Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chick Tracts Get You In Trouble!

According to a MSNBC.com report, a female chaplain at a prison facility in New York state was suspended for handing out Jack Chick tracts critical of Islam.

I confess that I have mixed feelings about this story.

On the one hand, I am becoming increasingly annoyed with how our society is more and more accommodating of Islamic religious idiosyncrasies at the expense of relinquishing normal societal functionality. At the complaint of Islamic activists, non-Muslims, for instance, are prevented from purchasing a pepperoni pizza because the cashier is a Muslim who is forbidden to handle pork. Rather than pointing out to the Muslim that the vast majority of customers buying pepperoni pizza do not share his convictions concerning pork, and telling him that if he insists on maintaining this conviction he needs to find another non-pork related job, our enslavement to P.C. philosophy forces the non-Muslim to give up pepperoni pizza.

In a manner of speaking, the suspension of this female chaplain is a cowardly reaction by the prison administrators. Granted, I am sure the Danish Mohammad cartoon world riots are still fresh in their minds and they merely want to prevent a similar situation happening with in their prison facility, but I do not believe they are fully aware of the dangerous slope on which they stand. By giving into Muslim sensibilities in this matter, they are slowly whittling away the intellectual and religious freedoms of non-Muslims, particularly Christians.

Yet, on the other hand, I have to admit my reluctance to support this lady chaplain for handing out Chick tracts. In a way, I am happy God used the hyper-sensitive P.C. activism to prevent the circulation of biblical error among the population of believers inside the prison.

Anyone raised in American Christian fundamentalism is familiar with Jack Chick's deplorable tracts and Crusader comics that attempt to illustrate fundamentalist themes in a crude, comic book style. I specifically say fundamentalist themes as opposed to Christian themes, because as much as his supporters believe he is really promoting biblical Christianity, this is not the case at all.

His tracts are written to attack the bugbears shaping an hysterical, independent, psycho-fundamentalist world-view. They attack contemporary Christian music, modern Bible versions, so-called neo-evangelicalism, and of course the largest subject of his attention, Roman Catholicism. Chick blames Roman Catholicism for every major ill the world has ever known, from the emergence of Islam, all the major historical wars, both secular and religious, and even the Holocaust.

I personally would exhort Christians to avoid the use of Chick tracts in the use of evangelism for at least four reasons:

1. The Author: Jack Chick has turned himself into a paranoid recluse. He has been heard claiming he is on Jesuit "hit lists" and refuses to allow himself to be photographed. He's like J.D. Salinger weird. A person with these type of troubling character traits cannot be a credible minister in Christ's church.

2. Chick's Theology: Chick promotes the typical man-centered, fundamentalist gospel in his tracts and comics. Salvation is not a work solely done in the hearts of rebellious sinners by the divine act of a gracious God, but its a product of "decisional" regeneration on the part of the person making the "right choice" about Jesus.

The newest tract published by Chick called Set Free keynotes the ransom view of the atonement (See Phil Johnson's article on the nature of the atonement). This was a view developed by early church father, Origen, that suggests Christ's death, rather than appeasing the wrath of God against sinners, actually paid a ransom to the devil. Christ is pictured as a weak, powerless savior with no ability to defeat the devil's enslavement of humanity UNLESS the person enslaved chooses to follow Jesus. Our Lord is reduced to a pleading beggar and the devil is elevated to being on equal authority as Christ. Additionally, panels in the tract depicting enslaved humanity, suggest men are not born sinners and are only sinners because the devil so enslaves them. What bit of the biblical doctrine of original sin even presented in the tract is utterly warped. Read a full review of it at Scott McClare's blog.

3. Chick Entertains Conspiracy Theories: Lookit, the Roman Catholic Church has serious theological problems, but as I noted above, to suggest Catholicism runs a conspiratorial "black ops" Jesuit group out of the basement of the Vatican whose purpose is to infiltrate Protestant churches so as to undermine them and eventually shut-em down, is pure fiction. More so the idea that this clandestine group is interested in a strange little religious comic book publisher out in California.

