Sunday, June 21, 2015

Psalm 23

The first and most important thing to know about this Evangelical Tract Distributors offering, titled Psalm 23 (A Friend That Goes With Me), is that it does not mention Psalm 23 at all. The cover, with a nice photo of a church in front of a field, is the only place that title appears.

There are other Psalms on the inside - this is a Scripture-quote tract, with six quotations and a brief write-up on what they are supposed to mean. We have Psalm 84:11. We have 68:19. We even have Psalm 145:1 - 10. But Psalm 23? Nope.

With a gaffe like that, you'd think the author would want to remain anonymous. Nope again. His name is David Buttram (no, I am not making the obvious joke here, I have some standards), and it is printed right there on the cover under the titular Psalm that this tract is not about.

So the title is off. What about the lines of Scripture (and David's write-ups of them) on pages 2 & 3? Nothing terribly interesting or new. "Even though the world surrounds me with temptation, danger and death," he writes, "I feel safe and secure because of His watchful care over me." Apparently that's what Psalm 32:7 and 34:4 mean.

"I know the evil one is trying to follow me," he says, "but God is following even closer." And as awesome as God is, "I know this is only a taste of the future He is preparing for me." So God will keep you secure and safe from the evil one, and will make your life fantastic. Sounds nice, but we have to take David's word for it. And since the guy can't even title his tracts properly, well...

"Would you like to have this Shepherd living in your life?" David asks, before presenting the Sinner's Prayer on the back page. This is the first time he's mentioned a Shepherd, apart from quoting "The Lord is my shepherd" right at the beginning. One assumes the animal wrangler he's referring to is God, then. Odd, though.

Heck, the whole thing is odd. Too odd to convert anyone, I would say. Scripture-quote tracts assume that Bible verses are relevant to your life. If they aren't, they sound nice but have little power. Certainly not persuasive power.

You're getting very low marks on this one, David Buttram (still not making the joke, I'm above that!). Nice cover image, but that's the nicest thing I can say for it. A trip back to tract-writing school would seem to be in order, Mr. Buttram, because if this is your best effort, you can crumple it up and ram it in your butt.

...couldn't resist.

Psalm 23
Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 1
Unintentional Hilarity - 1
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Is There Something Missing In Your Life?

This one would have gone perfectly with this collection of tracts I reviewed back in April of 2012. It's a popular theme, the notion that there is "a vital part of your existence that isn't there" that is "crying out to be filled" that can only be filled with Christ.

The tract asks three questions: What is missing? How did it happen? What has been done about it? The answers are the story of Adam and Eve sinning, after which "every one of us has been born into sin" and doomed to "eternal separation from God in hell fire." Then the tract tells us "Jesus Christ, the God-man" went and "offered Himself the perfect, sinless sacrifice unto God" in order to "give life back unto men."

So, because of something two alleged people did thousands of years ago, you're missing something and are going to go to Hell because of it. Fortunately God killed himself so that we could not only fill up that empty void we all have, but we can go to Heaven instead. A two-for-one deal! Sounds great, but the tract author doesn't bother trying to prove it.

It's a dodge, is what it really is. 'Hey, buddy! You look sad. That's cuz you don't have the one thing that'll make you happy - Jesus! Act now, and He won't burn you for eternity!'

"My friend, are you dead or alive?" the tract begins, then attempts to convince you of the former. It didn't convince me. Evidence and a compelling argument are the somethings missing from this tract.

Is There Something Missing in Your Life?
Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 3
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 2

Common Sense

You know you're in for a bullshit storm when a religious tract makes an appeal to common sense. Like When The World Is On Fire, a tract I reviewed back in 2008 that urged readers to "face the facts", this Evangelical Tract Distributors offering makes promises it has no intention of keeping.

