Wednesday, December 19, 2007


It comes as no surprise that this tract was published in 1998, while a certain blockbuster movie directed by James Cameron was making box office history. Not one to miss an opportunity, are tract makers.

Published by the American Tract Society and written by Ed Cheek, this one will remind longtime readers of this blog of What If You Had Been Here, the infamous 9/11 tract from the Fellowship Tract League. I'm happy to say that Mr. Cheek does not suggest that any of the 1,517 people who died that night are currently roasting in Hell. Instead, he uses the story of the Titanic as a metaphor for death (hardly a stretch), and how we must each be ready to face God should the unexpected happen. Not a bad way to present the message - it hints at the possibility of Hell without actually saying anything too scary.

There's a couple of lovely melodramatic passages to be found here. Cheek describes how the passengers "were dumped from the lap of luxury into the North Atlantic's icy grip." Some "shunned warnings of danger and rejected the means of escape. What about you, my friend?"

All in all, this isn't a bad tract. Yes, it exploits a great tragedy (and major motion picture), but it uses the event with respect. The author of What If You Had Been Here could have learned something from this one. The writing, while cheesy, still holds up better than most tract material, and while it won't convert me, this tract might just convince a few others.

Not bad, Mr. Cheek. Keep 'em coming.

Likely to Convert - 6
Artwork - 5
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What To Do To Go To Hell

This tract, from Good News Publishers, has an awesome gimmick. The title of the tract forms a question mark on the cover (even though the title itself isn't a question), with nice yellow-on black lettering. But that's not the gimmick.

The gimmick comes when you open the tract and find... NOTHING. That's right, the two inside pages are blank. What do you have to do to go to Hell? Nothing, those pages say. You're already going there!

Cue Twilight Zone music.

Not bad, eh? Now, in case the tract reader is a total moron, the last page spells everything out. It also gives a great description of Hell, "a furnace of fire" where there will be "wailing and gnashing of teeth." Yeah, that's the good stuff.

Also, this tract is a remake. At the bottom it says, "Adapted from a tract by Summer Wemp." I cannot say whether or not this new version improves upon the original.

Yep, not a bad tract at all. The blank-page gimmick works well to sell the message. Too bad the rest is dedicated to shoving fear in your face. The 'gnashing of teeth' bit undermines the seriousness. Who would have thought a quote from Jesus would work against a religious tract?

Basically, what I'm saying is that the two blank pages are the best part of this tract. Kind of sad, when you think about it. Still, this tract is on the right tract. A few more clever innovations and a little less teeth-gnashing, and they'll be winning souls yet.

Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Believe It Or Not!

Remember Ripley's Believe It Or Not? So does Robert E. Surgenor, evangelist and author of this tract. He thought that sprinkling a few of Ripley's facts through this tract would make it more readable and fun. He's right. No doubt he also thought this tract will convince people to convert to Christianity. On that point, I believe he's wrong.

This tract contains six of Ripley's facts, and Robert backs each story up with a Biblical 'truth'. Some of those truths work better than others. And some are just plain insulting.

For example, Robert tells of the Sipra River, "revered by the Hindus" because "merely thinking of it is believed to assure forgiveness of sins." Robert congratulates the Hindus on realizing "the need of the forgiveness of sins," but points out that "their method is entirely wrong!" Robert states that the only way to obtain forgiveness "is through Christ," a classic example of My-God-Is-Better-Than-Your-God.

And he doesn't just take shots at Hindus. Next in line are the ancient Egyptians, and the facts of King Tut's tomb. "Gold rods found in the tomb" were "constructed at an angle of 26 1/2 degrees," the "angle of the refraction of light." Robert tells us "the ancients expected their monarch's soul to rise to heaven on a ray of sunlight." Robert praises Tut for knowing "he had a soul" and believing "there was a heaven for departing souls, but I'm afraid he missed heaven altogether, for no ray of sunlight will ever convey the soul to heaven." Once again, he's saying I'm-right-and-you're-wrong.

Then he goes after the Muslims. A Persian philosopher made his first pilgrimage to Mecca - a journey of 1, 400 miles - on his knees. Yet, according to Robert, the guy "missed God's great salvation! How sad!"

Indeed. And the words 'how sad' are pretty much how I would describe this tract. The Ripley facts are fun and interesting, but Robert's message isn't. Plus, the pot-shots at other beliefs (even the ancient ones) leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Sorry, Robert, but you're not converting anyone with this. Believe it or not!

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 1
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 7

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Words Alone?

Most tracts are deathly dull. I'd say, from the hundreds I've read since I started collecting them, the rate of boring ones is about 90%. I focus mainly on the 10% that are somewhat interesting, but I throw in a few dull ones (like How To Be Saved And Know It and 4 Things You Should Know) for good measure.

Since there are so many boring ones, I like to find tracts that add a little something in the creative department. Some, like Jack Chick's work, do this through cartoons. Tracts made by people who can't draw have to rely on words alone, and most of them fail to use those words well. The trouble is, most tracts preach essentially the same message, and their challenge is to present that message in a different way.

