Assyrian Voice interview with Steve Netniss, an Assyrian technologist, professor and author of recently published ‘‘ book
Assyrian Voice interview with Steve Netniss, an Assyrian technologist, professor and author of recently published ‘POTENTIAL: The Assyrian Quest for Identity: What does it mean to be an Assyrian from a Christian perspective?’ book
-Welcome and thanks for taking the time to do this interview with AssyrianVoice.net.
– Can you please introduce yourself and a bit about your background (Including your Assyrian roots)
Shlama Assyrian Voice, thank you for this special opportunity to introduce myself and tell you about my book. I was born and raised in Turlock, California, the heart of the Central Valley. Turlock was one of the first place Assyrians settled over 100 years ago. I spent 7 years in Dallas, Texas. Recently, I moved to California and currently live in Oakland (30 minutes from San Francisco).
-What do you do for living? What about your education?
I am currently a Technology Integrator at an independent school in the Bay Area. I am also an adjunct professor at California State University Stanislaus where I teach a Management Information Systems course. I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems from California State University Stanislaus and a Master’s in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary.
-In your biography, you mention that you are both a preacher and a tech enthusiasts. Tell us a bit more about that? How did you start with each?
Growing up in an Assyrian home, we were raised to acquire skills that would allow us to be contributors to society’s basic needs. Thankfully, I found one of my passions in technology. Later, I realized that I had an interest in theological studies. I have found great success in both fields and have a deep love and appreciation for both.
-What places have you lived in so far and what has been your favorite?
Raised in Turlock – great place to grow up and I still have deep roots there.
Dallas – I enjoyed my time in Texas.
Oakland – The East Bay has its strengths.
-You recently published your own book, can you tell us a bit more on it? What is the book all about and what inspired you to write it?
I believe there are many aspects of our Assyrian culture that are healthy and strong but there are also some areas that need refining and questioning. I wrote my book to help the Assyrian community mature even further. I believe the Assyrian identity is strong enough to handle some of the questions I have raised.
-Your book is still relatively new but has already received a lot of good feedback on Amazon: how do you plan to keep the momentum going, and hopefully translating into bigger sales?
I am trusting that the book will have legs of its own. I wrote the book to help with an issue in society. I believe the book will continue to be helpful until we have reached a level of new awareness. At that point, I’ll have published my second book.
-Is there something specific that you want people to take from reading your book?
Mainly, I want to encourage those who feel like they weren’t growing or didn’t have a clear direction to head in. This book will inspire, encourage, and challenge anyone who reads it.
-How long did it take you and how has the reception been? Has there been any critical or negative reviews?
I spent over 5 years working on this book. So far the Assyrian community has been entirely supportive. I am still working with different organizations to host future book signings. The churches have also been super supportive.
-Do you believe that if Assyrians were to read your book in droves, it could mean a brighter future for our nation?
Assyrians, religious or not, should read this book if they want to help enhance the Assyrian community. The people who have read it so far seem to have really been blessed by it.
-Why should a non-Assyrian read this book? What is in it for others?
It’s important for all of us to learn about other cultures. We should not be stuck in our own world and miss what others have to offer. This book helps non-Assyrians to learn more about Assyrians.
-What is the future of Christianity in the US? Is it on a decline and do you see a revival?
I think Christianity is only alive when it is morphing, changing, and adjusting to what God is doing in the world. Christianity has constants but it is not a museum. It is important for Christian ministers of all denominations to be asking questions the people are asking.
-Ever been to Canada? Or other countries? Do you have a favorite city or country you visited?
New Orleans, Louisiana is one of my favorite places to visit. I would like to visit Canada in the near future.
-What are your top 3 websites they you like to follow on a regular basis?
-what are some of your favorite movies and books?
Star Wars, Ben Hur, The Old Man and the Sea.
-For those who are still in high school, what area of IT or computer science should they focus on, for a shot at a better career in the future?
It is important to know how to program but it is also important to learn how to work with others. Often, people who are really good at programming have a difficult time communicating with others. It’s important to be able to do both. Programming skills and people skills.
-If you could time travel, what period in history would you like to go to?
I’d love to check out the Ancient Near East in the 1st century. Pretty hectic place.
-Are you up to date with Assyrian developments in Iraq and Syria?
I am constantly following different news outlets and key individuals to try and learn more about the situation.
-What is the future of Assyrians in Iraq? Do you are you optimistic or do you see a Middle East that is empty of Assyrians and Christians in general?
