Man talks to God. Writes Books. God forgets to tell him the blog post he is making is stolen.
January 10, 2009 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling series “Conversations With God,” recently posted a personal Christmas essay on the spiritual Web site Beliefnet about his son’s kindergarten winter pageant. During a dress rehearsal, he wrote, a group of children spelled out the title of a song, “Christmas Love,” with each child holding up a letter. One girl held the “m” upside down, so that it appeared as a “w,” and it looked as if the group was spelling “Christ Was Love.” It was a heartwarming Christmas story from a writer known for his spiritual teachings. Except it never happened — to him.

And apparently he's not too well regarded by the people in his town. (Read the comments on the article for local reaction.)
posted by tatnasty (95 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him with wood!
posted by stavrogin at 2:01 AM on January 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


But it happened to God, because God is everywhere. And God talked to Neale.

I mean, unless you think this moral upright and Godly man is just making a bunch of money by telling stories to a segment of the market that by definition has a propensity to credulously believe in (and pay good money for) fantastic (as in fantasy) and fabulous (as fabricated) stories about talking snakes, witches who can't be suffered to live, and magical wizards who cannot die.
posted by orthogonality at 2:29 AM on January 10, 2009 [24 favorites]


One cannot serve both God and Mammon. But giving it a try pays pretty well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 AM on January 10, 2009 [26 favorites]


This was a great story because it is a reminder that plagiarism in the digital age is much more difficult than ever before, and a fancy-pants writer who was once in the number one new york times bestseller list did it. Whatever puns we can get out of the religious correlation isn't nearly as satisfying as the story itself.
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:23 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, the Parable of the Hack and the Pay-cheque. Timeless.
posted by Abiezer at 3:41 AM on January 10, 2009 [15 favorites]


On hearing Walch's explanation, Chand decided to follow Christian doctrine and turn the other cheek, waving her arse in his general direction at every available opportunity.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:56 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, so that means Walch rode in on an ass?

At this point, at least MeFites know that the more someone proclaims themselves righteous, in touch with God, in possession of moral truth, or endowed with superior insight into the soul, that they are likely a lying, plagiarizing, child abusing, drug addicted, perverted con artist. It's almost perfectly predictable.

Or what Jesus said.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:05 AM on January 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


Also, Abiezer, that is wicked funny. I'm going to steal borrow "the parable of the hack and the paycheck" at some point, if that's OK with you. Plagiarism, perhaps. But I can't reach God to find out if it's OK this morning.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:07 AM on January 10, 2009


Well, apparently some bloke who does talk to God Almighty reckons it's all right, fourcheesemac, so who am I to complain?
posted by Abiezer at 4:12 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is with great pleasure that I find myself the first to type this...
PMNED!
posted by GoingToShopping at 4:36 AM on January 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


Or what Jesus said.

Yes, he did.
posted by DreamerFi at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


From Mrs. Chand: "“I have strong issue with anyone who would appear to plagiarize my work and pretend it is his own,” she said. “That takes away from the truth of the material, it takes away from the miracle that occurred..."

A child's mistake elevated into a miracle, that's a sad statement right there.

"... because people begin to question what they believe anymore."

Who knows where THAT can lead?
posted by Max Power at 4:47 AM on January 10, 2009 [16 favorites]


Have you ever heard this story before?

"A friend of mine was a missionary in Africa. One day he felt called by God to minister to a local tribe of cannibals. He was sure that spending time with this tribe would result in his own death, but he trusted in the Lord accepted God's plan for his life. The first night he stayed with the cannibals he slept in a hut on the edge of their encampment. He fully expected to be killed and eaten there, yet he awoke the next morning unmolested. He went to the chief of the cannibals and asked him why he had not been killed. The chief replied "We went to kill you during the night, but your hut was surrounded by mighty beings of Light and we were too afraid." After that day, all the cannibals converted to [church] and the village is still full of believers to this very day."

I was told this story at least twice in my Evangelical-Fundamentalist church growing up, once from my mom, the other time from my pastor. As a kid, I just assumed that they were talking about the same "friend". Later on, I would read the exact same story online -- on a Mormon website.

