Using other people’s material is what lazy pastors do every week.

Back in my seminary days in Chicago I took a class on African American Preaching. Loved it. One of our texts was this book: Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its Sources.

From the book jacket: “…argues that King’s language and imagery comprised a skilful blending of the oral tradition of the Afro-American folk church and the style of the printed sermons of white, liberal preachers.”

I remember being shocked at how much wasn’t original to him, including I HAVE A DREAM: “the source King raided for this was a speech given to the Republican National convention of 1952, by a black preacher named Archibald Carey.”

In my field we call this Redaction and Source Criticism. Did you know Matthew and Luke drew heavily from Mark? And Mark drew heavily from a Source we only know today as Q. And while I’m at it should I mention the Golden Rule in my beloved Sermon on the Mount wasn’t original to Jesus?

At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, Melania Trump hit a home run with her speech however it turns out 50 words were lifted from Mrs. Obama’s 2008 speech. True to form in castigating conservative women, the Left pounced with full-scale cast-the-first-stone-political-plagiarism faux-outrage and foolishness.

Who do we really think has been behind our Teleprompter President?

The Dirty Jobs guy, Mike Rowe, had some interesting comments on his Facebook page which made the news.

I don’t know about common sense, but here’s my analysis of the situation. (I hope to God someone hasn’t already written this.) Regarding the charges of plagiarism, I really don’t know. All I know for sure is that Mrs. Trump is absolutely, positively guilty of standing before the country and reading words she didn’t write as if they were own. I also know that Mrs. Obama is guilty of doing the same thing. Both women – along with their husbands – have stood proudly before a national audience and pretended the words they read originated with them – knowing full well they did not. Let’s consider for a moment, the weird reality of speechwriters in our political discourse. Why do we tolerate them? Why do we permit our leaders to pretend that someone else’s words are theirs? Moreover, why do we allow them to stand before us and act as if they’re NOT reading from a script, when we know damn well they are? Why – in this – “age of authenticity” – do we accept the artifice of a Teleprompter, and all the other pretenses of earnestness that enable candidates to present themselves as something other than who they really are? I always thought the obvious answer was because we’re a lazy and shallow species who value style over substance. But now, it seems I was mistaken. Today, half the country has risen up in righteous indignation because the words of an anonymous speechwriter – words once read by Mrs. Obama as if they were her own – have been co-opted by another anonymous speechwriter, and given to another aspiring First Lady – who also read those same words as if they belonged to her! Did either one of them believe what they read? Beats me. Does anyone even care about such a thing? Who knows? No one is talking about what was said. Only about how they said it. What we know for sure – is that neither one of them wrote the words they spoke. The real question is, do we truly care? Personally, I do. But not as much as I care about the underlying Kabuki that now informs the whole election process.

 

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