For the next few reviews, I will look at some tracts that have tried to rise above the crowd using only words (and no, cover art does not count). Some succeed more than others. By that I mean that some introduce an element that creatively adds to what they are saying, while others make attempts that fall flat. One makes its point with no words at all (well, a few, actually. You'll see what I mean).

Regardless of their success rate, each of the next few tracts really tried. And that's worth something, isn't it?

Monday, December 10, 2007

1, 000, 000

This tract, published by Living Waters, is actually quite clever so far as appearance goes. It looks like a million-dollar bill, and if you don't look closely you might never realize it is a tract at all. Unfortunately, the innovation stops there. Once you get past the novelty of this tract's appearance, it's a case of deja vu.

While one side of this tract is devoted entirely to the image of being a $100000 bill, the other side has fine print typed around the edge. "The million-dollar question: Will you go to Heaven?" the first line reads, before accusing the reader of being "a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer-at-heart" who "will end up in Hell." As always, the assumption of Biblical accuracy and interpretation overrides any common sense.

Worse still, this insulting message isn't even made easy to read. Like I said, the type is small and printed all the way around the edge. You have to turn this thing over in your hands one full time to get to the bit about Jesus saving you, although only a half-turn is required to get to the blasphemous adulterer part.

Overall, this tract is a cute gimmick that, in the end, fails to pay off. The real million-dollar question is, what will the folk at come up with next?

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Wicca: Right or Wrong?

I'll give you three guesses as to whether or not this tract finds Wicca wrong. And if any of your guesses are no, you haven't been reading this blog very often, have you?

Published by the Good News Publishers and written by Christin Ditchfield (a Christian named Christin? What are the odds of that?), this tract aims to show the reader that Wicca is wrong. Does it succeed? No, it does not.

The tract starts by talking about Wicca in generalities. Sadly, I don't know enough about Wicca myself to say if these generalities are accurate or way off the mark. Christin actually makes Wicca sound attractive: "It promotes peace, harmony and healing," it "celebrates nature" and "empowers women" and "encourages creativity". Of course, Ms. Ditchfield is careful to begin this praise with the words: "Listen to anyone who practices the craft, and they'll tell you..."

At the bottom of the first page, Christin states that "Wicca doesn't work." the tract continues for a further four pages, but the subject of Wicca is never raised again. Instead, the remainder of the tract is devoted to pushing the Christian message. No proof is offered as to why Wicca doesn't work. Instead, Christin Ditchfield essentially says that her beliefs are the way things are, therefore any other system must be wrong.

This isn't the most arrogant thing I've ever read, but it's up there. It cracks the top fifty, for sure. I can't help but wonder why she chose the subject of Wicca, since she talks so little about it. She could have provided examples of Wicca not working, or of Christianity succeeding where Wicca 'fails', but alas she does not. This suggests she either hasn't done her homework, or she simply could not find any examples of Wicca not working. Either way, she makes the case for Wicca that much stronger.

The cover makes no sense. We have an image of a man on a tightrope, seemingly off-balance. Oh, and it looks as if the tightrope is stretching across a yellowy-red glowing expanse (hellfire, possibly?) Okay, I get what she's trying to say - people who practice Wicca are on a thin rope over HELL and could fall in at any moment. It's just that, with the subject of Wicca, could she not have chosen a cover image a bit more, I don't know, Wiccan? You know, a witch or a cauldron or something? Maybe a witch with a cauldron on that tightrope? I mean, come on. Even the Fellowship Tract League knows enough to tie the cover art in with what they are saying.

Seriously, Christin Ditchfield, what the fudge? If you're going to make a tract, don't just phone it in. If you'd provided a bit more evidence for your claims, you might have at least scored higher on the Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content category. You're not winning any souls here; all you are doing is preaching to the converted. I have to say you are very ironically named, not only because you are a Christian named Christin. Your name is also ironic because I'm about to crumple up this tract and ditch it in a field.

Likely to Convert - 0
Likely to Convince Anyone that Wicca is Wrong - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Is Christianity Just A Crutch?

Remember Ron Wheeler, the cartoonist behind Heaven's Gate? Well, he's back with this tract for the Good News Publishers, once again taking aim at Jack T. Chick's cartoon-tract crown.

I'd have to say his aim falls short of the mark this time. If anything, Christians come off looking pushy and even insulting in this tract, hardly qualities for soul-winning.

Set in a coffee shop, the story starts with a man and a woman discussing religion. And when I say discussing, I mean the guy makes a lot of statements about Christianity while the blond woman tries to get a word in edgewise. He says religion is just a crutch for insecure people, that says that Christians get all worked up and emotional and take their beliefs so personally. He then accuses most Christians of being hypocrites.

I wonder if this is how Ron Wheeler views the non-Christian world. Does he really think we all sit around saying this stuff?

