My heart was heavy in 1988 as I wrote the poem, When I say I am a Christian. I had begun to sense increasing societal resentment within American culture toward the attitude of self-righteousness that has been adopted by so many Christians. I knew such behavior was, and is, a distortion of Christianity. Thus, the sentiment of the poem was born out of my personal awareness of this distortion and the heartache it causes in society.
Tears rolled down my face as I jotted down my thoughts with an inner determination to define the Christian spirit as I wished to experience it. But, the words flowed out of me with such ease that I knew it was God’s spirit moving in my heart. I was simply holding the pen. The resulting words formed a reflection of my own beliefs and the reputation I hoped to secure for myself.
Four years later, I sent the poem to several publishers. As a result of its first publication in 1992, someone placed the poem on the Internet where it miraculously began taking on a life of its own.
From Manila to South Africa; Australia to Singapore; Finland to Bahrain—I’ve received e-mails from people all over the world who share a common desire to walk humbly with God.
The poem first appeared in the November 1992 issue of Hi-Call Gospel Magazine, published by the Assemblies of God denomination. The words were then placed on the Internet as ‘author unknown.’
In 1998, Les Seamster, an artist from Branson, Mo. contacted me, requesting permission to design prints of the poem. He had searched for the ‘unknown author’ for 6 months before finding me. Because of his search, I was made aware of the attention my poem had gained on the Internet and the fact that hundreds of web site owners were posting the poem. Upon investigating the truth of this I also discovered that a few site owners were claiming authorship. Thus, I launched a personal campaign to alert people of my copyright – not for notoriety – but to protect the original words, that they might be kept in their purest, inspired form.
Since then, the poem has been published in church bulletins and newsletters around the world, as well as the following books: Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul: Health Communications Inc., 2000; Stories for a Teen’s Heart: Multnomah Publishing, 2002; Real Teens, Real Life, Real Stories: River Oak Publishing, 2004; The Salvation Army ‘War Cry:’ May 2006; Don’t Bet Against Me!, Deanna Favre with Angela Hunt: Tyndale House Publisher, 2007. The Frog Letters, DianaRea: WingSpan Press 2013; The Truth, 16 songs by Gary Chapman: Chappytunes, 2013; Herman among Friends, a tribute to Herman Van Rompuy’s term as President of the European Union: Snoeck Publishers 2014.
With permission, the poem has also been translated into different languages including Spanish; Indonesian; Finnish; Chinese; Korean; Farsi; Latvian; and many others.
In spite of the fact that the poem is protected under copyright law in the United States Library of Congress—TX-5-064-953, someone changed the title of the poem to “I’m a Christian” and took the liberty to alter the original words. Therefore a copyright infringement occurred on the Internet, in 2003, which is circulating as ‘author unknown.’ At some point in time someone attached Dr. Maya Angelou’s name to the infringed version, which caused the altered words to become viral due to her celebrated status as an author/poet. Sadly the plagiarized version changed the spiritual intention of the poem and diminishes the quality of the inspired words. The infringement causes undue confusion for people who seek permission to publish the works of others.
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