Interestingly, I think that question is directly tied to the future of Assyrians in the West. In other words, if Assyrians in the West do not figure out a way to galvanize and become a unified front, then how will our people in the homeland unify? We are the ones who left the Middle East to create a better life. Unfortunately, that ‘better life’ has led to several religious, and political factions that do not seem to be serving or encouraging one another. This is a serious problem and it must be resolved. If we can work together then we can create a better future for everyone involved.
-What will it take to reverse the immigration tide to ensure more Assyrians stay home
Assyrians who have become financially success should really consider and think about ways to reinvest in the homeland. It might actually pay huge dividends 10-20-30 years from now. People will stay in the Middle East when the societal structure is conducive to a healthy future where people can reach their human potential.
-How do you see the role of the Assyrian church in keeping our culture and language alive?
This is a difficult question and I think I’ve spoken at length about this in my new book. I would start there.
-Being someone who has written a book about this very topic, how can we ensure that our Christian belief is in sync with our Assyrian nationalism and vise versa. Do you think the two go hand in hand? Or does one prevent the other from being fully realized?
This is a great question and again it is what my entire book revolves around. I think there are healthy answers and discussions.
-Do you believe Chaldeans and Syriacs are part of our nation (regardless of what they believe in) and that we should make every effort to unite with them?
YES, YES, YES. I think we need to stop asking the questions our parents asked ‘who’s Assyrian and who isn’t’ and start asking bigger and more important questions. “How do we unify?”
-Ever been to an Assyrian convention and what was it like?
I’ve been to several Assyrian conventions. It always seems like the location plays a large role. I’m a sucker for San Diego so that was one of my favourites. I do think we need to seriously consider hosting a convention in Texas.
-How do we ensure that the Assyrian language survives with the generation growing up in the west, where the first language at work and school is English?
I have a lot to say about this in my book. I would start there…
-Where you live and have worked recently, how do you see the state of Assyrian academia? are more Assyrian pursuing higher education and advanced degrees? if not, how can we encourage more to go for it?
Assyrians in the United States are VERY well educated. I don’t think we give the Assyrian people enough credit for all of our amazing accomplishments.
-If there is something you would like to say to all Assyrians out there , what would it be?
I think it is important to be proud of being Assyrian but that should be matched with an eagerness to learn more about what it means to be an Assyrian. Often, Assyrians are tied to one way of understanding our own Assyrian ethnicity. If the Assyrian nation is going to grow, then it needs to begin thinking deeper.
-Google or Apple
-California or Texas?
Depends on the time of year.
-liberal or conservative?
Depends on the topic.
-Preaching or teaching? Preaching is a lost art and it needs to be reclaimed. What do people thin when you say the word ‘sermon’? Usually, it’s ‘boring, dull, agenda, political.’ Instead, I wish people thought, ‘inspiring, intellectual, thoughtful, subversive.’
-Football or baseball? Football!! WHO DAT
-Paris or New York? Paris. New York is great but Paris speaks to my soul.
-Favorite food? Nothing beats my moms Assyrian home cooking!
-Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad, Dexter, Mad Men, Orphan Black, Game of Thrones…the list keeps growing.
-Favorite NHL/NFL/MLB/NBA teams?NFL: New Orleans Saints, NBA: Boston Celtics, MLB: San Francisco Giants
-Who is one Assyrian celebrity or person you would like us to interview in the future and what question should we ask them?
I think it would be great if some of our Assyrian religious leaders were interviewed and if they were asked some of the questions many of us wonder about. Practical questions that sceptics think about. Ideally, it would be great for the Assyrian community to setup a panel of speakers from all the different Assyrian religious traditions, ACOE, Protestant, Chaldean and so on.
-Someone is going through tough financial and social hardships and wants your guidance to help him through this difficult time: what biblical lessons would you give them?
I would probably stay away from biblical lessons and focus on more practical or immediate needs. The Bible is a great compendium of books but I don’t view it as a manual for life. Instead, we are led to make healthy choices through the reading and meditation on Scriptures that is in community with others and driven by the Holy Spirit. People often try to apply the Bible to real life situations and end up creating a standard that just doesn’t jive with the Spirit of the Scriptures.
-What is the last thing you want to do before your time on earth is up?
I’d like to preach a sermon that inspires churches to connect at a deeper level.
-Do you have one big regret from the past?
I am still bummed about when the Saints kept blitzing the 49ers on the last drive of a playoff game. It made no sense and to this day I regret not running out on the field to stop the madness.
-If we were to meet again in 50 years from now, what do you hope to have done or accomplished?
I hope that 50 years from now I have a brand new heart and a wrinkled face. That’s a line from one of my favorite songs.
Thank you for your time Steve and good luck on your new book and all your future endeavors and career in general.