I started to publicly address this topic a number of years ago. It was the first time I saw a worker in the Seventh-day Adventist Church post something negative about another worker in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I call it “calling someone out” – though that phrase is not original with me.
While I did privately address the worker who did the “calling out” (they were not very happy at all when I did it), I did not say anything about it publicly. I did not want to make it seem as though I was directing my public remarks directly to the individual and potentially embarrass them-even though that was exactly what they had done to the other denominational employee.
I have thought about saying something in a public space about one individual saying something negative about someone else on social media. But each time, I stopped myself (one time, my wife stopped me-she is good at keeping me out of trouble) because I did not want people hearing or reading what I was saying and think “He’s talking about X”. In other words, I did not want to “call out” the person doing the calling out. I still don’t.
So this is not intended to be directly at any person, group or situation. Rather, it is intended to get people to begin thinking about what has become pervasive-the negativity that is too often a part of social media.
This is not in any way intended to say that social media is completely or inherently bad-it is not. There are a large number of good things that I have seen on social media. On a personal level, social media has allowed me to re-connect with people that I have not heard from or seen in decades.
A few years ago, I attended my 40th high school class reunion. Two-thirds of our class was there-no way that happens without the ability to connect with people who were literally scattered all over the country without social media.
And throughout this pandemic, we have learned of a zillion ways that social media can be used to spread the gospel, help us stay connected and to fulfill the mission of the church. If this pandemic occurred in 2000, instead of 2020, I am not sure what the Seventh-day Adventist Church-or a lot of other businesses-would have done.
But too often, social media is used to “call people out”- to say something about someone in public that should be said to them in private – or, not said at all. And this has become so pervasive, that often, we do not see anything wrong with it. In fact, it seems too much more common to hear someone defend the practice of “calling someone out” than to defend the person being called out or to lament the use of social media as some sort of conflict resolution medium (it isn’t).
Years ago, there was this social and religious phenomenon, “WWJD”-“What Would Jesus Do?” The idea as a Christian was to ascertain what Jesus would do in any given situation and do that.
WWJD if He had a social media account? Would He “call people out”?
Here are some reasons why I think He wouldn’t:
- “Calling People Out Is Contrary to What He Said”: In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone”
I am not sure Jesus could have been more specific: If I have a problem with you, Jesus says, I am to go to you-not on social media.
I am not sure that happened a whole lot before social media. I suspect that it happens a lot less now.
- “Calling People Out Is Contrary to “The Golden Rule”: In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says-New International Version-“In everything do to others what you would have them do to you”-and then Jesus said, “This sums up the Law and the Prophets”-don’t miss that last part.
At the time Jesus was on earth, there was no New Testament-all they had at the time was the Old Testament. The Old Testament largely consisted of the Books containing the law and the Books written by the Prophets.
So-what Jesus was saying is that almost the entire Bible can be summed up this way: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you.
No one enjoys being publicly “called out.” The practice of “calling people out” has become so pervasive that people will sometimes say, “OH, I wouldn’t care if someone called me out”; I think you would. I suspect that the people who say things like that, say it because no one has done that to them yet.
But – even if it’s true that you don’t mind, the Bible still doesn’t allow for you to do it.
- “Calling People Out Jeopardizes Relationships”: Old Testament this time-Proverbs 17:9 “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”
I think this text refers to me telling my problem with you to someone else and presenting the possibility that now, the person I am telling my problem to-will now have a problem with you. It’s called gossip.
But-could you make the case that some of what occurs on social media is simply high-tech gossip? I think you could-and, it does separate friends. How is our relationship made better by me “calling you out” on social media? That will make you feel better about me?
And when your family reads what I said about you-how will that make them feel? Here is the thing: Everyone has someone who cares about them and who will be affected by what is said about the person being “called out”.
But here are two final things about the practice of “calling people out” on social media that I do not think people consider: When I “call you out” on social media and other people “like it” (that is a social media term where you positively affirm what is being written) “love it”, share it, affirm it or defend it-to the person being called out, those people become a part of it – and it potentially affects their relationship with the person being “called out” on social media.
In other words, the people liking, loving, sharing, affirming, and defending the negative thing I just said about you are saying, in effect, “I agree with what is being said”, or, at the very least they are saying “I am all right with was said”.
The problem is-the person being “called out” is almost certainly not all right with being “called out” and is not likely to be all right with the people who are all right with him/her being called out.
Then-there are the other people who read what is being said. We have not seemed to figure out that social media is not limited to just Seventh-day Adventists. When we as Adventist Christians go on social media and bemoan how terrible everyone and everything in the church is, then why would non-Adventist Christians want to be Adventist Christians? One final text-this is Jesus speaking-this is the New Jerusalem Translation:
Luke 17:1-3: “Obstacles are sure to come but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone put around his neck than he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves! “
Jesus is saying that He takes very seriously the placing of obstacles in the way of people that He died to save. Does anyone really want to “call out” a fellow Adventist and to have a non-Adventist read that and say, “If that’s true about the people leading/attending that church, I don’t want to be a part of it”? Then-on Judgement Day-does anyone really want to have to explain away how something they said on social media was a contributing factor to someone being lost-either because it lessened their desire to be a part of God’s Church or because “calling someone out” in the church, hurt them or a member of their family to the point where they gave up on being a member of the household of faith?
I don’t think anyone really wants that to happen. But it can happen. That is why Jesus says, “Watch yourselves!”
That is good advice from the Good Book-to watch what we say in public spaces such as social media-because others are watching. And I suspect that Jesus is watching, too.
Elder Dana Edmond is executive director of the Office For Regional Conference Ministries.