Anyway, the Christian 'hero' of the story turns up and barges in on their conversation. The blonde woman tries to tell the guy they are having a private talk, but the Christian (let's call him Rudy McInyourface) ignores and interrupts her and keeps on talking. So right away we've got a pushy guy shoving his thoughts and feelings on others. Does Ron really think that's gonna save my soul?

Rudy attacks each point the other guy (I'll name him Wimpy) brought up, while the blonde woman (Betty Didnlisten) continues with her vain attempts to be heard. Rudy goes after the hypocrisy charge first, saying that nobody is perfect all the time. Rudy also says "a person who thinks he's good enough" with "no need for God in his life" is a hypocrite. What the fudge? Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another, not someone who thinks one thing that happens to be wrong in the eyes of one specific religion. Instead of challenging this inaccurate definition of hypocrisy, however, Wimpy simply says, "Hmmm, point taken."

Rudy continues, going after the other points Wimpy raised (Christians are insecure, Christians get all emotional, etc) while Wimpy simply listens and says, "Hmmm." Then Rudy addresses the 'crutch' of the matter, saying everyone needs a crutch to lean on sometime. He then takes a swipe at Betty, saying the coffee she is drinking could be considered a crutch. That's right, she's had no part in the argument (how could she? Nobody'll listen), but she's taking flak for it. Rudy's one special kinda guy.

Then comes my favourite part. Wimpy says "hmmm" yet again, and Rudy asks, "Is 'hmmm' all you can say?" So now we're insulting the very people we're trying to convert, are we Rudy? It's meant to be a joke, of course, but does Ron Wheeler really think a non-Christian reader will take it that way? Wimpy responds, saying, "Hmmm, I'm thinking..." and Rudy quickly says, "There's more!" Can't have any of that sinful Thinking going on, can we Rudy?

The tract ends in predictable fashion; Rudy tells Wimpy how to become a Christian. To which, Wimpy simply replies, "Hmmm." Because that's all we non-Christians can say when confronted with The Truth, eh Ron?

This tract is plain annoying, with a good amount of head-scratching thrown in. I sense the target audience isn't the Unsaved, but rather Christians - the whole thing seems geared to make them feel better and smarter about themselves. The insulting tone isn't going to win over anyone, of that I am sure.

This tract also demonstrates a very low opinion of women. Like I've said, Betty isn't listened to at all, yet she's still the victim of Rudy's potshots. She dissappears from the tract after that moment - maybe she got pissed and walked away, and who could blame her? Women have only recently been given a say in religious matters; this tract seems to display a yearning for the 'good old days' when women were married off and not heard. I don't know if Ron is being intentionally misogynist, but he really should have thought that one through better.

Do I have anything good to say about this tract? Well, Rudy may be an arrogant little bugger, but he doesn't mention Hell once. Like Facing The Future Unafraid, the tone of this tract seems to be one of improving one's life with Christianity rather than using it to save one's self from burning agony. Points for that, Ron! The cartoons also make this one more noticeable, although I have to say the artwork is definitely not Ron's best work.

What more can I say? You know what's coming - say it with me:


Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 3
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 5

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Facing The Future Unafraid

Another one from the Evangelical Tract Distributors, this tract was written by R. L. Constable. This one starts with three questions, and apparently they describe my life.

1. Where have I come from?
2. What am I doing here?
3. Where am I going?

Here are my answers:

1. I came down from my apartment.
2. I'm drinking a tea, eating a Boston Creme donut, and writing this review.
3. When I'm done, I'm going back upstairs to type this review up.

However, as I read further, it occurred to me that R.L. wasn't asking about my trip to Tim Hortons. I think R.L. is trying to be deep. He spends a full page talking about the past, and how when we look back on our lives we realize things haven't always gone as we'd hoped. Interesting approach. Instead of using fear and guilt to sell the message, this tract tries to make you feel miserable instead.

R.L. goes on to address the future, and postulates that it will turn out much like the past - a void of unfulfilled promise and hopes that become faded dreams. I think I'll slit my wrists right now.

But wait! There's hope. We can have a bright future, all right, if we'll just accept Christ! Yes, it seems R.L. Constable is pitching Jesus as some sort of self-help option. Like I said, interesting approach. And points for not mentioning Hell once; the closest R.L. comes is saying that everybody who sins will die. If one will just become a Christian, "one can face the future unafraid." And how better to help us live unafraid than to not inundate us in fear. Right on, Constable! You're still not getting my soul, but your approach is a good example to other tract writers.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Suppose It Is All True After All? What Then?

Here's another one that says, more or less, exactly what every other tract says. However, this one opens with a lovely bit of arrogance that tickles my funny bone just right.

Published by Evangelical Tract Distributors, this one briefly tells the tale of two friends discussing the possibility of burning forever in Hell. A Christian who had been eavesdropping cut in and said, "Suppose it is true after all?", and the conversation was dropped. According to the tract, "The power of God always backs the truth," and "The words seemed to fall on the ears of the two men with crushing force. Solemn silence reigned for many minutes. God had spoken."