It wasn't until then that I realized the general ubiquity of folk tales such as these -- and the persistent inability for some people to grasp the difference between fairy stories and reality.
posted by Avenger at 4:49 AM on January 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


That was just the dress rehearsal. In the actual performance the girl with the M gets lost, and in their confusion the others spell out SCROTAL HIVES.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:52 AM on January 10, 2009 [74 favorites]


Dear Neale Donald Walsch: Feel free to use this misspelling for your next book.
posted by ColdChef at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I view the entire Bible, nay, the entire religion, as being just like these kinds of stories.
posted by telstar at 5:07 AM on January 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was told this story at least twice in my Evangelical-Fundamentalist church

Yep. To be fair to the guy, this is a pretty typical example of the drift in attribution of inspirational stories (it's essentially a religious FOAF story). You only need to Google ["Christmas love" "Christ was love"] to see how extensively the story has propagated, in the process coming adrift from the Chand attribution. So there a helluva lot of others just as guilty of the same copyvio and no-brain repetition of a meme.
posted by raygirvan at 5:25 AM on January 10, 2009


I view the entire Bible, nay, the entire religion, as being just like these kinds of stories.

You say that like it's something bad.
posted by RussHy at 5:28 AM on January 10, 2009


At this point, at least MeFites know that the more someone proclaims themselves righteous, in touch with God, in possession of moral truth, or endowed with superior insight into the soul, that they are likely a lying, plagiarizing, child abusing, drug addicted, perverted con artist.

fourcheesemac, it isn't MeFites who are making those claims about Walsch, it's his fellow spiritual author, Candy Chand.

Are we to reject this particular helping of Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:44 AM on January 10, 2009


DreamerFi, I was indeed referring to the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, which, taken seriously as God's word, condemns the entire religious right in the US to he'll.

Funny how rarely they seem to cite this most important teaching of their so called "savior."
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've recently listened to a bunch of back episodes of RadioLab about how the brain does this and that and it doesn't seem to be outside the realm of possibilities that Walsch could have created a false memory for himself. Obviously not an excuse whatsoever but I question Chand's absolute certainty that Walsch published the story fully knowing it was plagiarism.
posted by sexymofo at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops...messed up that Radio Lab link.
posted by sexymofo at 5:47 AM on January 10, 2009


This is definitely making it into Chicken Soup for the MeFite's Soul.
posted by lostburner at 5:56 AM on January 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Those kids are heretics anyway. It should read "Christ Is Love."

Many years ago, Time ran a cover that said "Who was Jesus?" and people complained about the "was."
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:01 AM on January 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Almost the same thing happened to Helen Keller, as she documented herself in her early biography on the chapter on Helen Keller and The Frost King. I for one don't feel comfortable casting a severe judgment on either one of them about this, provided they appropriately apologize for the error, which it appears they have.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 6:10 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, it seems to me that the story of the inverted 'W' is kind of a curious story to be taking some kind of spiritual instruction from.

Why the past tense? If it spells out 'Christ Was Love', does that mean that he used to be Love, but he isn't any longer? Would that be because he's stopped loving or because he's stopped existing?

And what's the miraculous message here? That a child's error can transform 2000 years of theological doctrine? That the accidental and the banal is more important to our spiritual lives than the ineffable and the sublime? That doctrines such as 'Let he that is without sin cast the first stone', and 'turn the other cheek' are as disposable as the stuff about the camel and the eye of a needle?

People are clearly in need to priests as their sole source of religious instruction and interpretation. Look at all the problems you get when you allow the theologically untrained to get involved in this stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:11 AM on January 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


A Million Little Fishes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:13 AM on January 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


"I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me" is my new default all-purpose excuse.

The second link is better, btw - lots more juicy details:

It was not until Beliefnet and Walsch learned that a New York Times reporter was working on an article about the incident that the post was removed and Walsch issued an apology, Chand said.

The first installment of the apology was posted on Jan. 6, explaining that Walsch was "truly mystified" about how he could have posted the story as his own. He reasoned he must have received it over the Internet and pasted it into his own files, eventually internalizing the story as his own as he retold it over the years.

A second explanation, which has since been removed, appeared on Jan. 8, citing a study on inadvertent plagiarism that describes a memory phenomena causing people to remember experiences that did not happened to them or the words of another as their own...

Inadvertent plagiarism is more likely to occur in older adults, [a psychology professor] said, but plagiarized material more than a paragraph long is very unlikely to be copied by accident, he said. "If there's a long passage, from a paragraph up, then it's almost impossible that that could be inadvertent plagiarism," he said.

