Still No Correction from Eric Metaxas or Thomas Nelson on Popular Quote Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

Yesterday, Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas closed his Wall Street Journal op-ed supporting Donald Trump with this paragraph:

A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.

This paraphrase — “Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless” — of a quote Metaxas has incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded me that Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson have not answered several requests going back to early August to provide a citation or correct their attribution for the quote.  The popular quote — Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act — was attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German  pastor published in 2010 but cannot be found in any of Bonhoeffer’s works. Since then Metaxas has included the quote in some of his Bonhoeffer resources and attributed it to Bonhoeffer in various public appearances.

Early on in my research of this quote, I contacted Metaxas via Twitter and his website to ask for a citation. He did not respond. I also asked a couple of mutual friends to ask Metaxas about the source of the quote. There was no response given to these people. I wrote publisher Thomas Nelson three times with no response. Given ethical principles in publishing, I believed that Metaxas and Thomas Nelson would either provide a source or issue a correction. However, that has not happened.

About corrections, the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines state:

This means the editors should

1.2. strive to meet the needs of readers and authors;

1.3. strive to constantly improve their journal;

1.4. have processes in place to assure the quality of the material they publish;

1.5. champion freedom of expression;

1.6. maintain the integrity of the academic record;

1.7. preclude business needs from compromising intellectual and ethical standards;

1.8. always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.  (emphasis added)

I think the last three principles are relevant to this situation. Even though the quote is a good one, it can’t be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. The integrity of the academic record is involved. Even though it might be better for business if a perception of perfection is offered to the public, publishers and authors should “always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.” Unless they can produce a citation from Bonhoeffer, a correction is needed.

So after weeks of seeking a source (others have as well) or correction, I continue to look for an ethical response from Metaxas and his publisher.

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