December 17, 2013

Burning the Witches

Even though we think we're all compassionate and forgiving as Christians, we still love to burn us some witches.

Today, Rachel Held Evans tweeted about finding some of her work plagiarized by Amy L. Fritz in a blog post (since removed). This instance of plagiarism was nine paragraphs copied verbatim from a post Rachel wrote for Qideas. Of course, Twitter caught for immediately, with critical chirps and squawks aimed at Amy, her husband, and eventually back at Rachel.

Now, when I say critical here, that's all I mean. I didn't see anything insulting or threatening towards Amy (although there is the chance that I missed something), just a lot of people upset over the plagiarism of their friend's work. Then came the backlash at Rachel, telling her she should have contacted Amy privately, a la Matthew 18.

All of this is turning out to be a a gigantic cluster, especially when people keep jumping in on the situation 2 hours after it broke on Twitter. The whole thing is starting to look a lot like this:

We all rationally know that Rachel and her agent would have handled this situation quickly and competently, but we just can't help jumping into the fray. We love to burn some witches, and we'll add a hat, fake nose, and wart just to make sure we're really burning a witch. Because it's in our nature to attack and cast out anything we think might contaminate our purity. Read Richard Beck's book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality for the best explanation of how we use boundary psychology in exclusion and shunning. I've written about it before, and Richard has numerous times on his blog (which you should definitely be following.)

Amy, you screwed up big time. But what made it real for you was that you got busted in a big public way. I trust this experience will cure you from any future desire to plagiarize. Little folks like you and I don't have the juice like Mark Driscoll to ignore accusations of wrong-doing. But, you've already taken steps to right your wrong, and you deserve recognition and an 'atta girl' for doing that.

My writing isn't really good enough or relevant to anything to ever be considered for plagiarism. But, I have had the copyright of some of my photos violated, so I have an idea of what you feel, Rachel, if not in terms of amount or constant theft. Enough is enough, and sometimes you've got to let someone know how the cow eats the cabbage.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement is completely wrong, and you're engaging in being a sucky person if you do it. Burning witches is wrong, too, so maybe the rest of us on the internet can chill out a bit, and quit trying to figure out who is made of wood and weighs the same as a duck.

I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful Christmas holiday, and for those whom this time of year is painful and filled with bitter memories, I get that completely. I pray that you can find a bit of peace and comfort in the midst of all of it.

The Good News is that God loves us, even when we mess up. 

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