Walsch said he did not have enough scientific background to respond to opponents of the theory. "All I know is what happened to me," he said in an interview at his home Thursday "I went into my files, I saw the file and I was absolutely convinced I had written that, but I'm not surprised by that, you know. You could walk up to almost any author in the world who's written 22 books and hold up five paragraphs of their own copy, and I'd be surprised if they recognized it ... I've written millions of words and 22 books and I'm not altogether sure that I would be able to recognize copy that I did not write, especially copy that had my son's name sprinkled all throughout and talked about experiences that I've had in my life."

Chand does not buy the explanation of memory error. "He did not apologize when he found out," she said. "He apologized when he figured out a reporter was onto him and said, 'It was my brain that tricked me into plagiarism.' In what world is that a confession?"

posted by mediareport at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2009


And on lack of preview, I see Stylus Happenstance beat me to it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2009


Have you ever heard this story before?

"A friend of mine was a missionary in Africa. One day
the chief of the tribe calls him into his tent. The chief says, "Father, something has happened that worries me very much. Yesterday, one of my wives gave birth. All of my other children are black, like me, but the child born yesterday is white, like you. How did this happen?"

The missionary starts to sweat, and he thinks fast. "Well, it's a miracle of God, and nobody can truly understand. It's like the goats that your tribe raises. Most of your goats are white, but sometimes a kid will be born and it will be black. God works in mysterious ways, and we love and honor all of His creations."

The chief is silent for a moment. "You speak with much wisdom, Father, and I understand your meaning. I will say nothing about the white baby if you say nothing about the black goats."
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:16 AM on January 10, 2009 [64 favorites]


That someone who wrote a book called "Conversations with God," and now says his mind "plays tricks on him," is delightfully ironic.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:39 AM on January 10, 2009 [29 favorites]


Nice to see how quickly this went from LOLGLURGEPLAGIARIST to LOLXTIANS!!1!
posted by availablelight at 6:50 AM on January 10, 2009


Imagine how much better things could have gone for Peter Lorre if he had known this little "flip the letter M upside down" trick.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:05 AM on January 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here's a Google cache of Walsch's blog post.

Compare to this older version.

I wish my mind could inadvertently reproduce texts word-for-word like that.
posted by gubo at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really, the notion that "Christ Was" seems antithetical to the entire idea of Christianity; the whole point is the good news of Christ came, crucified, and risen, if Christ Was Love, but he Isn't Any More, that sure sounds like a deviation from every mainline teaching in his name I've ever heard of existing.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:14 AM on January 10, 2009


If he had been caught with another man in a rest stop bathroom at 2 a.m., I would at least feel a little bit sorry for him, having grown up in a cage of fundamentalist ideas and unable to put himself together with his desires as a whole human being. But this? This is delicious. This was the print equivalent of Thomas Kinkade helping himself to someone else's work. There's a tiny chance that it was inadvertant plagiarism, since I know that memories can actually work this way, and it's not an enormous stretch. But I note this comment from the news article:

My only interaction with this person was while one of his seminars was running at a hotel I worked for. He was incredibly rude to staff members.

I'd believe just about anything after that. In the words of Dave Barry, "If a person is nice to you and rude to the waiter, that person is not a nice person."
posted by Countess Elena at 7:18 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nice to see how quickly this went from LOLGLURGEPLAGIARIST to LOLXTIANS!!1!

Well, that was the whole point, wasn't it? It's about a plagarized blog post. If it weren't for the religious angle, I can't see how this would make it to the front page. I don't think we did the whole pitchfork routine for Doris Kearns Goodwin. "Doesn't this just prove what we've always said about historians?"

The irony here is that Walsch is not a Christian--I don't think he claims to be one himself--and one of the few things that Southern Baptists and Catholics can adamantly agree on is that what Walsch writes is far, far removed from Christian orthodoxy. He's some kind of vague, New Age-y guru, more akin to Eckhart Tolle than anyone most Christians would claim as one of their own. It's more watered-down, church of Oprah, "there's no such thing as right and wrong" stuff.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:21 AM on January 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


it isn't MeFites who are making those claims about Walsch, it's his fellow spiritual author, Candy Chand.

I know. I'm just saying it's not very surprising to anyone who follows LOL Xtian follies, as many of us around here do for sport.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:21 AM on January 10, 2009


So there a helluva lot of others just as guilty of the same copyvio and no-brain repetition of a meme.

