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Etymology of Called Out

August 30, 2010

There was an interesting article in the Winston Salem Journal today about a “newly” coined phrase  – ‘Call them Out.’   When I was a kid I remember ‘calling people out’ or getting ‘called out’ on the playground, which meant you wanted to ( or someone else wanted to) pick a fight.  Maybe it was a northern thing which is why it is hitting the airwaves down south just now.   Richard Creed, the local op-ed columnist says of the term

… you are bound to encounter it. “Call them out” means to call attention to people whose statements or actions, usually political, are deemed untrue, unfair or contrary to the public good. Sometimes it implies that offenders should be scorned and that a public outcry is warranted.

I don’t have any documentation to show who inspired this “call them out” … Last September, in his speech to Congress, (President) Obama said “If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out.”

That was the speech in which, moments later, Rep. Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” One commentator observed that Wilson’s outcry demonstrated that the caller out can also be called out … publications have been quick to pick up on the phrase.

For instance, last September a column by John P. Hannah in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, said that President Obama should stand up for the Iranian people and against the Iranian regime at the U.N. The headline said, “Call Them Out, Mr. President.” …

A few more examples … “If we don’t call them out, how will people ever know the truth?” “Will the religious call out the religious right? Will the religious right call out the far right extreme fringe?”… Whatever the political stripe of those who use it, “call them out” has spread so fast and so far that it may be at the top of my list of clichés for this year.

Well the etymology goes back a lot farther and I think in many ways what is alluded to in the phrase is the idea of “Calling” as it was originally meant by the reformers ( and before that the more prophetic overtones of people ‘called (up)on’ by God ) to specific relationships and tasks.

In the Old Testament whole cultures and societies were called out (by prophets) to repent of their wicked ways and worship the one true God.  I think specifically of Moses who the Bible says “God called to him from within the bush.”  God spoke and Moses listened, Jonah called Ninevites, God called to Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, encouraging all to repent and become His children.

Likewise God calls men and women today.  He calls them first to Himself and then to tasks and lives that live out His purposes in the universe.   He equips them for such and allows them to succeed or fail based on where He has foreordained history to head.   It is ultimately God who “Calls” we can only in turn “call” others to His purposes (or perhaps our own.)  So when we call others out, we need to perhaps examine our own log first, lest we incriminate ourselves.

May the gift of repentance to follow the Caller be yours today.  For a more complete understanding of the phrases calling, vocation, and profession see chapters 1-4 of Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

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