Pastor C. Leslie Miller, the tract's author, uses half the space to ask questions and provide Bible verses as answers. Is it common sense "to live for sin, pleasure and money," and to "believe it makes no difference what you believe," or will it pay "if your life is replete with thrills, and hilarious with fun and pleasure" if you die and end up "in eternal darkness and unending torture?" Pastor Miller assumes you are already a believer - why else would these questions be relevant? But if they aren't relevant to non-believers, why is Miller asking them?

The next half-page makes statements that must be true, based on the questions and Scripture we have just read. "It is common sense... to prepare to meet your God," and "to realize the reality of eternity and prepare for it." Miller also hits us with some whoppers: "It is sensible to believe that death is not the end of everything, but the beginning of an unending existence in another conscious destiny." What?!? No it isn't! "The most intelligent thing you could do is to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour" so He doesn't "pronounce your sentence of doom." No! That's only intelligent if it is demonstrably true, and Miller can't prove that and doesn't try.

"It will pay... to be sure I am safe, and ready to meet God." I'm sure it will - if you can in fact be sure. And you can't. I for one am not about to jump into a religion because of a bunch of unfounded claims.

That's just common sense.

Common Sense
Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 2

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed!

This one’s a little off the beaten track for this blog. It isn’t a religious movie per se, but it does have a very religious-supporting agenda. Basically, it’s Creationist propaganda, and that’s close enough for this blog.

Brace yourselves, it’s going to be another long one.

There’s an old comedy article I read long ago about how to win arguments. If you are losing, and our opponent has the stronger point of view backed up by irrefutable evidence, the only way to win is to compare your opponent to Hitler.

“You know who also talked about Global Warming? Hitler.”

“Increase the minimum wage? Sounds like something Hitler would do.”

You get the idea.

And it’s exactly the argument made by Ben Stein (Win Ben Stein’s Money) and is crew in this ‘documentary’ about Intelligent Design theory. The fact that Expelled resorts to that argument should tell you everything you need to know about the solidity of the case it puts forth.

What is that case? “Intelligent was being suppressed in a systematic and ruthless fashion” by the scientific establishment. Ben and co. try to take that case even further, suggesting that freedom itself is under attack.

“If we allow freedom to be expelled in science, where will it end?” Ben ponders in a voice-over. Expelled is peppered with bon mots like that one, with Ben inserting himself into the starring role a la Michael Moore.

“Why is the scientific establishment so afraid of free speech?”

“Evil can sometimes be rationalized as science.”

I’m going to pause here to point out that this film has been reviewed, dissected and discredited by people a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than me. You can find out Expelled’s dirty secrets here and here, for starters. I wanted to limit my review to my own observations, and take the film at face value. That would provide a more honest review, and no doubt a much shorter one, too.

But I did not. I did what I so often do when writing these reviews and throw discipline and brevity to the wind in favour of attacking every little thing that annoys me.

The opening credits are played over footage of the construction of the Berlin Wall. Next, our ‘hero’ Ben Stein takes the stage to give a talk on his views; his journey from his dressing room is accompanied by uplifting music and clips of scientists poo-pooing I.D., and the waiting audience greets him with thunderous applause. Ben speaks somberly about how great freedom is, and asks what America would look like “if those freedoms were taken away. Well, unfortunately I no longer need to imagine it,” he goes on, telling us that freedom is being lost “in one of the most important sectors of our society - science.”

So, what have we been told? Freedom is awesome. Freedom is under attack. Those trying to take freedom away from you are scientists!

Freedom good! Science bad!

Up next we have what, to Expelled, passes for proof. Ben interviews some people whom the guardians of all things sciencey have punished for uttering the forbidden words. One is a scientist who was ‘fired’ from the Smithsonian over a paper he published that mentioned I.D.; the second is a professor ‘fired’ for simply mentioning I.D. to her class; third, a neurosurgeon who said that one doesn’t need to study Darwinism to understand the human brain, who came under fire for that statement. Clips of random violence are intercut with these interviews.

