We live in the Avalanche Age. Each day we’re buried beneath mammoth piles of information. Torrents of snow, rock and debris plummet toward us in a never-ending cycle of news, media, social media and information, not to mention the trivial bits of pop culture and celebrity worship.
For the average human being, with the responsibilities of job, education, home and family, it’s simply impossible to take it all in. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be properly informed, with primary sources and thorough personal study and thought.
With our over-scheduled lives we increasingly abdicate, in one area or another, allowing others to do the work for us. Housework? A quick call to Miracle Maids and we can mark that task off our to-do list!
Enter identity religion. Information surges toward us, requiring considerable study in order to reach a Biblical conclusion. Lacking time, we surrender our responsibility and allow others to process the information for us. We jump on the identity religion bandwagon which most resembles…us!
Take, for example, Beth Moore. Evangelicalism certainly doesn’t lack for opinions of Mrs. Moore and her teaching. This post is not an apologetic for her, but having said that, I would wager that few of her critics have devoted considerable time to in-depth, personal study of Moore’s material. I suspect that many criticisms are based on hearsay, internet memes and snippets of video which are then circulated. Some of us take the easy route by abdicating to the view of a bully pulpit blogger.
Because of this trend, there is a tendency to dismiss with a broad brush any concern which might have the slightest ring of social justice. Because we have taken up positions in our various identity camps we sometimes mistakenly dismiss actual sin as whiny SJW rubbish.
“Who said that? Well no wonder! He’s a Liberal Elite Egalitarian! You can’t listen to a thing he says!” –or– “Give me a break! With that Fundy ‘Murica crowd everyone’s a heretic! Ignore them!”
When we embrace identity religion, we effectively abdicate our Biblical responsibility. This dulls our ability to reason and discern. We cling to those with whom we agree, rather than clinging to what is right. – 1 Timothy 6:11.
Rather, let us be like Joshua. “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” – Joshua 5:13-14
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” – Revelation 2:2-4
As a friend has so rightly said, the church, like the world, is putting the second commandment in place of the first and greatest. Love thy neighbor now supersedes love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
We are following in the steps of the church at Ephesus, with our focus on deeds. We are yoking ourselves with an earthly movement, social justice, which has neither the power to bring about justice nor the power to save.
We are leaving our first love, which is Christ, who alone can bring true justice for every evil committed by man.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 2:7a
Below is Ms. Occelli’s Facebook post, dated February 16, 2013, in which she wrote the “seed quote” in question. Click here to view the original post.
The quote by author Cynthia Occelli was seen in the October 18, 2016, video lesson entitled The Broken Way, Small Group Bible Study by Ann Voskamp – Session One, on the official Zondervan YouTube channel. Beginning at approximately the 2:10 minute mark.
The quote is also found in the first chapter of Mrs. Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, on page 26. In both cases Voskamp attributes the quote to her father. See below.
Links to information on alleged plagiarism by Ann Voskamp.
Use of Images/Logos, also used by author Cynthia Occelli, 2011 – 2013
Plagiarizing author Cynthia Occelli, October 18, 2016.
Plagiarizing blogger Kevin Sheehan and Dr. Tim Keller, November 1, 2016
The First Allegations, discussions following the IF: Gathering Conference- February 3-4, 2017
Plagiarizing Professor Wade Mullen January 15, 2018
A Mosaic of Grace – An apology from Ann Voskamp, January 20, 2018
A Tangled Web of Grace – January 24, 2018
I have hesitated to document this incident, simply because I don’t have a list of links to prove what took place. Rather, I’ll be pointing to something which isn’t there, and that’s much more ambiguous than I like.
Having said that, some of the first allegations of plagiarism by Ann Voskamp surfaced during the IF: Gathering Conference in early February of 2017. The conference, held in Austin, TX featured speakers Jennie Allen, founder of IF, Lysa Terkeurst, Jennie Yang, Jeanne Stevens and Mrs. Voskamp. The conference was also live-streamed, via video, to a multitude of churches in the US and Canada. The conference videos remained available online, but were removed shortly after the allegations surfaced.
Following is a transcript of a portion of Mrs. Voskamp’s talk at the IF: Gathering Conference with time stamp references. Note she opens with the question, “What do you want?”
0:00 – 2:23 What do you want? Do you want safety, security, guarantees? Do you want to stand with the comfort of the majority? Climb ladders of prosperity? Make affirmation or validation your priority? Or be about self-improvement primarily—about stability and popularity and familiarity? What do you want? Because here’s the thing. You have to know what you want because this is kind of everything—you are what you want. You are what your heart beats for, seeks, for reaches for. You are what your heart loves, desire, admires, acquires. You are what your heart wants. Because what you want is your god. What you want is your gravity your identity your security. Is God your gravity? Is the word your weighted mooring in a world that is storming? Because if you’re not weighted down by the word, your heart is waiting to be a cyclone ripped apart. What do you have an appetite most for when you are hurting the most? Because that is what you want the most. What do you want and do you want what he wants? Jesus isn’t about just forming your mind, he’s about forming your heart into what he wants, to love what he loves, to form your broken heart in to a self-giving self-sacrificing love like his love. What we love most is our most basic orientation, our baseline inclination, our default orientation that generates how we move forward. And the only way to live is to move forward. And we’re all moving forward toward something. And what is that something—that someone—that you really want? You are what you want and you are what you love.
4:58 – Now is the time to get in formation, get in formation, get in formation and disciple a generation to live cruciformation.
16:51 – Esther generation, live upside down kingdom get into formation get into formation get into formation to transform the nations by our self-giving cruciformation.
Now note the opening sentence of You Are What You Love, by Dr. James K. A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview.
Lastly, note the Twitter exchange between Alex Nolette and Dr. James K. A. Smith himself in which Dr. Smith tweets: “I’m sure there’s a footnote in her heart.”
Others on Twitter noted a recognizable similarity to the chorus of a rap song by Beyoncé titled, Formation.
Beyoncé: Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation, I slay
Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation
Ann Voskamp: 4:58 – Now is the time to get in formation, get in formation, get in formation and disciple a generation
It’s not possible to state that this is a clearcut example of plagiarism, but the social media conversation began here.
When we call ourselves a poet and believe that gives us license to manipulate the meaning of Biblically-essential words, such as changing resurrection from a noun to a verb, we are tampering with God’s divinely inspired means of grace and, that is a very serious charge indeed. When we say that we can “practice resurrection” we diminish the singular, divine accomplishment of Christ alone. Christ alone has the ability to “practice resurrection”. It is not a self-help technique. Words have meaning.
After some digging I’ve located what I believe is the original stock art image of the tree used by both Cynthia Occelli and Ann Voskamp.
It was designed by an artist named Tolchik who is listed as an Illustrator / Vector Artist. Her portfolio with Shutterstock is found here.
The image is available for purchase, with an extended license, via Shutterstock, CanStock, 123RF and several other stock photo companies.
It is certainly possible that Mrs. Voskamp and Ms. Occelli coincidentially chose to use the same image.
I want to begin by stating, for the record, that I take no pleasure in writing these posts. This process leaves me discouraged and weary, but biblical integrity demands that this information be made known. Plagiarism is a serious charge. Exodus 20:15.
On April 4, 2018 author Cynthia Occelli shared this tweet with an image of the cover page of her 2013 ebook entitled Inspired Living/The Inspiration Reboot. It features a whimsical, black and white drawing of what appears to be the “tree of life”. The image includes the logo from Ann Voskamp’s website inserted for comparison. It appears to be the same “tree of life” image in reverse.
Mrs. Occelli has confirmed that the image was used in her ebook, with permission, from the company Trading Phrases. See below for images of the ebook cover and copyright page.
The original art is a “giant wall decal” product. The product page can be found here. and is seen below.
Mrs. Voskamp’s “tree of life” image (seen below) is nearly identical, with a few minor alterations, such as the roots being removed.
Did Mrs. Voskamp also obtain permission to use the image from Trading Phrases?