I nearly soiled my undies, I was laughing so hard! What arrogance, suggesting these men had been silenced by the 'crushing force' of God's truth. Surely there can be no other possibility, although I can think of a few. For starters, the dudes were clearly open to the possibility of Hell, so the butting-in Christian simply pointed out a possibility that neither one wanted to acknowledge. That doesn't make it the Truth. And, for all we readers know, they might have stopped talking for 'many minutes' because they were waiting for the holier-than-thou nimrod to buzz off.

But no, the only interpretation the writer of this tract is willing to entertain is that the two men were silenced by the Truth. The tract continues in this vein, saying, "Suppose it is true" that Hell is real and Jesus is the only way to escape it. The writer makes some nice melodramatic statements, asking if you are "going on at a frightful pace to the eternity of the lost?" before saying, "How terrible will be your doom if you 'die in your sins'. Haste thee to Christ and be Saved." You just don't hear people saying stuff like that anymore, except in tracts.

Points for making me laugh, but otherwise, haste this tract to a blue box and let it be recycled.

Tim has spoken.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 0
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Monday, November 26, 2007

How To Be Saved And Know It

After exploring the worlds of Jack T. Chick, it's suck a letdown to return to the Fellowship Tract League. It just makes you aware of how little effort they put into them, at least as far as entertainment value goes.

How To Be Saved And Know It is the League's standard-issue three-pager and cover, which depicts a man in the sea being thrown a life preserver from a nearby boat. They've never gone for subtlety before, so why start now?

The text part of the tract begins even less promisingly: "If you should die today, where would you spend eternity?" After that, it's the same old message of repenting and getting Saved if you don't want God to burn you alive forever and ever, in His mercy.

In fact, this tract is a carbon copy of What If You'd Been Here, except without the despicable use of the 9/11 tragedy.

The melodrama provides a few laughs, but not many. "You are helpless. You cannot save yourself!" "Don't put this off -- do it now!" "Take God at His word. Don't trust your feelings."

That last one makes me scratch my head a little. Don't trust your feelings? Isn't that how God speaks to you? Isn't He the still, small voice inside us? That's what I've read and been told many times over, but it would seem the League doesn't agree. Best to trust a 1000+ year-old translation of Jewish and Christian scriptures than to trust your instincts.

That's all I can say about this one. Clearly, the Fellowship Tract League's just phoning it in this time. Come on, guys! If you want my immortal soul, you'll have to try harder than this. You won't get it, but it would be nice to know you tried.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 1
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Burning Hell Put Out!

A quick and very funny update on one of my past reviews. The Burning Hell was given a stronger and much more damning (pun most definitely intended) review by Karma, my pet kitten.

A copy of the tract fell under my desk, where dear sweet Karma proceeded to urinate upon it!

That's right, the Burning Hell was put out by kitten pee.

Compared to that, my review was positively glowing.

Now back to the world of Jack Chick...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Dear Robert

Brace yourselves for one of the most offensive tracts in current distribution. It's not as tasteless and insensitive as the Fellowship Tract League's 9/11-themed What If You Had Been Here?, but it makes up for that lack with ignorance and bigotry.

This tract takes the form of a fictional (I hope!) letter to Robert from his loving Aunt Darlene. In it, Darlene expresses concern that her nephew is thinking of deciding that he is gay. Apparently Robert's mother found some 'homosexual magazines' in his bedroom. I didn't know magazines could have a sexual preference, but that's a topic for another blog.

Darlene reveals that she was once gay, until she "asked Jesus to control my life." Jesus did the ol' sexual orientation switcheroo, and "restored me with natural desires." Her aim in telling Robert this is so she can tell him "how it really is behind the sensationalism."

Hoo-boy. Already I can feel my blood boiling, and this letter's barely begun.

"It's lonely. It's hard. It's not God's plan. It's a lie."

Bold statements, Darlene, but can you back them up? "It's lonely because my gay friends were out for self-gratification, and I was an object toward that end." Okay, so you made bad choices in friends. That's hardly the fault of the gay community. Darlene says her gay friends told her they "were fighting for my sexual freedom," when really they just "exploited me physically to satisfy their desires." "The gaiety is a mirage. The older I became, the more I noticed the tired, empty faces."

Still sounds to me like the problem lay with you, Darlene. Say, can you tell us what the Bible says? "Our bodies are not our own... they are bought with the price of Jesus dying on the cross for our freedom."

Okay, so that's what you believe, and you are welcome to believe what you wish. How 'bout you say something completely nutty now? "Homosexuality is an unending cycle of bondage that repeats itself in recruiting others."

Riiight. So gay people are out there trying to recruit people, huh? Can't say any of them have tried to convert me, although I have been approached for recruitment purposes several times by Christians.

