plagiarism: the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The Vows of Cohabitation by Danny Murphy
in The Wittenburg Door Magazine, January 2000
“I, John, take you Mary, to be my cohabitant, to have sex with and to share the bills with. I’ll be around while things are good, but I probably won’t be if things get tough. As the saying goes, when the grass gets greener, seek other pastures. After all, the grass frequently is greener on the other side of the fence. If you should get a cold, I’ll run to the drugstore – but if you get sick to the point where you take more than a day or two off work, don’t count on me. And, forsaking many others, I will be more or less faithful to you as long as it feels good to me. If you should ever catch me screwing around on you, remember it doesn’t necessarily mean that I no longer care for you. I will still probably want to share bed and bills with you. So help me, me.”
The Vows of Cohabitation by Craig Groeschel
in Going All the Way, 2007
“I, Rick, take you Monica, to be my cohabitant, to have sex with you and to hold you responsible for half the bills. To love and take advantage of you, from this day forward, or as long as our arrangement works out. I will be, more or less, faithful to you, as long as my needs are met and if nothing better comes along. If I should break up with you, it doesn’t mean this wasn’t special to me. Because I love you almost as much as I love myself, I commit to live with you for a while. So help me, me.”
Groeschel version minus identical phrases and similar phrases.
“… To love and take advantage of you, from this day forward… Because I love you almost as much as I love myself, I commit to live with you for a while…”
Here’s a bit more of the timeline of the long strange trip the Vows of Cohabitation have been on.
2002: Reprinted in Christian Ethics Today with an attribution that didn’t include my name. They didn’t waste any time getting the attribution fixed after I brought it to their attention.
2007: LifeChurch produced a skit about The Vows. Starring Craig Groeschel, the video and at least one later version by LifeChurch got over 100,000 views.
Catholics liked it a lot. There were comments describing it as “Awesome” and “Brilliant.” In a blog post of 4/20/2011, Dr. Laura wrote, “I don’t know who created this, but it’s right on!”
The skit was also produced in other churches and many of them posted their own versions. One of those got over 13,000 views.
2007 was also the year Going All the Way by Craig Groeschel was published. The Vows of Cohabitation were on pages 71 and 72.
July 21, 2008: “Giving credit does several valuable things. It honors the pastor or church who came up with the idea. It demonstrates humility and security. It exposes a church to other great leaders and teachers. It removes any doubt of copying.” From Plagiarizing Pastors, a Swerve blog post by Craig Groeschel.
2011: The Vows of Cohabitation were reprinted in Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman with an attribution that didn’t include my name. I stumbled across it in 2012 and brought the error to Zondervan’s attention. They didn’t waste any time fixing the attribution.
December, 2013: After discovering the video, I contacted LifeChurch by email seeking an attribution. I expected to be blown off. However…
January, 2014: I was surprised to get an email from the LifeChurch lawyer. After several emails it was clear that she was very determined to convince me that my writing had nothing to do with their video. If she had been a bit less persistent, I would have moved on.
In her final email to me, she wrote, “There was no copying of your work and our content is very different than your article. We believe that our earliest content actually predates the article you forwarded.”
Earlier content? I found The Vows in black and white in Going All the Way and wrote to the publisher, Multnomah, about it. A week later, the editorial director replied. “I have shared your email with the author, who has expressed to me his best recollection that the material in his book originated with him. However, he’s not been able to verify that his initial use of that anecdote precedes the publication of your article. In light of this, he agrees that an attribution referring to your work in a footnote or an endnote to his book would be a reasonable solution.”
Best recollection? In any case, Multnomah didn’t waste any time getting an attribution into the book.
June, 2014: “I feel strongly about giving credit and have done so over and over again in sermons and books. We first used this idea in a sermon illustration video, which I sincerely thought was an original concept developed before the author’s article. To be above reproach, I asked my publisher to give this author credit, which is already reflected in the most recent reprinting of the book where this illustration is used.” Craig Groeschel’s statement for an article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey for Religion News Service.
“There was no copying of your work and our content (the video) is very different than your article. We believe that our earliest content actually predates the article you forwarded.” LifeChurch lawyer, an expert on intellectual property, in January, 2014, in response to my assertion that their video of 2007 looked like it had been built around my article of 2000.
“We first used this idea in a sermon illustration video, which I sincerely thought was an original concept developed before the author’s article.” Craig Groeschel in June 2014, after the publication of the Religion News Sevice article that mentioned his book of 2007 in which The Vows appeared.
Those two statements are contradictory but it doesn’t matter much. Plagiarism is the only plausible explanation for the obvious similarity of my article of 2000, LifeChurch’s video of 2007, and the relevant passage in Craig Groeschel’s book of 2007.
After getting out of comedy in the 90s, I wrote Humor 101: How to Tell Jokes for Power, Prestige, Profit, and Personal Fulfillment based on my illustrious experience as a comedian. It’s a steady seller on Kindle.
I’ve also written two novellas which are on Kindle.
Articles on Plagiarism
Is pulpit plagiarism on the rise? Some blame the Internet
This article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey came out on the Religion News Service on June 4, 2014.
“Plagiarism’s moral problem is clear: taking someone else’s intellectual work product and using it without attribution is theft. Without fundamental moral rules protecting intellectual work products in a manner equivalent to more tangible goods or money, the work loses value. The plagiarist essentially robs the author of the value of the written word.” Patricia McGuire, Huffington Post, 8-10-2014