Including the pastor at my parents church.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:23 AM on January 10, 2009


Also, I thought Walsch's stuff was more crazy woo-woo, than straightforward fundiness. Am I off on that?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:24 AM on January 10, 2009


Also, and you'll have to trust me on this, do not get your neuroscience from RadioLab, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of breathlessly telling upper middle class people what they want to believe about the naturalistic basis of perception and experience, and finding people to confirm their culturally biased view of such things. People want so much to think that cultural phenomena have a neurobiological basis, and of course in the biggest sense they do have such a basis. But there's a neurobiological basis for plagiarism, of course. Lying is a capacity of the human mind -- one linguists have tended to see as diagnostic of "human" intelligence (although several other species also seem to "prevaricate" with symbols).

Saying "my brain made me do it" doesn't seem like an excuse to me. You could say the same thing about any act at all.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:26 AM on January 10, 2009


If he had been caught with another man in a rest stop bathroom at 2 a.m., I would at least feel a little bit sorry for him, having grown up in a cage of fundamentalist ideas and unable to put himself together with his desires as a whole human being. But this? This is delicious.

Again, this is just projection. That is far from Walsch's actual experience.

Walsch was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 10, 1943, and brought up as a Roman Catholic by a family who encouraged his quest for spiritual truth. He studied The Bible, the Rig Veda and the Upanishads. He says his books are not channelled, but rather that they are inspired by God and that they can help a person relate to Him from a modern perspective. The God in his books, for example, says that "there is nothing you have to do."

This is the polar opposite of Fundamentalism.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:27 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess it's possible that someone could come across a chunk of writing in their files and mistakenly assume they wrote it, but it seems unlikely that they would mistakenly assume they actually experienced it.

On the other hand, I take many hundreds of pictures every year. I'll bet if you snuck in one picture that I didn't take, I could identify it. I'm not sure if writing is similar though.
posted by diogenes at 7:28 AM on January 10, 2009


paisley henosis writes "Really, the notion that 'Christ Was' seems antithetical to the entire idea of Christianity"

Of course you're right, theologically.

But apparently, changing an "m" into a "w", the miracle of rotation around a center point, is the outside limit of the signs and portents God will provide during this pedestrian Age Of Reason; the miracle of transubstantiating the wafer and wine of an "m" into the body and blood an "i" I suppose belongs to a quondam age of exalted cathedrals and imposing illiteracy.
posted by orthogonality at 7:31 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The idea that reading something over and over and over can imprint it in your mind and eventually make you think that it is your own memory seems entirely plausible.

A lot of you are heaping scorn on this man for what seems to be a perfectly common slip of the mind -- a legitimate psychiatric phenomenon.

I am deeply ashamed of all of you. People like you are what's wrong with the world, just like the man who killed my beloved Gwen Stacy, a death that despite the amazing powers bestowed on me by the bite of a radioactive spider I was unable to prevent -- and may have inadvertantly caused.

Books such as Walsch's have been an invaluable help in the years since I good as murdered my cherished Uncle Ben, and have aided me in realizing that my great power must be tempered with, yes, great responsibility.

So lay off the man.
posted by Shepherd at 7:38 AM on January 10, 2009 [26 favorites]


So lay off the man.

LOLAPOLOGISTS
posted by Aversion Therapy at 7:57 AM on January 10, 2009


Again, this is just projection.

Okay, fair enough, I didn't know that about his life -- although I was speaking hypothetically about how I'd feel if he had a life situation like Ted Haggard's. Walsch doesn't have his problems, to be sure. But I stand by what I said about the staff.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:58 AM on January 10, 2009


You don't fuck with the Jesus.
posted by bardic at 8:01 AM on January 10, 2009


A second explanation, which has since been removed, appeared on Jan. 8, citing a study on inadvertent plagiarism that describes a memory phenomena causing people to remember experiences that did not happened to them or the words of another as their own.

There is a word for this phenomena: cryptomnesia There are 2 types and the first is cryptomnesia of time. This can be self-plagiarism in which an idea you think you just generated is an idea that you previously came up with and then forgot. Or it can be something by someone else that you read or heard before, forgot, and then recalled as a new idea.

Then there is cryptomnesia of source. This is the case when you "disremember" the origin. You never actually forget the idea, you just come to remember it as your own.