Now, I could do the research necessary to debunk and/or provide revealing context to these stories, but I won’t. Like I said, smarter people have already done so here. When I first saw this film, I gave the producers the benefit of the doubt and assumed the stories were true. I thought it sad that people were being persecuted for suggesting an alternate theory to evolution. Poor silly, naive me! That’s exactly how those producers wanted me to feel. To younger me’s credit, I didn’t believe everything the film told me - some of the stuff that followed gave me plenty of reason to suspect Expelled’s motives.

The next segment features clips of scientists who don’t support I.D.. Those clips are edited together with very little context, presenting a unified front of I.D. bad, say bad people!

“How can there be a theory about life,” Ben muses, “without a theory about how life began?” This is the second and most important bit of the film, where Ben and his crew score the most points with their intended audience. It is so central to Expelled, they even used it in their trailer (and DVD intro). The scene is a classroom, with an evil-looking mad scientist type teaching evolution. A hand goes up at the back - it’s the dude from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Mask, Ben Stein! “How did life begin?” he asks, and the flustered mad scientist isn’t able to answer. In a rage, he sends Ben to the principal’s office, possibly to face Ben Stein’s own character from Ferris Bueller.

How did life begin? That’s a question modern science is still trying to answer. In other words, they don’t know! Those smarty-pants scientists who think they are so smart don’t know how life began!

Not that there aren’t theories. We see clips of scientists describing various ways life might have started: one involves proteins forming on crystals; another suggests extraterrestrial visitors might have seeded the planet with DNA. At this, Ben pulls what is probably the greatest deadpan give-me-a-break expression I’ve ever seen. “Crystals? Aliens?” Ben says in voiceover. “I thought we were talking about science, not science fiction.” Because extraterrestrial life and proteins on crystals is a lot less credible than an invisible being with omnipotent powers creating everything in seven days!

Having made science look dumb, the producers go on to show us some pretty cool animation. We see a video using casino slot machines to demonstrate the extreme odds against the right combination of proteins coming together by accident to create life. The next animated bit shows a close-up of a single cell. What is the point of this bit? They don’t say it outright, but I’d hazard a guess they wanted to show just how complex a single cell really is. The unspoken statement here seems to be, if a single cell is so complex, it must have been designed.

It’s worth noting here that Expelled doesn’t provide any evidence, of any kind, to support Intelligent Design. It’s also worth noting that evolution and the origins of life are two separate schools of study. Ask an evolutionary biologist how life began, and they may very well not have a good answer. They might even admit they don’t know. And why should they? The data isn’t there, and it’s not their field of research. It isn’t a relevant question for them.

Yet Ben Stein asks. And he provides clips of scientists suggesting theories he can easily mock. It’s like he’s trying to get his audience to think, ‘if these scientists don’t know how life began, how can we trust them about evolution?’

Ben doesn’t ask the scientists for any proof of evolution.

“What other societies have used Darwinism to trump all other authorities, including religion?” Ben wonders. “As a Jew, my mind leapt to one regime in particular...”

Yep, here comes the Hitler argument. Expelled makes the link between evolutionary theory and the Nazis, while a somber Ben Stein takes footage of himself at Hanamar, Dockow in Germany, a former concentration camp where Jews were killed. He visits the on-site memorial and lights a candle, very solemn and respectful, as his continuing voiceover hammers the evolution/Nazi point home.

“I know that Darwinism doesn’t automatically equate to Naziism,” he says, once he’s finished implying the exact opposite, “but if Darwinism inspired and justified such horrific events in the past, could it be used to rationalize similar initiatives today?”

WHAT?!? Of course it can! So can a lot of other things, chief among them being religion. It’s a completely pointless question, made after an equally pointless linking of Darwin to Hitler, simply to score more points with his audience.

Whoo. Getting a little emotional here. I’m definitely guilty of similar manipulation in this review - I’m not exactly presenting a fair and balanced look at this film. That’s very hard to do, however, given that Expelled is so completely one-sided.

