Getting Off the Tract

Holy Faceless God, Jack Chick died yesterday. Hey, isn’t that the day Bishop James Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC? I don’t know whether modern Young Earth Creationists still accept that date, but it still seems appropriate. You’ve probably heard of his tracts, tiny comics that his followers would buy in bulk to distribute to others in hopes of converting people. Sometimes they gave the tracts out directly, and other times just left them lying around in public places. Chick, a ninety-two-year-old World War II veteran, claims he got the idea from comics given out by the Chinese Communist Party. They’ve been released since 1970, with him apparently originally doing all the art, but uncredited artists later picking up the slack. The style is quite recognizable, with strangely shaded backgrounds, kids with giant eyes, and demons that look like they belong in a children’s picture book.

God was consistently drawn with no face for some reason, and a dog named Fang whose tail looked like a saw showed up fairly often.

The plot pretty much always involved a kindly, clean-cut evangelist trying to convince a stereotypical sinner to accept Jesus. Jack was a supporter of faith-only salvation, expressed in a really dumbed-down way. Basically, if you believe that Jesus died for you, you go to Heaven; and if you don’t, an angel cartoonishly tosses you into the pits of Hell.

There’s no room for nuance, and no actual discussion of what “believe” means. I mean, there are things I believe firmly, and others I believe just because I don’t have any good reason not to. I don’t think you’re going to have deep-seated conviction in something you’ve just heard about. Which is another oddity in these tracts, that of people who’ve never even heard of Jesus.

Sometimes the sinner would end up being saved, and other times they wouldn’t listen and would get a one-way ticket to Hell. Sometimes the characters would even read Chick Tracts, creating a meta-referential conundrum. In addition to the salvation stuff, he also had tracts denouncing the evils of homosexuality, Islam, Freemasonry, evolution, birth control, Dungeons & Dragons, rock music, Halloween, and Catholicism.

He associated with Kent Hovind, the tax dodger who owned a small Creationism-themed amusement park; and with Alberto Rivera, a guy who claimed to have been a Jesuit priest (despite there being no evidence of this) and found out that the Vatican was responsible for Islam, the Holocaust, and Soviet communism.

What’s so bizarrely fascinating is that all this hate-mongering tends to be accompanied by kitschy, jokey art. Not all the time, as some of the ones Chick thought were more serious use a different artist, but it’s a strange juxtaposition when it happens. Jack himself was a total recluse, and there was a lot of supposition that he might have actually died years ago. I’m willing to accept that he was still alive until yesterday, but I don’t know how much work he still did on his tracts and other material. I’ve reviewed his tracts and weird beliefs several times, more if you care to look back at my LiveJournal, which I don’t right now. I also recommend Josh Crowley’s dissections.

This entry was posted in Christianity, Comics, Conspiracy Theories, Current Events, Fundamentalism, In Memoriam, Jack Chick, Prejudice, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Getting Off the Tract

  1. Math teacher in jr high had Jack Chick tracts on his desk which we could read if we finished our tests and otherwise had to just sit around bored. I loved comics but Chick’s comics were disturbing. This was late 70s in Northern California. I wonder if the teacher would get scolded these days for offering Christian propaganda in a public school. In a lot of places, I’d bet no.

  2. Al Bruno III says:

    Great read. Makes me wonder about the man’s legacy. I bet people will say he had a ONE TRACT MIND.

  3. marbpl2 says:

    The more realistic tract artist was Fred Carter.

    If you ignore the crazy disturbing theology and hatred, they are actually pretty entertaining, in a Mad magazine kind of may.

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