In any case, whether the plagiarism is inadvertant or deliberate, U.S. copywrite law treats both the same.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:18 AM on January 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


If he were claiming to have written it entirely from memory, that would be one thing. But he's claiming he got mixed up about an unattributed file, and that seems pretty believable.

I used to have a nice long article on Elizabeth Loftus and false memory syndrome, but right now all I can find is this fluff. There's plenty of research out there about how malleable memory is, and how fallible.
posted by felix grundy at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2009


You mean people lie about having a religious experience? *big wide eyes*

Wouldn't that kind of contradict teachings about bearing false witness?

Oh ... so they're speaking about a higher truth to get the Good Word out. I see. It's not really a lie, it's sort of a sin of greater purpose.

And about five minutes later, we can justify killing off heathens and heretics. Yay.

And, yeah, it's the post that's LOLXIANS, not the thread. Everything from the subject matter to the tepid "miracle" to the theological falsity (Christ is no longer love, Christ is ... metal!) to it being passed around falsely as a some Sunday School fable ... that's got the sticky, manipulative fingers of modern Christianity all over it.

One can hardly blame MeFites for recognizing what's already there.
posted by adipocere at 8:34 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's some kind of vague, New Age-y guru

It looks like a big cash-cow of an operation though, what with as many spin-offs and sub-groups and conferences and events and opportunities to donate as Jim and Tammy Bakker had during their hey-day. There's the Conversations With God stuff, Humanity's Team, the New Spirituality operation. You can sign up to the 'Messengers Circle' on his website for just $2 a week and 'begin to fulfil your role as a true Spiritual Messenger'.

Why should the fundies get to keep all the best scams for themselves?

Post your questions at the Support Center and then watch as the hundreds of other members support you by submitting their thoughts and ideas on your questions. Amazing healing can take place here!

There's an important spiritual lesson for Metafilter right here: mathowie, you aren't charging enough!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:37 AM on January 10, 2009


PeterMcDermott writes "There's an important spiritual lesson for Metafilter right here: mathowie, you aren't charging enough!"

You've got a point: mathowie doesn't write his own content either.
posted by orthogonality at 8:49 AM on January 10, 2009


I'll go scratch a cross in the floor for him when he's in jail.
posted by Artw at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2009


eventually internalizing the story as his own

While it's not an excuse and his motivation for apologizing is suspect, that explanation doesn't seem so far-fetched. Memory experiments on trial witnesses have shown that it's a much more fluid thing than most people would like to believe.

I also seem to recall(!) that Ronald Reagan was guilty of something similar. Telling a tale of something that had "happened to him" when in reality it had been a scene in a movie.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2009


Why the past tense? If it spells out 'Christ Was Love', does that mean that he used to be Love, but he isn't any longer? Would that be because he's stopped loving or because he's stopped existing?

Because of the gays.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"That takes away from the truth of the material, it takes away from the miracle that occurred, because people begin to question what they can believe anymore."

The real christmas miracle is how much mileage Candy Chand has managed to get out of an anecdote about a brief mistake a child made at a christmas pageant almost ten years ago.
posted by kcalder at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is a word for this phenomena: cryptomnesia There are 2 types and the first is cryptomnesia of time. This can be self-plagiarism in which an idea you think you just generated is an idea that you previously came up with and then forgot.

Thank you! This just happened to me, and now I know what it's called.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2009


that explanation doesn't seem so far-fetched

So have they both got kids called Nicholas? Because that *would* make it kind of coincidental, I suppose.

I wonder if they're both Indigo Children?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2009


The real christmas miracle is how much mileage Candy Chand has managed to get out of an anecdote about a brief mistake a child made at a christmas pageant almost ten years ago.

Which is extremely unlikely to have happened as told by Chand. And I'd be amazed if diligent research into inspirational literature of the past didn't show where Chand lifted it.

I say it's bullshit all the way back.
posted by words1 at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This happened to me. As I was touring internationally, giving motivational speeches about my numerous Wimbledon wins, someone googled, then alerted the media that it actually was Pete Sampras who had won at Wimbledon, and in fact, I had never played tennis at all.

It was truly embarrassing. And I still don't know how I could have made this mistake.
posted by terranova at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:51 AM on January 10
I also seem to recall(!) that Ronald Reagan was guilty of something similar. Telling a tale of something that had "happened to him" when in reality it had been a scene in a movie.