Throughout the film, Ben talks about “a wall erected to keep ideas out,” comparing “what we are seeing happening in science today” to the erection of the Berlin Wall. He thinks this wall is “just a strategy for protecting a failing ideology from competition,” as if evolution is the theory that’s ultimately going to lose this debate. “I couldn’t take down the wall myself,” Ben goes on, “but I could confront one of its major architects.” At last we come to the final segment in Expelled, a showdown between Ben Stein and this major architect of the anti-I.D. wall, Professor Richard Dawkins.

Noted evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, Professor Dawkins is this movie’s coup - if they can make him look foolish on camera, they’ve WON. And they certainly give it their best shot. The producers have complete control over the footage - they could edit it together however they wanted.

They had all that power, and they still couldn’t make him look dumb.

Ben Stein goes in like a lawyer, trying to catch Dawkins out any which way he can. He asks leading questions, trying to get specific answers, and he tries to twist Dawkins’ responses to imply some other agenda. “Why spoil it for them?” Ben asks Richard regarding people who want to believe in a god. “Why not just let them have their fun and enjoy it?” Ben also turns the discussion from a debate about evolution into one about the existence of God - which isn’t what the movie is about.

“Well then, who did create the heavens and the earth?” Ben tries again.

“Why do you use the word ‘who’?” Richard replies. “You see, you immediately beg the question by using the word ‘who’.”

To imply a win, Ben has to cheat. He asks Richard how life began, and what kind of evidence he would need to see in order to believe in Intelligent Design. Richard suggests the alien theory (taking pains, I thought, to avoid using the word ‘alien’), and Ben makes his give-me-a-break face again. Then, when Richard says that evidence for an alien seeding of the planet might be found in the DNA, Ben edits in a voice-over saying, “Wait a second... Richard Dawkins thought Intelligent Design might be a legitimate pursuit?” No he didn’t. It’s a cheap trick, and it’s all Ben can do to pull the illusion of a stalemate from the jaws of defeat.

Expelled ends with Ben Stein concluding his lecture from the film’s beginning. He speaks of freedom and the need to bring down the wall, and receives thunderous applause once more. That audience may have been impressed, and after my first screening I admit I sort of was, too. Ben makes himself into a humble hero fighting a Goliath-like enemy, and he (and his filmmakers) are masters of manipulation. Maybe there is something to his struggle, I thought. A quick Google search, followed by a second viewing, and I felt very, very stupid. More, I felt angry. And I wondered, if they know the only things going for Intelligent Design are manipulations and bad arguments, why do they believe in it? If they have no case, why waste an entire movie trying to pretend otherwise?

“It wasn’t just scientists who were being expelled,” Ben voices over at the end, “it was freedom itself! The very foundation of the American Dream! The very foundation of America!”

I’m sure I’m not the first to point this out, but I think it’s extremely fitting that Ben Stein’s initials are B.S..

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed!
Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 5
Acting/Direction - 4
Likely To Be Sat Through - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 6

Monday, March 16, 2015


Here's a Jack Chick tract that lives up to its title, though not necessarily the way the author/illustrator intended. Jack has another go at Halloween in this one, and delivers the message that wielding fear is a very bad thing - unless you do it for Jesus

Spooky tells the story of Sam and Mr. Hill, two protagonists who couldn't be more different (even if they are destined to be a lot more similar by the tract's end). Sam is a wide-eyed, innocent little kid visiting his Christian Aunt Sarah. Mr. Hill lives in the house across from Aunt Sarah, and every Halloween he "gets a little spooky" when he "makes his home into a haunted house." He does this to "find out who's brave and who's a sissy," and tells Sam if he doesn't come over on Halloween, he's "a little, yellow-bellied coward."