Along the lines of conspiracy, Chick's bizarre, fundamentalist world-view drawn in his work only heaps mockery upon the Christian church. Has anyone ever thought that HE is part of this Jesuit "black ops" to minimize the effectiveness of Christian evangelism?

4. The Chick tract users themselves: The Chick tract users I have encountered over the years could easily be described as lacking interpersonal skills. In a manner of speaking, it is as if they suffer with a mild form of autism.

The first time I ever examined at length any Chick tract literature, it was when I was helping my father with his work one summer. My dad was an electrician, and one day he was called out to a trailer park to re-wire this fellow's air conditioner outlet. As my father switched the outlet, I entertained myself with the stacks of Chick Crusader comics I found on this guy's coffee table. A good portion of them disturbed me with the images of apocalyptic visions. But, across the room on a separate table was a pile of Playboys. I was maybe in 6th or 7th grade, unsaved, and devoid of any true understanding of the gospel, but even I recognized the strange contradiction of having religious comics and Playboys.

Another Chick aficionado I knew in college was a "non-traditional" student who was in his mid to late 20s and lived down the hall from me in the freshman dorm. He had stacks of Chick tracts he would hand out or leave in classrooms and bathrooms around campus. The strange thing, however, is how he was all the time getting into angry shouting matches and the occasional fisticuffs with other students.

Oh, I am sure there will be readers of this article who will say I am being too general and broad brushing with my comments and my personal anecdotes do not reflect the reality of those individuals who utilize Chick tracts in meaningful evangelistic encounters. I am sure there is someone out there who has an uncle who has taught applied calculus at MIT for 25 years who hands out Chick tracts on a daily basis. But I am telling you, my experience with all die-hard Chick tract users is that they are all cut from the same, disheveled cloth.

Now, as I re-read this post and reflect upon the situation with this lady chaplain, I am more inclined to express disagreement with the decision to have her suspended because she was handing out Chick tracts. That is because there are larger matters at stake here with her freedoms being removed so as to "protect" as minority class. However, I just wish she would change her preferred use of religious literature. Surely she can find the same material written by sound individuals and presented in a more compelling way.

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Blogger thomas4881 said...

Good post fred. What might you think about the way of the master tracts?

10:18 AM, April 18, 2007  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Also Jack Chick teaches that the Catholic Church created Islam.

1:47 PM, April 19, 2007  
Blogger gymbrall said...

Chick tracts are next to worthless, but so are your generalizations. I missed the bit of logic that specifies that teaching calculus at MIT for 25 is the bar that someone has to cross to escape the label of being semi-autistic. Again, I do agree with you with Chick tracts are next to worthless. But to be fair, so are most other tracts.

I grew up in quite a few churches that had Chick tracts on a rack by the door. People picked them up because they were recommended. People handed them out because that's what they had. Most of them were just ordinary people.

The truth is, their sin wasn't so much being stupid as it was not taking the act of evangelization seriously. Of course, these people had also been trained that they barely have a responsibility to teach the Word of God to their own family (cause that's the churches job), so it's hardly surprising that they would take the evangelization of their neighbors less seriously. (In fact, to take their neighbors salvation more seriously than their own children would be to go against their own conscience in some ways.)

Anyway, I think your message here would be stronger if you weren't mocking the intelligence of people. Instead, mock their hypocrisy. That at least, is biblical.

Charles Churchill

6:20 AM, May 04, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Thanks Charles for the comments,

I agree with your over all point, but I do believe my "generalization" has a degree of truth in it. If you recall, I wrote that it was MY experience I have had with Chick tract users. Perhaps I could have been more specific and stated "hardcore Chick tract" users. I have in mind individuals who lived and died by the use of Chick tracts as if there are no other options. They bought them by the case loads. It was cult like.

Sure, are there plain old folks who hand out Chick tracts because they don't know any better? Yes, but again, generally speaking, these folks rarely evangelize anyone, or just enough to appease their guilt and meet a unspoken quota to save face among their peers at church.


6:35 AM, May 04, 2007  

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