Empty kneelers in stunned London?

Until recently, Uwe Siemon-Netto was the religion writer and columnist over at United Press International. In a recent shakeup, that job went away and the veteran German journalist moved back across the Atlantic. He is still writing columns from time to time, and a very interesting one showed up on a conservative Anglican site — VirtueOnline — in the wake of the London bombings.

As you would expect from that cyber-location, Siemon-Netto is a very traditional Christian believer. But he also has tons of academic background and decades of experience in reporting European affairs.

Thus, I find his comments interesting on the differences between Washington, D.C., in the wake of 9/11 and London in the hours after these smaller acts of terror. These are his opinions and observations. He arrived in London hours before the attacks and saw many similarities between the two cities.

But here’s the difference: in Washington, people poured into churches and synagogues. In London, they rushed to the pubs by the hundreds of thousands.

Now, I am no teetotaler. Drowning one’s grief in ample amounts of beer or wine is no exclusive English trait but simply a very human reaction, though not exactly the wisest.

Yet I was appalled to find only four other people kneeling in my favorite London church, Saint Paul’s, Knightsbridge, when I went there that bloody Thursday afternoon, saddened even more when I discovered that these four were not even English but faithful visitors from Ohio.

I am now looking to see if any newspapers on the other side of the pond have reported about the “spiritual” side of the London events. Has anyone seen any stories that stand out?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Kevin

    There is news on the Connecticut Six! http://www.ctsix.org

  • http://www.acton.org/blog Jordan

    Not sure if Mr. Siemon-Netto’s experience is all that common:

    “Londoners looked to their churches and their history for strength Sunday as they sought to return their city to its normal vibrancy following the terrorist bombings that killed at least 49 people Thursday.

    City residents packed churches, including one near the site of a bombing that blew the top off one of London’s distinctive red double-decker buses, killing 13 people.”

    As an interesting aside on the relationship betweeen church and drink, as Mr. Siemon-Netto states that Londoners “rushed to the pubs by the hundreds of thousands,” I have a blog entry on the virtues that might flow from drinking alcohol (in moderation):

  • http://myroblyte.blogspot.com NBR

    Starting about four hours after Siemon-Netto’s article was posted online, a number of people began posting rejoinders to the same effect as Jordan’s quotation from the Contra Costa Times. Seems Dr. Siemon-Netto visited one of London’s ritzier Anglo-Catholic churches (described by the Guardian as “the wealthiest parish in the country”), one that rarely gets visitors anyhow and certainly not ordinary Londoners.
    On a side note, it’s striking how quickly Siemon-Netto shifted gears into us-vs.-them rhetoric: “Our God, … won us eternal life by dying for us … Their god expects his followers to murder any Christian or Jew.” Ultimately his point is that “radical Islam” (I can’t help suspecting he really means all Islam) is a “radical death cult,” and that “the Cross will vanquish this cancer” if “the Western world” starts going back to church. This seems tendentious, to say the least, and doesn’t inspire confidence in his reportage.

  • http://pietist.blogspot.com/ Eric Swensson

    Is the piece we are commenting on straight reportage? I think someone who has been around as long as Sieman-Netto might be allowed to say what he saw.

  • http://www.acton.org/blog Jordan


    It’s fine for him to say the church he went to was relatively empty. It’s quite another to say people “rushed to the pubs by the hundreds of thousands.” Did he see that?

  • http://pietist.blogspot.com/ Eric Swensson

    Now that was the opinion part of above, “These are his opinions and observations.”