My heart was heavy as I wrote the poem, When I say, “I am a Christian. The year was 1988. 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 can cause in our pluralistic society.
I jotted down my thoughts with an inner determination to define the Christian spirit as I wished to experience it. 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 5 different 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 have read this poem and 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. As a result of that publication, someone unknown to me placed the poem on the internet and it began a journey of international circulation 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 for protection over the original words, that they might be kept in their purest, inspired form.
Since then, the poem has been published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul by Health Communications Inc., 2000; Stories for a Teen’s Heart by Multnomah Publishing, 2002; Real Teens, Real Life, Real Stories by 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, by DianaRea, WingSpan Press 2013; The Truth, 16 songs by Gary Chapman, Chappytunes, 2013
With permission from the author, 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 words of each verse. Therefore a copyright infringement occurred on the Internet which is circulating as ‘author unknown.’ At some point in time someone attached Dr. Maya Angelou’s name to the infringed version. Sadly the plagiarized version changed the spiritual intention of the poem and causes undue confusion for those who honor copyrights and seek permission to publish the works of others.
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