Naturally, Sam goes. As creative as Jack Chick usually is with this sort of setup, only four panels are used to show the haunted house, and they aren't terribly imaginative. Nevertheless, Sam is "really scared," especially when he sees Mr. Hill dressed up like the Devil. Or maybe he's afraid of Bettlejuice standing beside him. I'm not kidding! Chick drew a really good likeness of Tim Burton's ghost-with-the-most. How about that? "You've got guts, kid!" Hill tells Sam, who has apparently passed the manliness test. But Sam's night of terror isn't over yet! On his way home, Aunt Sarah uses Sam's fright to her advantage. "Is (the Devil) gonna get me, Aunt Sarah?" Sam asks. "Not if you do what the Bible tells us to do, Sam," she replies, and proceeds to tell her nephew all about Jesus and Sin and Getting Saved.

"If we can't get rid of (our sin), God won't let us into heaven," she tells him.

"Ugh! That's scary, Aunt Sarah!" Sam replies, putting himself right where she wants him. She tells Sam of "God's great love gift," and that all those who reject that gift "will end up with the Devil... Down in a lake of fire - forever." Upon hearing that, Sam wastes no time getting down on his knees. "God forgave little Sam and saved Him from the Devil's grasp."

Jesus does ask "one little favor," however. "The Lord wants us to tell others the good news that Jesus saves." "I can do that!" Sam declares, and the very next day he puts the Jesus moves on Mr. Hill. "There's no way you'd ever get me in a church!" Mr. Hill tells the young lad. "Why?" Sam wants to know. "Are you afraid to go?" Sam tells Mr. Hill that he sounds "like a big sissy" who is "not as brave as I thought," and "if you don't go with us tomorrow, I'll know you're just a big phony."

Yes, Sam turns the tables on his tough-talking neighbour, using the same tactics that Mr. Hill used to get him into his haunted house. In doing so, of course, Sam sinks down to Mr. Hill's level. Isn't someone whose heart is filled with Jesus' love supposed to be above name-calling and manipulation? Sam even stoops to using Mr. Hill's own words against him; he takes Hill's "little, yellow-bellied coward" and raises him a "gutless, yellow-bellied coward."

"Nobody talks to me like that!" Mr. Hill says, and he's off with Sam and Aunt Sarah to church. Sam keeps the pressure on, in spite of Hill's obvious discomfort. Especially when the priest gets to the good stuff! "So choose. It's either Jesus or the lake of fire!" Mr. Hill makes a run for it. "Stop him, Lord!" Sam prays. Jesus delivers, filling Hill's head with "visions of demons and fire." Hill runs the other way and begs the priest to help him, and gets Saved.

"I became scared of what He could do to me!" Mr. Hill tells Sam on the drive home. "I'm too big a coward to face that nightmare, so I turned to Jesus to save me, and He did!"

What's wrong with this tract? Where do I begin? The whole thing is an invitation to reprehensible behaviour, provided it's done for God. Then there's the central issue of fear; both Sam and Mr. Hill are converted because of it. Even after his Salvation, Hill still seems scared, not filled with the spirit the way the post-Saved are in other Chick tracts. Admittedly, Sam "don't look scared anymore, haw haw!" But like I said, the presence of Jesus within him does not make him any better than Mr. Hill. Salvation is reduced to a protection racket - turn or burn. This tract may convert a few on-the-fence types because of that, but mainstream secular readers will see this for exactly what it is.

And let's not forget the "visions of demons and fire," either. It's not just a vision; Mr. Hill "can hear people screaming" too. Hill may say he became scared "when I heard God's words" in the next panel, but that's bullshit - it was the visions and the screaming that convinced him to "go down front and pray." So why doesn't God use those visions on everybody? It would cancel the need for faith, for one thing. Why have faith in the Bible (and a God you can't see) if you can get visions that prove Hell is real? So why does Hill get the vision treatment? Maybe it's a supernatural gift that only Sam has - based on the art in that "Stop him, Lord!" panel, it certainly looks like Sam is zapping Hill, not God. But why would God give anyone that kind of power if he wants people to come to him through faith? Except he's perfectly happy having them come to him in fear...