Darlene goes on to say that "the statistics from studies about the gay community reveal high rates of suicide, alcoholism, and drug addiction." Well, that must be true! There are statistics! From studies! And those studies are...? Hmm? Anytime now, Darlene. No? Do those studies and statistics even exist, Darlene, or are you making them up? And here's a point - if they do exist, do you think it's possible those high rates of suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction might be the result of all the people telling them their lifestyle is, how did you put it, an unending cycle of bondage? Hmm?

This tract offers no hard data to support its claims. In fact, only one biblical source is noted (Romans 1:26), a verse that supposedly says "that homosexuality is an abomination to God." I thought the 'abomination' line came from Leviticus. Not that it matters.

"Being gay isn't a right," Darlene concludes, "it's a sin." This is the conclusion she came to after finding Jesus, and looking back on the gay life she'd lived. She had bad experiences, therefore all gay experiences are bad. They must be! The Bible says so. And the really sad thing is, Darlene thinks she's helping, when in reality she's just spreading fear and hate. Poor Darlene. If only someone would write you a letter to warn you of the dangers of fundamentalist religion.

Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 10

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How To Get To Heaven

Another one from the Fellowship Tract League, number 153. This one is aimed at kids, with instructions on how to get to Heaven.

This is a semi-cartoon tract, with pictures to back up the words and quotes. It has four pages and twelve panels, not including the title panel with a boy and a girl who both have yellow hair looking at a bright yellow temple-pyramid thingie that is probably supposed to be Heaven.

Naturally, this tract starts with rules and punishment. Panel 1 introduces the Bible and tells us it is God's Law. Panel 2 tells us about sin, with a picture of the yellow-headed kids looking shocked to discover the Bible says, "Thou shalt not steal". I guess they've been doing a lot of stealing up to this point. And they looked like such nice kids. It's true that you really can't tell about anyone.

Anyway, not that the tract has laid down the law, it can get on with the serious business of Hell. What is Hell? The tract says, "Hell is a terrible place where fire is." What is wrong with that sentence? I mean, where fire is? Come on! The next sentence catches that grammatical fumble, however: "Sinners will burn in Hell FOREVER." Much better. And the bold and all caps on FOREVER is a nice touch. So is the picture, featuring three people burning in flames.

The next picture is even better - it features the two kids surrounded by hellfire. The children look unhappy. Not terrified or agonized, just a little sad. As if the idea of eternal immolation has the same punch as being denied a cookie.

The next four panels do the usual bit of preaching Jesus as the only way to escape the fires of Hell, because HE died for your sins. It's extremely familiar ground, so I'll skip past it. Although the two kids praying in Panel 8 is kind of cute.

Panel 9 features the two kids, now with Jesus in their hearts, refusing a cigarette from an evil-looking third kid. You can tell he's evil because he's frowning and smiling at the same time. EVIL!!!

So, this whole tract was just a stop-smoking ad? I know the artist had only one small panel to portray the kids as changed and Saved, but couldn't he/she have come up with something a little less lame? Maybe the kids could have been shown not stealing, to go with the theme in Panel 2.

This tract provides a few unintentional laughs, and the attempt to scare children makes it a little bit disturbing. My overall impression? Hell is this terrible tract where lame is.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 3
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 3

4 Things You Should Know

Bo-ring! Nothing puts me to sleep faster than a quote tract. Published by Evangelical Tract Distributors, this one is dull from start to finish.

What are the four things you should know? You need to be Saved, you cannot Save yourself, you must choose now (Christ or Wrath for eternity), and your Part (Believe, Receive, Remember & Do it now). There, I just saved you the trouble of reading it. Besides, it's the same thing we've all heard before, just with a different title and presentation. The cover is drab and fails to catch the eye, and the red type for the scripture quotes doesn't work, either. There isn't even any offensive content!

What a waste of paper.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heaven's Gate

Is it a telling sign that this tract is named after one of the biggest box office flops in film history? It doesn't help, that's for sure.

Published by ATS and drawn by Ron Wheeler, this cartoon tract aims for the market currently dominated by Jack Chick. In it, a man stands before God at Heaven's Gate, and finds out (surprise, surprise) that he isn't good enough to get in. He argues with God, God acts like a pompous jerk, then he dispatches the guy to Hell with a wave of his hand. And he says, "See ya." If any one image can define the impression I get of God from these things, that is it.

The cartoons are nice, and very colourful. You never see God's face, just like on The Simpsons. What's up with that? Honestly, I've never understood this reluctance of cartoonists and animators to show the Lord's features. Gary Larson never had any problem with it when he did The Far Side.

But I digress. The poor guy tries to prove his worthiness to enter Heaven, but the Lord ain't buyin' it. "See-ya!" sayeth the Lord (I can't get over that!) as the man plunges down into the flames below.

Only he doesn't. Turns out he was dreaming - yes, it was all just a dream, worst cop-out ever - but it's not over yet. A Bible drops from Heaven onto the guy's noggin, and falls open at exactly the right series of quotes to tell him how to be Saved. "Wow!" he says after reading each line.