You're probably thinking of when Reagan was addressing a group of Medal of Honor recipients and told a story about someone who was posthumously awarded the medal for staying with his trapped buddy on a plane that was going down. People who heard the story wanted to know more; a search of the archives turned up nothing even similar among actual medal recipients, and it ultimately turned out it was a scene in a movie.

He didn't claim it happened to him, though, just that it was fact instead of fiction.
posted by RestlessNeerdowell at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2009


PeterMcDermott: they do both have children named Nicholas. From the NY Times article:
Ms. Chand said she originally wrote the piece about her son, Nicholas, and his kindergarten winter pageant and published it in Clarity in 1999. In his Dec. 28 blog posting, Mr. Walsch, who also has a son named Nicholas, said it happened at his son’s pageant 20 years ago.
posted by felix grundy at 10:32 AM on January 10, 2009


Given that, felix grundy, it doesn't seem quite so far fetched to me that someone could look at an old story in their files and assume that he probably wrote it.

I feel kind of sorry for him now.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2009


I feel kind of sorry for him now.

Why? According to the NYT his piece included "prosaic details like “The morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”" Which were directly lifted from her piece.
posted by fixedgear at 10:50 AM on January 10, 2009


The Little Engine That Could has a similar background. Well known, many variations. But no known author. Yes, Christ W/M as Love has a known author. But stories do get re-told. See also She's So Fine vs. My Sweet Lord.
posted by eccnineten at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a "trick memory" - not photographic but I remember pretty well every detail of for example movies thirty years ago - and I work on making sure it's clean and accurate and spend some time checking its contents against reality as well as themselves - even as it works.

Bleh, that sounds like showing off, but what I'm coming to is that I've actually noticed myself telling anecdotes that did not happen to me, as if they had happened to me - once every few years. The first time this happened, I stopped dead and privately wondered if something were wrong with me. But I realized it's somehow a "natural mistake" and I'm just vigilant for it.

Most people don't fetishize rationality the way I do. (I'm hardly a dry stick, I'm a wildly emotional musician with the other part of my life, but rationality is always the trump card.) They aren't brutally re-examining their memories and their words this way. This is particularly true of the religious.

What this means is that I completely believe that this poor guy just made a mistake - he allowed the anecdote to slip from third- to first-person and never knew.

Imagine if he had been thinking about it! He'd have known that he was in fact stealing a popular, documented story and would soon be caught.

Plus, speakers understand full well that giving credit for an anecdote only increases its value. (As you can imagine) I'm big on "the right quote" (I try to limit myself to one a day :-D) but I always, always credit the originator or at least say, "Someone else said." Shout-outs are very valuable, it's like free money for both parties.

I also think Ms. Chand has exposed the fact that she's not a very nice person - and not too smart either.

If she were smart, she'd realize that in fact her story has suddenly gained a whole new dimension and popularity; that from now on whenever you search the story, you're going to find the controversy, the poor old man eating crow, and her threatening text.

Imagine if she'd said the Christ-like thing: "It was very nice of Mr. Walsh to be so apologetic about re-using my story. I fully understand, life is complex and it's hard to keep all the details straight. And anyway, isn't the important part that this inspirational story about God is spread, rather than where the credit goes?"

(I replaced the word "Christian" with "Christ-like" in the above. While I've met Christians who were examples of generosity and meekness to us all, unfortunately most Christians who appear in public discourse seem to be concerned with vice, violence and veniality.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


According to the NYT his piece included "prosaic details like “The morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”" Which were directly lifted from her piece.

If you write, you have these little narratives floating around in your head, each with a little avatar representing the protagonist that you move around with words. It's very easy to lose track of whether the avatar is "you" or "someone else".

Were the writer actually consciously plagarising, surely he'd have changed the story around at least a little?

He apologized nicely enough. It's not a big deal. Certainly not worth:

"My body started to shake; I started to hyperventilate because I realized, 'Oh my God, this is a planned thing.'" Chand said in a phone interview Thursday, describing her initial reaction. "I thought, 'No, this is a mistake, this can't be happening.' I tried to excuse it."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2009


if he's telling the truth, then the bottom line lesson to all writers is to make for damn sure you cite everything you cut and paste in this world, even if it's a cite just intended for your own remembrance.

as someone who does a ton of online research and takes notes on various projects that have been ongoing for years, i can totally see that somewhere back in the depths of my early files, there might be notes that are incorrectly attributed. i mean, i *hope* i've always been scrupulous, and i hope i'm not capable of stupidity in this manner, but i could imagine it happening. i think it's especially possible for it to happen to someone older than i am, and someone who's less techno-adept.
posted by RedEmma at 11:18 AM on January 10, 2009


I often tell stories that actually happened to other people or that I read in books in the first person, as if they'd happened to me.
Just doing my part for urban myth-making.
posted by signal at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2009


See also She's So Fine vs. My Sweet Lord.

