Monday, January 08, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Plagiarize

Sunday morning as I was straightening up my kitchen, I turned on the radio and began listening to whatever radio preacher happened to be on at the time. This particular guy was preaching out of Romans, which I found interesting since I am studying Romans in BSF right now. As I listened to the guy, I began to realize that his sermon sounded very familiar. The more I listened, the more familiar the message became. I suddenly realized where I’d heard these words before. Now, I am one of those annoying people who talks back to the TV and the radio, and at this moment, I turned to the radio, pointed my finger at it, and exclaimed, “You’re a plagiarizer!”

This guy was preaching straight from the BSF notes. I know this because he read almost word for word, as if they were his own words, a passage straight from the lesson 11 BSF notes on Romans—a passage that I blogged about just a few weeks ago.

I was so amazed that this guy would do such a thing that I went to the internet and found the website for his ministry and clicked on the link for that day’s radio broadcast. As I listened, I hoped that I’d hear him give credit to the BSF notes for the ideas, but he didn’t.

Now, I know that sometimes preachers will recycle other preachers’ sermons. I’ve heard preachers say that they heard so-and-so preach this message and wanted to use the same material, but they gave credit to the author. This guy just made it sound like all the illustrations were his own.

Is this common practice among preachers? What do you think about this?


Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I would never do such a thing.

Streak said...

Seriously, why does this surprise you?

JMG said...

Streak, I guess I'm not all that surprised. I'm more dismayed at this guy's audacity in plagiarizing from a well-known bible study series. Surely he didn't think somebody wouldn't catch on?

I would expect this sort of thing from college students. But I would think that a grown man who is supposed to be representing the gospel of Jesus would be beyond that sort of thing.

crittermer said...

This is a very timely topic, JMG. In fact, it was being discussed at another blog I read this week. Apparently plagiarism among preachers is much more common than I'd ever imagined. I guess with the wealth of resources that are at our disposal these days and the fact that many of them are so quickly accesible, I shouldn't be surprised. I can especially see how it would be a great temptation to plagiarize if you'd had a busy week with not much time to study and meditate on your own. But it's still wrong. I also think all the "commercialized" Christianity out there that features the same series and authors over and over again also seems to foster a real famine of original thought in our church circles today (To be fair, I should say that I've really enjoyed and benefited from some of those "commercialized" materials.)

Of course, my mom's solution to this problem is for all churches everywhere to buy live video streaming so they can watch the preacher she hears every week.=) Haha. While I certainly believe there could be some real positives to that prospect (the guy is pretty amazing), I really place a premium on having a diversity of perspectives out there.=)

I also get cracked up by the BSF lessons because I've noticed at the bottom of each lesson they name a popular commentary and then claim that "sunstantial portions of this lesson" are taken from it. At least BSF gives the credit where the credit is due, but the radio dude you heard could have been ripping off not only BSF, but some of the great theologians of old.=)

Tony Arnold said...

Any time you are not open and honest with your words and actions, you are at best violating the spirit of Christ, at worst, directly violating God's law.

And I am not referring to keeping your mouth shut about your internal feelings on a matter. That is just discernment and wisdom.