Monday, December 16, 2013

In Defense of Plagiarism

In recent days the evangelical internet (now there is a silly concept) has been in an uproar about the issue of plagiarism.

First, Mark Driscoll came under fire for apparently using massive amounts of other people's material without properly citing them. In some cases his books allegedly borrowed virtually word for word from other sources. I've not investigated these claims. If they are true, it's wrong.

More recently, a young female blogger reposted the writing by Rachel Held Evans, claiming it as her own. It's pretty clear that she copied and pasted with minimal changes. To her credit, the young lady apologized after being called out for her indiscretion.

Plagiarism is bad. I get it. It's theft. It's false. It's selfish. At times, it negatively impacts the ability of some to earn their livelihood.

I've heard preachers use my words and my thoughts as if they were their own. It made me angry. I had worked hard to formulate those thoughts. I had labored over those words. I wanted the credit for those thoughts. It was my right to protect my intellectual property.


But what about this? It's not apples to apples, but Paul knew about some guys who were preaching the Gospel out of false motives. They were teaching in a way that placed him in a bad light. They were using their platform to harm him.

He didn't care. As long as Gods truth was getting out, he didn't care.

Another time, some Christians were arguing about which church leader was best. Was it Paul with his dizzying logic or was it Apollos with his soaring oratory? Paul didn't care. He didn't care who got credit for the Gospel success. It wasn't he or Apollos that was doing the work, anyway. It was God.

And that's the thing.

Those words of mine that get borrowed... They aren't really mine.

That article of yours that got stolen... It's not really yours.

Those thoughts of that one guy that got pirated... They aren't really his.

If it's true, it belongs to God. All truth is His. He just lends it to us to steward. And if someone hears Gods truth from me, and then passes it off to someone else... Awesome.

And if I don't get credit, that'll be okay.

I think that's what Christ would want. I think he wants me to give up my rights rather than fight for them. I think he wants me to seek his fame, not mine. I think he would rather me be generous and gracious than tight-fisted.

I know it's more complicated than this. I don't think you should copy my work and claim it as your own. But, ultimately, that's on you... And if it does the kingdom good, well then good for me.