Ah, forget it. I keep expecting these things to make sense, or at least stick to their own rules.

"Hell is beyond 'spooky'..." Mr. Hill says at the end. "I turned to Jesus to save me, and He did!" So no more haunted houses for Hill? Or will he simply turn them into Hell Houses? I'm sure he'll do whatever God tells him to do, without thinking or questioning. Fear does that to you, and nothing is more terrifying than Jesus. That is the message, right?

It's a Chick tract. What else would it be?

Likely to Convert - 2
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Would You Be Happy In Heaven?

An interesting question, posed by an uncredited writer for Evangelical Tract Distributors. We are treated to a story very much like that of The Fortune Teller, involving a group of people on a train. We are also treated to an unmistakable air of self-righteous smugness.

Our nameless narrator, who identifies himself as "an old man," tells a story of a group of men traveling to a Christian Conference on a train. "As the train steamed out of the station," two women carrying "a novel of the sensational type" entered their car "and took seats opposite each other." The old man and his friends "conversed on the Christian Conference" and "got enthusiastically engaged in the subject of God's Grace, God's truth, and God's Son."

"Presently," the two women found that "the conversation above referred to seemed to break in upon the enjoyment of the readers." It turns out that their novels "of the sensational type" proved "incapable of absorbing the mind as completely as desirable." "Presently" (again) one of the women spoke up about how "abominable" it was to "be bored to death with this religious nonsense." This leads to a heated debate that eventually arrives at the titular question, and the old man manages to ask that six-word question using only 31 words. He just loves going on and on about every little detail.

Heh. Like I should talk!

After he's finished asking "the haughty girl" if she would enjoy en eternity of "blessings and joys" of Jesus "if a few minute's conversation about" them "is so abhorent to" her, the woman apparently turned "ashly pale" and "her tongue seemed chained." She left "without saying a word" with her friend at the next station, offering only "a sad, sad look at the gentleman" before she "was seen no more." This was because his words, which "were calmly and kindly spoken" to her, "seemed to have wondrous power." If he does say so himself. A lot like a similar set of words from Suppose It Is All True After All? What Then?. But where that tract attempted to scare readers with the notion that Hell and Judgment might be real, Would You Be Happy dares to posit that Heaven might not be for everyone. Indeed, "before Heaven could be a Heaven to you, a great change must take place in your desires, your tastes," etc. In other words, you need to get Saved before Heaven will be appealing to you! What a unique predicament.

This raises an interesting point - if a person finds the Word of God "distasteful" and "abhorent," how are Christians supposed to reach them? Or are such people acceptable losses? Perhaps not; this tract is a step in the right direction. Before it can be truly effective, however, it needs a rewrite into plain English from this century. One of the women actually says: "I declare..." Really??

Points for daring, but not much more, E.T.D.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

And before anyone nails me for it, the misspelling of "abhorent" and "ashly" are direct quotes from the tract, not me being a bad speller.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

It's All About You!

Here's some Chick for a modern audience. While the last Chick Tract I reviewed, The Sissy, made reference to The Bionic Man, this tract is set very much in today's world. Or, at least, within the last ten years.

It's All About You is aimed at young people, or rather the impression Jack has of them. We meet Hannah, a self-absorbed whiner of a college student who isn't named until page 11. "Life is so unfair!" she tells her grandpa, who hangs around her college for some reason. "Nobody understands the 'inner me'." And "I didn't ask to be born, you know!" Based on these statements, Gramps deduces that she's "got it all figured out." Nevertheless, he warns her about two "someones" who have "seen things you'd rather people didn't know about," especially since "one of them has it in for you!" As you can imagine, this causes Hannah some alarm.

"He wants to steal the most valuable thing you've got," Gramps tells her.

"My iPod?" Hannah cries, demonstrating Jack Chick's deft hand at comedy while simultaneously dating this tract to the mid-2000s. If written today, it probably would have been an iPhone 5. Or a Tablet. Or a copy of The Five Demons You Meet In Hell.

