(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)
Plagiarize. Multiple times. Get fired. Get a better job. In what world does that progression of events make sense? Ours.
The story of Internet phenom Benny Johnson exemplifies today’s web-based culture. Ben Terris captures the essence of Buzzfeed Benny well in a Washington Post article.
Benny climbed atop the “listicle” web world with some 500 posts in about a year and a half. Listicles are enticing. They offer the possibility of quick and quirky info that might make interesting conversation fodder at a party or online. Terris cites several of Benny’s listicles – “19 Times American Politicians Tried to Look Normal and Failed;” “The 16 Most Canadian Things About Ted Cruz;” and “The 25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions.”
Almost everyone recognizes that stealing someone else’s work – plagiarism – is wrong. Benny even publicly criticized someone for stealing his stuff. And Benny is not alone. Plagiarism is rampant. We hear stories about it from classrooms and research papers to pulpits and public speaking. Everyone seems to know it’s wrong, but still many continue to do it – maybe with the basic justification of “everyone does it.”
This is not just about plagiarism; it’s about honesty and integrity. Read the Post piece by Terris and read it all. You will see that even after the firing and professional rebirth, Buzzfeed Benny has no desire to communicate truth; he simply wants to communicate in a way people will want to listen. He lies; the truth becomes hidden behind a curtain of fantasy.
The Internet is such a wonderful aspect of our lives today. What are we going to do with it? Are we going to only care about getting a following, or are we going to care about making this world a place where truth and honesty are valued?
Of course, Jesus – the truth – revealed that people really do want what is true and good and loving in their lives. And part of Jesus’ truth is the offer of forgiveness for our foul-ups.
Plagiarism is not the unforgivable sin, but it should have consequences and, by all means we should hear and follow Jesus’ famous command to “go and sin no more.”