The Story in Short
But, this is the 21st century, so of course the story couldn’t end there. In the days following, Meffered posted evidence of his plagiarism on her website and, with each passing day, additional examples of plagiarism were discovered. The most glaring example being a couple of paragraphs in a study guide produced by his church to correspond with a sermon series on 1st Peter, that were copied directly from a commentary without any citation.
Then, things started to get weird. Mefferd deleted all of her previously posted evidence of plagiarism, and released an apology letter regarding the tone and nature of her accusations. In the days following the apology, one of Mefferd’s staff members resigned, and made public statements claiming her resignation was related to the Christian celebrity machine pressuring Mefferd’s program. In other words, she didn’t like the Christian mafia’s bully tactics.
That’s my quick recap. Jonathan Merritt’s blog has run a more thorough play-by-play of the happenings. If you want more details, that’s a good place to start.
Over the last three weeks, bloggers and national media sources (Christian and secular) have chimed in on the incident. Driscoll, being a scandal magnet, and the type of personality which everyone has an opinion about, lends himself for this type of story to go nuts.
This past Thursday, I found my Facebook feed littered with multiple postings about Driscoll. Some posted their own thoughts, and others merely linked to articles, but it was the hot topic of this last week in my feed.
Apparently, every idiot with an opinion wanted to chime in….so I thought I would be one more idiot adding to the noise.
LISTEN FOR YOURSELF
Listen to the interview below. It’s interesting to hear the different perspectives on whether one of them was being rude. I’ve literally read all four possible opinions:
(1) Driscoll was rude,
(2) Mefferd was rude,
(3) Neither was rude,
(4) Both were rude.
Decide for yourself. I’m on team “She was rude.” She blind-sided him with accusations. How could he not come off as defensive?
Much Ado About Nothing
(1) In the interview, Driscoll is very quick to give credit to Peter Jones. He’s not trying to take credit for Jones’ work. Clearly, he is friends with Jones, and wants others to know about his work.
(2) In his book, Driscoll did cite Jones, but not very throughly.
(3) Driscoll’s citation of Jones doesn’t match academic citation standards.
By the technical definition of plagiarism, Driscoll did appear to plagiarize Jones’ work. However, when you use a power word like plagiarism, most people are talking about more than “using…ideas without giving credit.” People are typically referring to this other Webster definition.
The emotion word most people associate with plagiarism is STEAL. The underlying idea that someone is using someone else’s work for their own personal gain.
I see a fundamental difference between someone intentionally using another person’s work and botching the citation, and someone intentionally trying to pass off another person’s work as their own.
This is where I get frustrated with this situation. It seems blatantly clear, based off of the interview and all the evidence, that Driscoll was not intentionally trying to pass off another person’s work as his own. This seem’s like a clear case of sloppy footnotes and citation.
- If Driscoll intentionally passed off Jones’ work as his own, that is a big deal.
- If Driscoll, his research team, & Tyndale got sloppy with footnoting, this whole debacle should have a different tone.
In either scenario, corrections need to be made. Driscoll and his team need to do a better job with citations. However, one situation is a matter of intentional sin, and the other is an example of lazinesses. Given that Driscoll was very quick to credit Jones in the interview before he realized accusations were on the way, it seems far more likely this was an example of laziness.
A month long scandal being covered secular and Christian media over sloppy footnotes seems like much ado about nothing to me.
The Bigger Problem Divisiveness
- If you’re mad about the plagiarism…it looks like a stupid mistake.
- If you’re mad about his tone during the interview…put yourself in his shoes. He was blind-sided.
- If you’re mad about the “Christian mafia” tactics…first off, the claims are based on one disgruntled source. Second, it’s not surprising a major publisher would respond strongly to one of their best selling author’s being tricked into an interview Jerry Springer style, only to discover it was a trap.
The important thing to me is that Janet Mefferd started a divisive plagiarism witch-hunt that has no Kingdom benefit. Status updates are being made on Facebook. Articles are being shared. Blogs are being written. There’s no Kingdom benefit to any of it. It’s all in-fighting and bickering over citation blunders.
I would be fine with it if it was actually just an in-fight, but it’s spread beyond that. This controversy has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Slate (…I’m sure’ there’s more too). Beyond that, countless Christians have shared articles throwing Driscoll under the bus. We’re shooting our wounded, sharing it, and encouraging the secular press to join the gun fight.
- Where is the benefit in any of this?
- What did you want Driscoll to say in the interview (where he was blind sided)?
- How was there ever a possible positive benefit to any of this?
If you like this blog, here’s another rant I recently wrote: