olive W. Spannaus
Seattle, WA


What kind of words? I was extremely saddened and dismayed when I read the article “On Words and Vocations” by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto in the November issue of The Lutheran Witness. What saddened me as much as anything was the holier-than-thou attitude that permeated the story. I cannot help but ask the question, “What kind of witness for our Savior did you make on that airplane, Dr. Siemon-Netto?” I also wonder what kind of attitude Dr. Siemon-Netto might be demonstrating to others in our own denomination as the “so-called” Director of the Institute on Lay Vocation . . . and to our future pastors as he interacts with them on the St. Louis seminary campus. Perhaps it is time for each and every one of us to get past thinking we are just a little bit better than others with whom we disagree, and begin to share with them (without qualification) the love our Savior came to this planet to share with us.

Rev. Don Mulfinger
Burnsville, Minnesota


Having read, and a number of times re-read, Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto’s carpings in the November 2007 Lutheran Witness about the language of political correctness, I remain in astonishment at its content and style, and that you deemed it worthy of publication.

Please understand that I have no objection to your inclusion of controversial or unpopular points of view.  In fact, we should welcome informative and reasonable discussion, also—perhaps especially—of concerns about public policy and issues such as this writer has several times ventured into.  However, I would think such articles ought to be clearly identified as “editorial comment” or “opinion” and should be placed in a department so designated.  In the case of pieces that are slanted and exhibit personal bias, it would seem advantageous also to publish contrasting viewpoints alongside them.

Moreover, in view of the tenor of this article, I think it would be helpful to encourage writers to express their opinions modestly, moderately, and respectfully (for the opinions of others), as well as reasonably.  This nonsensical, puerile tirade raises serious questions as to its appropriateness, particularly for a church periodical.  The author seems to have taken delight in the peevish and petulant come-uppance he accorded an airline employee.  Similar condescending treatment, as the article goes on, appears to be the prospective fate of anyone who might dare to disagree with his views.  Does the use, for instance, of “Ms.” really mean we are on the road to Nazi- or Communist-like totalitarianism?

Incidentally, I own and once read Dr. Siemon-Netto’s The Fabricated Luther: The Rise and Fall of the Shirer Myth (CPH, 1995). I found it informative and, as far as I could tell, a reasonable and responsible study. Perhaps this helps account for the disappointment and dismay I feel about these more recent offerings.  Have his anxieties about the political left and a preoccupation with countering it deprived him of the balance that would enable him also to view equally critically the political right-wing, often allied with its religious counterpart?

Karl Wyneken
Fresno, CA

Kudos to Dr. Siemon-Netto for his comments on politically correct terms. His article reminded me of the changes that were wrought in Lutheran Worship by the elimination of masculine terms in some of the hymns, some of which called for extensive re-writing. Was this done because of gynophobia (or feminist phobia)? My wife and I were glad to see that some of this silliness was undone in the Lutheran Service Book, but we wonder why the editors felt compelled to bow to people who have no sense of the comprehensive meaning of words such as “man,” or who do not accept God’s revelation of himself through the use of masculine pronouns and feel it is necessary to create such combinations of syllables as “humankind.”
John B. Degges
West Valley City, UT


I was troubled by an item in the November Witness, the article by Uwe Siemon-Netto regarding Words and Vocations. I understand the point he was trying to make but I am concerned that, rather than witnessing to the love of Jesus Christ to this steward, the result was an affront to him in a situation that did not call for this kind of haranguing.  There are times to push an issue and there are times NOT to push an issue.  The love of Christ constrains us and moves us to interact with people in a kind and loving way. 

Rev. David Schwan
Sioux Falls, SD

PLEASE – No more articles by Dr. Siemon-Netto.

His latest article on “Words and Vocations” was strictly his own opinion – and very insensitive to people that he criticized. You should apoligize for including this “nonsense” in the Witness.

Rev. Fred C. Jacobi
Orchard Park, New York


I have just read Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto’s interesting article “On Words and Vocations” in the November Lutheran Witness. I wonder if he would consider changing his job title from “Director” to “Manager” of the Institute on Lay Vocation.

Dean Westmeyer


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