Wow, indeed. Such was my reaction at the thought that anybody would want to worship a faceless God who is so cavalier with human souls. Still, this tract has more going for it than most. It holds interest, thanks to the colourful cartoons, and there is little to be offended about. It might actually convert a few people, and I might actually have liked it if it weren't for the "See ya" bit. Oh yeah, and the whole 'do as we say or burn in Hell' message. But that's in almost every tract.

That's it for this review. See ya... ahem. Goodbye.

Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 8
Ability to Hold Interest - 8
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Mirror, Mirror

Just a quick note, in case my readers are wondering what's up with the mirror-images of the tract covers I post. The thing is, I don't have a scanner, or the knowledge to use the software that may or may not be on my wife's computer.

My method of putting pictures up involves holding the tract in front of this computer's camera and taking a snapshot. The image comes out reversed, which isn't great because I want people to be able to read the titles.

There is a special effects option that allows me to do mirror imaging, however, so I've used that. You get two images of each cover, one forward and one reversed. It's weird to look at, but at least you can read the covers the way I want.

One of these days I'll figure a way to do this image uploading thing properly. Until then, we'll all just have to put up with my lack of techie skill.

The Way To God

I've been riding the Fellowship Tract League pretty hard, and almost exclusively, since this blog began. It seems their material is a lot easier to find. Anyway, today we're going to look at The Way To God, by World Missionary Press, Inc., and give the League a breather.

This tract starts out rather nicely, being a mix of both verse and art. From the first few pages, you get the impression this booklet is simply going to talk about the Christian faith in a pleasant, no fearmongering way.

Then you get to page six, with a picture of Adam and Eve being chased out of the Garden of Eden by an angel with a flaming sword. The next page says "It was a sad day for the human race when Adam and Eve sinned," because thanks to them "sin entered the world" and now "every person is born with the sin nature."
We're only on page 7, and already we're told we are bad people.

Page 8 begins the story of Jesus, told mostly through quotes. The tract makes it clear that Jesus' purpose was to sacrifice himself to save us all from the situation Adam and Eve created. The next few pages briefly discuss Jesus' life, death and resurrection, continually reminding us that he is God, and the only way to Heaven.

Page 16 has a picture of a kid at a crossroad, with one path marked Eternal Death. The kid chooses the one marked Eternal Life, that leads up to a castle in the sky. The tract congratulates him for his choice, then asks what choice YOU will make.

The next twenty pages remind readers why they have to choose Jesus, and offer some sample prayers. The Ten Commandments are listed, and the reader is told that God is Love.

Page 39 says, "Jesus wants you to Witness to others," and features a picture of a nervous-looking girl in a classroom in-between an angry-looking girl and a praying boy.

But that's not nearly as scary as the next few pages. Page 41 shows Jesus sitting on his throne, with two groups of people on either side of him.

One group, under the words Fruit of the Spirit, look very happy. They have their arms raised in the air, presumably in worship, and one little boy is down on his knees in front of Jesus, hopefully just praying. Given the numerous scandals in the Catholic church involving priests and little boys, this image seems to be a poor choice.

Anyway, they are the Fruit of the Spirit and are, as I said, very happy. The other group of people on the right side of Jesus do not look happy at all. They are in flames, and the words above them read, Works of the Flesh. One of them has a gun. Another is trying to pull her hair out. Two biblical quotes are offered to define works of the flesh, one of which condemns homosexuals. There you have it, our first encounter with homophobia in this blog. Sadly, it won't be the last.

Then we have page 42, where we see a picture of people falling off a cliff into the flames of Hell. Nearby is a small and very thin path leading up to a city in the clouds, presumably Heaven. There is a large cross in front of this path, with a doorway at the bottom of it. The name Jesus is written on that cross. I get the impression they're trying to say something here, but that image is way too complex for me. Although I did like the really big "Help!" coming from the people in the flames. Nice touch. Funny that those good people on the Jesus path aren't rushing over to help...

The rest of this tract assures us that Heaven is real, that God will not Forsake you, and that Jesus will come again. This last part features a picture of happy dead people flying out of their graves. Another wacky image in a tract that's full of them.

It's a shame. This could have been such a nice tract, but they had to go and ruin it with Hell and homophobia. This tract is clearly aimed at kids, which makes its scare tactics and prejudices that much worse. If you find this one, toss it away. I've already shown you all the best bits.

Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 7

The Burning Hell

Aah, now this is more like it! It's still a crappy tract, but it's leaps and bounds ahead of anything else the Fellowship Tract League has done so far.

I mean, just get a load of that cover! Four unhappy faces burning away while a disembodied head with a villain mustache (presumably Satan) looks on. Is that a smirk on his face? He doesn't seem nearly as unhappy as the others, even though he's clearly in the same place. This cover also provides three statements regarding the nature of Hell, just in case the visuals don't do it for you: Thousands of Degrees Hot! And Not A Drop of Water. Tortured Lost Souls Burning Forever!

