Topics: Social Media, faith, followers, plagiarism, copyright.
Today, Religion News Services published a piece about Dale Partridge and his issues with plagiarism. The article mentions a few pieces of social media and that his most recent book contains plagiarized material. This article is good start and we are glad there is attention. We also think it is important to see the extent of this plagiarism. It goes far beyond a few social media pieces.
First, who is Dale?
Upon a simple browse of his highly curated social media feed, Dale Partridge looks like a pretty put together guy. Full of manicured photos of family and his comments that instruct others how to love and protect. Dale’s current form is as a pastor of a home church¹, leading Relearn Church, Ultimate Marriages, and Real Christianity through various outlets like YouTube.
In the past, Dale led a company called Sevenly. There, he hoped to change the world a shirt at a time and claimed to donate $7 of every sale to non-profits. They did raise a lot of money and even more press in which Dale is front and center. He then wrote a book called People Over Profits about how companies should reconfigure their work. Maybe you have seen his TedX talk or a keynote at a Facebook event. For a bit, he was a social media darling.
Suddenly, Dale left Sevenly and moved to Oregon. Little is published about why he left but you can read his narrative in his book Saved From Success. For a few years, there was not much sign of him except for some continued social media posts. He then started a tech incubator called Startup Camp with former Road Rules cast member Chris Graebe. They claimed to help give “entrepreneurs the fastest and easiest way to build a business from scratch (StartupCamp.com)” and hosted a few events. As of now, the company appears open and both Chris and Dale claim to still be a part but Chris lives in Tennessee, Dale makes no mention of the work, and the website shows all courses are closed.
Soon after this Dale began to create his current faith offerings. He launched Unlearn Church, now called Relearn Church, with a former pastor named Matt Jacobson. They also claim the Benham Brothers² are on staff. His goal, to support a “a mission to teach Christians how to plant biblical churches.” He also launched Ultimate Marriage with his wife. You can listen to their podcast here.
All in all, Dale has a huge following.
Why are we looking at Dale?
Dale is a social media genius. You can see his TedX and countless other videos about how to develop a following. He even gave a talk called “The 3 Secrets to Creating a Cult-Like Following” which we have not been to see⁴. At the core of his philosophy, is “engagement”, folks sharing and retweeting his words and pushing him out there. You may recognize Dale’s name recently from a post he made following the death of pastor Jarrid Wilson. The post can be seen here but he has since deleted the post on Instagram. In a follow-up response, Dale attempts to clarify his message. With Dale’s keen eye for “engagement”, these sort of posts may help him get more followers and be part of a strategy, controversy attracting followers. Seethe internet kerfuffle around his wife’s post about leggings from 2015 as an example.
But you still ask, “OK, why do we care?” Isn’t the RNS article enough?
Over the years, Dale has repeatedly posted content which he claims as his own but is actually the work of others. The RNS article mentions that Dale claims to have stopped in the past. However, this has been shown to be a regular occurrence and has occurred even after he has been approached to stop.
In 2014 he was confronted on Twitter by Nick Laparra and wrote an apology to Nick stating he would stop. He also posted a blog post about the “public correction” on Start Up Camp that has since been removed.
Perhaps he learned and stopped, but in 2019, after his comments about Jarrid Wilson and mental health, we looked again and found a number of continued examples over the years.
First, upon seeing this use of others work, we contacted Dale’s school, Western Seminary. They contacted Dale through a faculty member about a few of the examples we sent. They informed us that Dale had said this was a mistake by his assistant and soon after, a section was added to the article claiming a woman authored some of the posts. The school took no corrective or disciplinary action with Dale. Two of these Instagram posts have since been deleted but others are still live as of the publishing of this piece.
The quote was attributed to Dale in the above and, in the video, he does not provide any reference to the source. With a little googling, you can see that the quote is by Jon Bloom from the Desiring God website, here.
*If you watch the video you can see the unedited version in which he does not attribute the quote. However, the podcast through iTunes appears to have been edited. If you listen there you can hear at 3:05 a reference was added later. This is not in the video and shows the edit.
Launch Your Dream, Published by Thomas Nelson in 2017
However this phrase about the passionflower appears lifted and not cited, you can find it here from books published in 2016 and other sources.
Dale states, “Even the passionflower was so named because its corona resembles the crown of thorns.”
Another post was made on Dale’s Ultimate Marriages Instagram feed, that has since been deleted.
This post was from April 19, 2019 and a simple Google of this phrase leads to an essay by Burk Parsons on the Ligonier website. You can see on Dale’s instagram feed he follows both Ligonier and Burk Parsons.
That was found on his Instagram here but has since been deleted.
It can also be found on the Desiring God website from a sermon by John Piper from 1985.
Here it is attributed to Dale Partridge. However, the opening phrase is one of Perry Noble’s.
The above quote attributed to Dale can be found here in Leland Ryken’s 2002 book The Word of God in English (which is available to read here).
In an post on Feb 21st, 2018 Dale wrote about salvation.
The publication date is shown in the Google hit but also the source code on the website.
<meta property=”article:published_time” content=”2018–02–21T18:41:29+00:00">
However, Julie Ferwerda wrote these words in 2008 at Crosswalk.com . To be fair, the Google hit for this post by Julie does show an update and Google publication of Dec 12, 2018 and this is after Dale’s publication BUT this appears to be a Google update date that does not match the website content.
The website shows a publication year of 2008 and this is confirmed by the source code.