In that case, I have an idea for his next book:

This glurge
Has nothing tricky about it
This glurge
Ain't black or white, as far as I know
Don't infringe on anyone's copyright, so
(etc...)

He could even make a cool video with members of Monty Python dancing around with Bibles or something.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2009


At this point, at least MeFites know that the more someone proclaims themselves righteous, in touch with God, in possession of moral truth, or endowed with superior insight into the soul, that they are likely a lying, plagiarizing, child abusing, drug addicted, perverted con artist. It's almost perfectly predictable.

Or what Jesus said.


I don't know how to tell you this...
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:37 AM on January 10, 2009


Walsch calls out to his Geto Boys crew
Because his mind's playing trucks on him too
posted by norm at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2009


Tricks, even. Lousy iPhone keyboard.
posted by norm at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2009


Jesus is make-believe, and it's so very sad people waste their life with a real belief in this sort of mythology.
posted by plexi at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2009


I mean, the Lich King is more real than Jesus, and yet adults parade this nonsense around like it is The Truth Spectacular™.
posted by plexi at 11:48 AM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute, so if an an inverted W is a sign of Christ and his love, that does mean that Dubya is the anti-Christ?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:11 PM on January 10, 2009


plexi,

You need to read Candide. Most people need a religion, fairytales included, to survive. Learn to tend your own garden.
posted by RussHy at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2009


I find his story plausible - he could be lying, but it would be so pointless, so easy to uncover, and for such a dumb little story, that I am far more inclined to believe that he honestly internalized an unattributed tale. Memories really can be weird like that.

That someone who wrote a book called "Conversations with God," and now says his mind "plays tricks on him," is delightfully ironic.

It is very funny, although, to be fair to the philosophers of matters like these, it is precisely because the human mind is unreliable and can never give us full knowledge that they turn to faith in an absolute being who is beyond concrete time and space. For real theologians, it isn't contradictory at all, though plenty of fundies don't know much theology (and often wouldn't want to, as it is usually associated with catholicism...)

"My body started to shake; I started to hyperventilate because I realized, 'Oh my God, this is a planned thing.'" Chand said in a phone interview Thursday, describing her initial reaction.

wow, she really needs to chill. If I saw something I wrote plagiarized, I'm sure I'd be confused and perhaps upset, but even if I overreacted on first sight, by the time there's an interview - I think you at least act gracious. It's already clear who's wrong & who's right; you can say something about how we just can't know what his intentions were for sure, if you really think he did it on purpose...
posted by mdn at 12:19 PM on January 10, 2009


I feel the need for speed so I smoke weed and drink mead so I don't breed when I read Candide.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2009


The idea that reading something over and over and over can imprint it in your mind and eventually make you think that it is your own memory seems entirely plausible.

Sure. It's been happening at least since Don Quixote went insane reading books of Chivalry. Nothing to see here, just a mind playing tricks. Right. It seems more likely that reading something over and over would imprint in your rational mind that you'd read it over and over. Dude's a thief.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2009


Of course, what gets lost in all the hoopla is the crisis in literacy that the story illustrates.
posted by troybob at 12:49 PM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pastors in general, are terrible about stealing stories, and it isn't all "mind tricks" by any measure. They never ever get credit or citations for anything they tell you; when I was in college and still went, it used to bug me no end. My mom still hasn't forgiven me for Snopesing and debunking the "candy canes equal blood of Christ" story her pastor told when I visited her church one day. Hee. And I'm pretty sure I heard that missionary story too.
posted by emjaybee at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2009


Most people are taught as children to need a religion, fairytales included, to survive.