Way, way, way over the top, this cover gives Jack T. Chick a run for his money. (Yes, I keep mentioning him. I'll get to him soon, have no fear.)

But the laughs don't end there. Inside is the usual warnings about making the right choice, complete with Bible quotes, but with one significant difference. Read the first sentence of the third paragraph to see what I mean:

"One day in HELL, you will not have to be bothered by some Christian trying to give you a gospel tract."

Hi-larious! But it gets better, promising that you will remember all the people who tried to Save you while you cry and beg for a drop of water "to cool your scorching tongue."

Do you think perhaps the author (Dwite Watkins) is a little ticked at having people tell him to buzz off when he tries to shove his beliefs on them? Do you get the sense that he's perhaps a little frustrated? I think he's secretly hoping people won't read his tracts, so that he can lord it over on them when he's in Heaven having a giggle.

He'll definitely laugh at me, because I'm only giving this tract a D-. Points for entertainment and unintentional humour, and an awesome cover, but not much else.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 5
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 7
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What If You Had Been Here?

Yes, the Fellowship Tract League was not above using the horror of 9/11 to push their agenda. This tract is offensive by its mere existence.

Saying the usual stuff about how you are a sinner who needs to repent, this tract starts by asking the title question - what if YOU had been in the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001? "You would have gone to Heaven or Hell forever."

Wonderful. So the families of people who lost their lives in the attack are told that their loved ones might be burning in Hell, if they weren't Christians. This has to be one of the most insensitive things I've ever read. What's next? Are they going to do a tract about New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina? Or how about the tidal wave that hit Indonesia?

I'm so mad at the makers of this tract. I mean, just look at the cover - you can see the second plane exploding! Honestly, how low can you go? Sadly, this tract might just end up converting a few people - fear can have that effect. If you find this tract, burn it. It deserves the very Hell it suggests the 9/11 victims went to.

Likely to Convert - 5
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 0
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 100

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hip Hop

Some tracts leave you shaking your head and saying, what?!? This is one such tract. It's an 8-page cartoon tract from Good News Publications, and it very much wants to appeal to black culture.

The tract starts with two African American boys discussing hip hop. One wears a backwards baseball cap, and the other wears a hoodie. That's how you can tell they're from the hood. The hoodie dude is an insufferable know-it-all, determined to Save his ballcap-wearing friend.

Hoodie declares that hip hop can be found in the Bible. He backs up this dubious claim by telling a story about Jacob, who spent one night wrestling with a stranger who turned out to be God. According to Hoodie, God ended the fight by touching Jacob's leg, instantly dislocating the hip. "Jacob hip-hopped from then on," Hoodie says, making one of the worst jokes in history.

"The rest of his life," Hoodie continues, "Jacob's 'hip-hop' reminded him that God's way was best."

What?!? God beats up a guy, then breaks his leg, just to prove he's the best. Is that the message? That we should do what God says, because otherwise he might break our legs? Very inspirational. And why did God beat Jacob up, anyway? Some context would have gone a long way toward having this story make sense. Of course, squeezing in some context might have necessitated the cutting of the hip joke.

And Hoodie isn't done with lame jokes. Next, he tells his ball-capped buddy to R.A.P. - Recognize you haven't done things God's way, Admit there's only one way to clear your sins, and Pray for God's forgiveness. Ball Cap announces he is "down wit that". Not down WITH that, down WIT that. Because that's how they all talk, I suppose. While Ball Cap prays for his eternal soul, Hoodie proceeds to break the fourth wall and talks to the reader, saying that we "can have eternal life, too."

This tract achieves the rare status of being so bad it's good, or at least more interesting than most. I'm willing to bet large sums of money it was written by a white guy, someone who thinks he knows something about black people but really doesn't know squat. I hate to be the one to break it to you, dude, but stereotypes do not a culture define.

I'd be curious to see how black people will react to this tract. Will they be swayed by Hoodie's story and R.A.P.? Or will they do like I did, shake my head and say, What?!?

That would be fly. I'd be so down wit that.

Likely to Convert - 0h, please!
Artwork - 6
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Intentional Hilarity - 0
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Have You Believed Another Gospel?

Woah! With this one, the Fellowship Tract League makes the leap from annoying and insensitive into full-blown offensiveness. In this tract, they firmly state that their beliefs are the only Truth, and all other religions are nothing but lies.

Pictured on the cover is a man looking at a signpost that has signs pointing to many other religions. Those signs include Buddhism, Islam, Humanism and Hinduism, and even two Christian faiths (Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses). Curiously, there is no sign for Judaism. This tract is arrogant and insulting, but at least it isn't anti-semitic.

