The Cruelty of Call-Out Christianity

David Brooks has an essay in the NYT about what he calls the “call-out culture”  the “terrifying …, a vengeful game of moral one-upsmanship in which social annihilation can come any second.”

The historical parallels to call-out culture are even more terrifying. It parallels “the way students denounced and effectively murdered their elders for incorrect thought during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and in Stalin’s Russia.”

While some have argued that this is how “humanity moves forward” morally, Brooks doesn’t believe it. “Do we really think,” he writes that “cycles of cruelty do more to advance civilization than cycles of wisdom and empathy?” Do we really want to live in a culture where people “gather in coliseums [or social media] to watch people get eaten by lions” or their neighbors?

That we are “less tolerant of cruelty” is morally better. The “rough justice” of the vigilant or the mob is not really just.

The contemporary call-out culture is almost wholly a creature of social media. People use the anonymity and the global online forums to “destroy people without even knowing them.” We see this not only in secular online forums but also in Orthodox Christian contexts as well.

Like their secular counterparts, Orthodox Christians can easily be swept away by a “zealotry … fueled by … their psychological wounds.” Safe behind a computer screen, they can (and do) give vent to their angry–rage really– and attack others.

In their zeal for their own position, there is no room–or even need–for “apology” or “forgiveness.”

Instead–and in the Name of Christ and His Church–we participants “adopt a binary tribal mentality — us/them, punk/non-punk, victim/abuser” that “immediately depersonalized everything” eliminating “any sense of proportion,” any sense that even in their error those with whom we disagree may still be correct on some matters. And, even if this isn’t so they are still icons of God.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory