Thoughts on Attribution of Sayings…

In an article recently published in the local paper, the reporter quoted me as saying:

“The Methodist church does not require you to think in a certain way,” Watts said. “It just requires you to think.”

This is not exactly what I said, nor am I the genesis of this proverb — this maxim. Indeed, in my essay in Fear to Faith I have clearly established that it was my pastor who told me such things upon an initial investigation into the United Methodist Church and it is a story I often repeat and repeat always the same way:

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So… how does this apply to the words of Jesus and the Gospels? Easily, I think.

How quickly does it take to wrongly (not with malice) report and incorrectly attribute something to someone and have it passed over without anyone checking the source?

On Saturday evening, I received an email from someone who was discussing this article with someone else. They kept referring to what I had said about a thinking church and they loved it. So much so that they started to repeat what “Joel had said.” Joel didn’t really say that… well, Joel did. Joel said it but the fullness of the story is that the local pastor first said it.

But now, as the story grows, it is Joel who said it.

Matthew didn’t have to repeat history in the Sermon the Mount, but could have easily assembled a collection of sayings evolving in the early Church someone had said Jesus had said.

I just thought this was an interesting experiment.

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5 Replies to “Thoughts on Attribution of Sayings…”

  1. Joel,
    This is interesting and I believe even more so is the fact that the subject statement was likely stated a bit differently several times before you heard it. It’s a bit like the game of whisper and I can see the results in all phases of life. Also it is likely to be repeated by some of an opposite opinion for their own purpose.

  2. And much worse ( though a bit off subject) one may quote something from your blog that was really a quote you were ridiculing and attribute it as your idea. Unfortunately this is done all to often and once put out there is hard to quell. Some say it is just politics so OK, why worry about it.

    1. and unfortunately, we do not control the context in which we are repeated, or by whom we are repeated… which is why we have the Gospel of Thomas. #winning

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