Orangeburg resident and Seventh-day Adventist Kaleb Eisele said there’s mistrust and misconception of his church by many people outside of it.
“Being sort of a more of minority religion, we tend to be distrusted by society. And that distrust fuels fear by Adventists of other people,” he said.
“So there’s this cycle where we have this parallel existences almost, but we’re not talking to each other.”
A member of Orangeburg Seventh-day Adventist Church, Eisele is seeking to bridge the gap as editor of the Facebook page, Humans of Adventism. Inspired by Humans of New York and similar pages, Humans of Adventism posts photos and short profiles of Adventists from all walks of life, in their own words.
“Humans of Adventism is specifically focused on my faith, my denomination,” Eisele said.
The posts are meant to show others that Adventists aren’t that different than anybody else and to spur interaction with non-Adventists. Adventists have the same concerns, the same hopes and fears, the same struggles and triumphs as anybody else.
“It’s just people talking about their life. I talk to people – it’s a different person every day, just ask them specific questions about how they view the world and their experience. And we share them, and we share a picture of them.”
The 25-year-old said he attended a public college, the College of Charleston, rather than an Adventist-affiliated institution, and it has given him insights that he might not have otherwise received in a more insular situation.
“Relationships with anyone, Adventist or not, are very important. So what I wanted to do is go the very opposite route, make us as public as possible,” he said.
“Get us interacting with people as much as possible and be as open about our beliefs, our lives and everything, and not have to try to convert people, just be open about who we are.”
The first post on the page was in July 2017, Eisele said.
“We put it together about six months before it went public, so (it’s been) close to two years now,” he said.
Eisele worked with several college students from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee and Andrews University in Michigan.
“And they basically volunteered to help me. We did all of it on our phones, online,” he said. “We just used the photos than people have.
"I managed the whole thing from my cellphone.”
He said he seeks out people to feature every day, mostly through Facebook and other social media.
“Every city, almost, in the U.S. has an Adventist church, so we never run out of people. I just cold-message them, I talk to them, I say, ‘Hey, this is Kaleb from Humans of Adventism; here’s what our page looks like. Would you like to talk about your life?’ And they say, ‘Yeah.'”
Humans of Adventism even recently took over an issue of an Adventist youth magazine published by the Georgia Cumberland Conference near Atlanta. The issue replicated the photo and profile format of the Facebook page.
“I contacted them and said, ‘Would you like to do a special issue? I’ll provide all of the material for the whole thing.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, that’d be great.’
“I said, ‘All I need you to do is print it. I don’t have any way to print it, I don’t have any investment money, nothing,’" Eisele recalled.
“So we were able to do that without any money being exchanged at all.”
He said the page and the magazine have been well-received by both Adventists and non-Adventists.
“It’s especially popular with my peers. We have people who have bought the magazine that are Muslim, Jewish, atheist, agnostic,” Eisele said.
“And we’re still sending them out. I took probably 12 to post office today,” he said. “It’s going over very well.”
He said he has found that people are more alike than they are different.
“I think there’s more commonality in millennial and Gen Z people. Like me being Adventist doesn’t make me that different from my Muslim friend," Eisele said.
“We still care about a lot of the same issues within our religion. Even atheists – we still have a lot of the same challenges, societal challenges that we’re dealing with.”
He finds faith-related dialogue to be easier in recent times.
“So I think it’s easier for me to talk about faith than in the past it was,” he said.
And the whole experience has changed him for the better, Eisele said.
“If anything, it’s made me more proud of people who are not Adventist,” he said. “When you grow up Adventist, there’s this sort of fear that you’re going to be judged for your faith.
“Seeing this being supported by people who have never been in an Adventist church, don’t even know anybody besides me who is Adventist, and then backing us and being supportive has really opened me to them, too,” Eisele said.
“It builds trust between us.”