ftfy
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think Jesus is make-believe - there's as much historical evidence for him as a lot of other figures - but the magic part? That I believe is make-believe.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:35 PM on January 10, 2009


there's as much historical evidence for him as a lot of other figures

There's one contemporary reference which everybody who isn't desperately devoted to Jesus being real says is obviously forged. There are several sources who wrote about people doing exactly what Jesus is claimed to have done exactly where and when Jesus is said to have done it, and they make no mention of him. The reasonable conclusion is that he was made up later.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:52 PM on January 10, 2009


Enormous numbers of people lived and died without any evidence at all to follow them, much less an oral tradition. I don't find it hard to believe that a young Jew by name of Yeshua bar Yosef was born to a teenage mother who was damaged goods when she was married, developed a cult following in the Messianic tradition, and was crucified by the Romans. That's about all I'll give him. I think insisting that he never existed at all is foot-stamping -- and after all, who can prove a negative? I'll settle for people getting to the point of "not the son of God."

Oh hi thread topic.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:25 PM on January 10, 2009


Enormous numbers of people lived and died without any evidence at all to follow them, much less an oral tradition. I don't find it hard to believe that a young Jew by name of Yeshua bar Yosef was born to a teenage mother who was damaged goods when she was married, developed a cult following in the Messianic tradition, and was crucified by the Romans.

The famous Jewish historian Josephus, who recorded just about everything that happened around the purported time of the Jesus story, never mentions anything about it other than one line that basically says "Oh, and there was this guy Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified", which is pretty much unanimously agreed to have been inserted into his work long after he died by Christian revisionists. In fact, there's no record of anyone mentioning Jesus at all until quite some time after he was supposed to have died.

Most people are taught as children to need a religion, fairytales included, to survive.

This.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:46 PM on January 10, 2009


Nice to see how quickly this went from LOLGLURGEPLAGIARIST to LOLXTIANS!!1!

Yeah, this is MetaFilter. What's really surprising is that there was a transition at all.

*sigh*

If we're LOLing at XTIANs, my father bought a book called "How to Profit Off the Coming Rapture." I told him that someone had just profited off of HIM being a total sucker, which I imagine was the entire business plan behind this particular tome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, I've tried to stifle it, but I can't:

X = Christ

XIANS = Christians

XTIANS = Christtians
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:09 PM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact that their story-starring kids share that same name could lend weight to his cryptomnesia defense, but the anecdotal evidence of him being a dick points to the likelihood of plagarism.
posted by bonefish at 4:34 PM on January 10, 2009


I went to a funeral recently for the father of my best friend, there I heard the preacher tell the family and friends gathered there The Watchmaker analogy as if it was his own. Changing only the setting and placing himself in the story delivering wisdom to a doubtful judge, who because of the preachers wisdom sees the light.

I hate this sort of shit but held my tongue. The gathered group was struck by the depth of intelligence of this bozo.

I pointed out the man's plagiarism later in a group email and was ignored. Go figure.
posted by pianomover at 4:35 PM on January 10, 2009


I´m channeling William Blake for just a second, with these wonderful words ¨Jesus Christ is the only god, and so are you, and so am I¨.

And while I´m here, I´d like to mention that I first set eyes on Conversations with God at the Buddha Deli in Ubud, Bali. As in many hippie-trail cafes, it had a large assortment of books ¨for the enjoyment of our visitors¨. However, I fell so in love with it that I stole it.

I loved it, and still do. And, I for one, am ever so willing to give old Donald a mulligan on this one.
posted by lometogo at 4:57 PM on January 10, 2009


X = Christ

Damn. All these years and I thought we'd been laughing at poor Chris...

Why? According to the NYT his piece included "prosaic details like “The morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”" Which were directly lifted from her piece.

The piece was pretty well replicated wholesale. He didn't re-write it to disguise it's origins. Rather, it sat in his files for ten years ago while he repeated the story over and over again. Seeing his kid's real name on the original would make it fairly easy to believe that you might have originated the content.

Not that I believe it actually happened to him. But I'm guessing that that's true of most of the content that he writes. He talks to the man in the sky for a living, so when it comes to spiritually heartwarming tales, let the gullible sucker beware. But you fish out a ten year old piece out of your files that talks about your son and uses his name, I think it's probably pretty easy to convince yourself you wrote something like that.

Also, it's not like you have to actually *try* very hard to please that particular audience, so the potential risks massively outweigh the gains, which would seem to mitigate against deliberate plagarism.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:58 PM on January 10, 2009


Jesus built my hot rod.
posted by telstar at 7:01 PM on January 15, 2009


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