In this post Julie states:
A side-by-side comparison of the two posts shows the similarity:
In 2014 another person appears to have noticed this trend by Dale Partridge. He repeatedly posted content without quotes or citation and an unknown person created a Twitter account called @daleshouldquote
You can find that here. This poster cited all of the quotes that Dale did not attribute.
As of this post, those original Dale tweets were still live. In the above @daleshouldquote attributes this to Winston Churchill. This is widely believed but the Quote Investigator researched this quote and assigns it to Bertram Carr.
In the mid 2000s Dale showed some art at an art show designed to raise money for the homeless of Southern California. This was in partnership with Water of Life, a church in the area.
You can see in the flyer that Dale gives himself the photo credit. However, that photo belongs to UK photographer Lee Jeffries.
You can see more of these images here:
You can also see that Dale is aware of Lee Jeffries as he has pinned one of Jeffrie’s photos in his personal Pinterest page.
Dale also has a Flickr page that is currently public as of 11/9/2019. We know this is Dale’s account as the folder shares the name of his Bend home as published in the news and Dale’s social media. In this folder he share some images that have his name on them. They state “by Dale Partridge.”
A Google image search shows this image has also been attributed to another photographer, here. We reached out to this photographer but not received a response.
This image is credited to Tord Fuglstad.
We did speak with Tord via Instagram who confirmed this was his image.
Dale also claims the above image is his on the same Flickr page. However, this image was taken by Tyson Fisher and can be viewed here. When contacted Tyson confirmed the image was his and said, “It’s hard to describe the feeling of being stolen from. I put my heart and soul into my work and I feel very violated when someone claims it as their own. It also affects me financially.” H also added, “I feel bad for these individuals who lie and cheat.”
In the past?
In the RNS article, Dale states, “‘I have no problem admitting that was a past failure,’ he said. ‘But I don’t think it’s persisting.’
However, Dale recently published his newest book Real Christianity on December 6th of 2019, one month ago at the publishing of the RNS and this piece. RNS states they, “found several cases of plagiarism in the short book.” This book does contains multiple examples of plagiarism and is currently for sale. This was also after he had confirmed through Western Seminary that the issue was an assistant not doing her job and that this would not be an issue.
In the book, Dale states, “”relationship is the linchpin to real Christianity.”
This is is a borrowed phrase from Tony Stoltzfus and can be read here.
Dale also states:
“I love my wife. She’s the “cook” and the “house cleaner” of our home. But I would never reduce her to just “cook” or “house cleaner.” No. That would be demeaning. She’s my wife! Cooking and cleaning are jobs, not identities- they’re what she does for me but they are not who she is to me. Do you see the difference?”
This is also from his book Saved From Success from Thomas Nelson.
There is no citation of this or any stated permission from Thomas Nelson. While self-plagiarism, it may still be considered plagiarism as Thomas Nelson may own the copyright and paid Dale for the work. It is reminiscent of Jonah Lehrer’s self-plagiarism, in which he recycled content from various publishers.
Perhaps the clearest examples are several sections that discuss some Biblical scholarship.
The word “Savior” is mentioned a mere 36 times in the entire Bible. The word “Lord” occurs 7,800 times! Where do you think God is placing the emphasis?
In Chapter 3 of Real Christianity, Dale continues lifting from others.
There are over four hundred references to altars in the Bible. The world alter is first used in Genesis 8:20 when Noah built an altar to the Lord after leaving the ark. The idea of an altar, however, is seen as early as Genesis 4:3–4 when God requests Cain and Abel to present their offerings to the Lord. We can imagine that these men likely place those offerings on some form of an altar, eve, though the word altar was not formally mentioned in the narrative.
This is a direct, un-cited quotation from GotQuestions.org.
Chapter 4 of Dale’s book contains this,
Now, Bible scholars will tell you that there are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions, you can distill them down to 69 total commands.
This is from Christian Assemblies International and can be seen here.
While Dale states the plagiarism is in the past, he has used it liberally in his newest book which recently sat at #1 in Christianity on Amazon. It appears it is not in the past. Also, many of the above Instagram posts are still live on his profile.
Dale’s book People Over Profit has a chapter called The Honesty Era in which he extolls the benefits of honest business. From the mid-2000s with his art show, to recent podcasts, posts, and books, this appears to be a repeated issue.
This even spells problematic for Thomas Nelson who was caught in the Mark Driscoll plagiarism scandal in 2014. With Dale’s more recent book, this appears to still be an issue for them.
It also seems to be an issue for Western Seminary. Mark Driscoll also being an alum and called out by Warren Throckmorton. With two high profile students, one would hope for more rigor. As stated above, the school was contacted and stated they would not take action on this.
It should also be of concerns for his “followers”. Many engage with him and praise his work. While much of it appears the result of his hard work, the amount of “borrowed” work is troubling. Are we following Dale or just things he has cut-and-pasted to tell us what he thinks we want to hear? As a community who has been tricked before by folks like Mark Driscoll and others, you would think we set a high bar to be tricked again. With similar issues of Fake News in the media, and social media coming to terms with manipulation and fraud, the church seems to be falling prey as well. We should hold Dale and ourselves accountable. For those who wonder, we have sent numerous emails and messages to Dale asking to connect. He has not responded at this time.
¹ Dale regularly posts about his house church and instructs others how they should be leading their own. He claims to run a global church planting network but we have not been able to confirm any church plants outside of Dale’s own home.
² Yes, those Benham Brothers.
³ Using some free tools online to test for bots and bought followers, most appear to be real. Real people following a real dude.