Of course, Gramps is really talking about Hannah's soul. He tells her that "forces in the spirit world - angels and devils" are in "a war to see who gets" it. He lays the FEAR on nice and thick; "Satan means business" and will "do anything to destroy your soul," and "absolutely nothing is hidden from the eyes of God" because "everything you do, say or think is being recorded." Apparently God is in charge of the United States' Homeland Security! Our "sins just keep piling up" and "that blocks us from going to heaven."

Think Gramps is finished? Hell, no! He's just warming up. Among Satan's chief weapons are "STDs, drugs or booze," and "his rotten crowd" might even "make you binge and purge your meals." Huh? Where did that come from? Every now and then Jack Chick will throw in something totally random.

What are not so random are the pot-shots Jack takes at other religions. There's a picture of four "phoney 'holy men'" including an excellent caricature of the Dalai Lama and an okay rendering of former pope and pedophile-enabler/protector Ratzinger. "Religion pretends to be holy" while putting "their own followers into bondage." We see an image of a corrupt Catholic priest trying to con a grieving widow, and no bout of Chick religion-bashing would be complete without an image of a Muslim suicide bomber.

Now that Hannah has been sufficiently terrorized, Gramps tells her "the Good News" about Jesus "making the only way for us to get to heaven" by dying and shedding "His holy blood to wash away our sins." "But isn't that religion?" Hannah asks, reasonably enough, but Gramps assures her it is not. Hannah gets Saved, and says that "Jesus loves me and really understands me." And he won't steal her iPod, either!

In my review of The Sissy?, I mentioned that the character Duke was likely a stand-in for a certain type of person, namely big hairy tough guys who drive trucks. In It's All About You, Hannah would seem to be representing the youth of today - sullen, ungrateful, self-absorbed, and in dire need of Saving. As always, Jack Chick's tracts reveal more about himself than they do about God.

The art is up to Jack's usual standard. The only place where I felt his drawings were lacking were the depictions of Hannah's fingers in three 'close-up shots' (including the cover). They look more like the digits of an old crone, not a young lady. Also, from page 17 onward, Jack draws her face with more realistically-defined lips. Not sure what that's all about.

A regular feature in numerous Chick Tracts is the addition of cute, funny animals, almost always the same dog and cat. Jack will draw them into numerous panels, perhaps as a bit of levity or maybe just to fill in some empty space. They appear in 13 panels in It's All About You, while recurring deity Ol' Faceless only cameos in two.

The entire approach of It's All About You seems off-message to me, starting with that title. Jack presents Hannah as obnoxiously self-absorbed, but he does not criticize her for it. Rather, he indulges it. Hannah doesn't have to give up her self-centredness to become Saved (yes, she does say "sorry I sin and am so selfish," but talk is cheap). Like Duke in The Sissy, she is not encouraged to be a better person.

In the end, it's not all about you at all - it's about getting Saved, just like any other tract. And while this tract has only a moderate amount of offensive content (5 panels, including the previously mentioned suicide bomber and a dig at lesbians on Page 3), it should prove to be very insulting to its target audience.

And yet, isn't this true of all tracts? They all tell you that you're a sinner, and that you deserve to burn forever. They have to make you believe this, so they can sell you the Good News of Salvation. The insult, or at least the unfavourable judgment, is essential to the delivery of the Message.

But that's neither here nor there. It's All About You is a standard, unremarkable Chick tract that attempts to make ancient scripture relevant to today. It might have had a chance if another young character had preached to Hannah instead of her grandpa. Instead, we get an old guy trying to tell a young person how to live her life. Get off of Satan's lawn, whippersnapper, and onto Jesus' sidewalk! If it's one thing we know about the youth of today, it's their willingness to respect their elders and hang on their every word.

Good luck with that, Jack. You'll have an easier time stealing their iPods.

It's All About You!
Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 8
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4