Inside, this is another quote tract, but with a difference. Instead of providing quotes to answer the usual questions like 'how can you be Saved?', this tract's quotes back up phrases like 'Another Gospel Deceives Your Mind' and 'Another Gospel Damns Your Soul'. The author provides his own commentary, saying "To teach any other way of salvation is to deny God's word." If that weren't bad enough, he also says, "The only message of real value is that salvation comes by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Hear that, Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus? Your message, according to this tract, has no 'real value'! Can you believe this stuff? It doesn't commit the sin of being boring - I keep wondering what offensive stuff this thing'll say next.

Unfortunately, this is one of the milder tracts I've read. Certain other ones take this idea much further. It's almost laughable that the author of this tract thought he could convince anyone to swap faiths based on this little ditty. Almost. For its arrogance and bigotry, this tract has a bright future as a toilet paper substitute.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 1
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 5

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Where Will You Spend Eternity

Let's take a break from the Fellowship Tract League and go after someone else for a change. After all, the League aren't the only players out there - just wait 'till I get to Jack Chick!

Published by Robert J. Patterson of the Christie Street Baptist Church, this tract is two-thirds smaller than the average, and two-thirds less interesting. It's another annoying Bible quote tract, filled with verses that supposedly point the reader in the direction of Heaven.

It has two notable features. One, there are 3-leaf clovers on the cover. Two, the tract purports to direct the reader to Heaven from Ireland (on the cover), and from Canada (1st page). Why these two countries are singled out is anyone's guess. The clovers must be there to relate to Ireland (plus, all the writing is in green), but otherwise it makes no sense. Why the Ireland connection? What have 3-leaf clovers got to do with eternity? And why am I still reviewing this one?

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

The Blood

Another one from the Fellowship Tract League (#172, for those of you keeping score), this one is boringly predictable. The theme is that Jesus' blood will wash away our sins like spiritual Palmolive, with the usual guilt that HIS blood was shed for you.

The cover is what you'd expect - a hand (presumably Jesus's) with a nail sticking out of the wrist, and blood trickling all over the place. Yep. That's appealing. The only colour is red, for obvious reasons. This is a Bible quote tract, where the middle two pages are made up of lines of scripture that tell you what Jesus' blood can do for you, and what you should go and do with it. Basically, the same thing that every other tract says. The back page has the usual prayer to save your soul, with space to fill in your name and address if you want the League to know you've been Saved.

Dull, utterly unoriginal and forgettable in the extreme.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 1
Unintentional Hilarity - 0
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Romans' Map To Heaven

Today we look at The Romans' Map To Heaven, published by the Fellowship Tract League (#127, to be exact). It's a pretty standard by-the-numbers tract, with only one small difference - it quotes only from the Book of Romans.

The cover is nothing special - a picture of roman-related doodads (a centurion's helmet, a sword and a shield) on a yellow background. The middle of this tract is composed only of Bible quotes, each one answering a specific question (Who is good? What is the eternal cost of your sin?) or theme (you cannot save yourself). The back page provides the standard prayer for accepting Jesus Christ as your saviour, and a place to fill in your name and address so the Tract League can send you more free stuff.

I wasn't impressed with this tract. Apart from the unique feature of quoting from only one book, it doesn't say anything new. Who would have thought the Book of Romans had enough quotable material to fit the entire Christian agenda? Kinda makes the other books - including the Gospels - look superfluous (though not nearly as much fun as Revelations). Other than the Roman angle, this tract doesn't try to be different, or even interesting. We've heard it all before, so who cares what book you grabbed it from? And quoting tracts are so dull! The tracts that tell metaphorical stories at least provide an amusing diversion.

Nice Roman gimmick, but even that can't save this tract from a big, fat F. Here are my grades (out of 10):

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 1
Unintentional Hilarity - 0
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Biblical Proportions

Welcome to Biblical Proportions, the blog dedicated to reviewing religious tracts, videos and occasionally websites. For the time being, my focus will be tracts; there are so many of them, and chances are good you've read at least one. Once I get into the swing of this, I'll add in a few videos and the like.

So, what is a religious tract? A tract is a small pamphlet of writing and sometimes artwork, created to promote the Christian religeon. There don't seem to be any tracts created by Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus, at least not that I've seen. The only slightly non-Christian ones are those created by Jews For Jesus, but there's not a lot of fundamental difference in their message. So if it seems like I'm taking an underhanded potshot at Christians, just remember that they are the only ones creating and distributing them.

Another good question is, why would I bother to write reviews of tracts? Collecting tracts (and other forms of religious propaganda) is something of a hobby of mine. I write fiction, and a number of my stories deal with the world of angels and demons, heaven and hell. Sometimes I get story ideas from tracts. Other times their content makes me angry. Some of them make me laugh (unintentionally), and others disturb me greatly. I've been meaning to do something with my collection for a while (I have a whole bag full of them), and this blog is the result.

But it's not all about mocking them. I intend to treat each tract as a work of art, or at least a work. Someone took the time to create them, with the intention that people should read it and be influenced to choose Christianity as their religeon. So, I will judge them on that basis. To put that another way, I will say in my reviews how likely a given tract is to achieving its desired effect. I will also rank tracts in terms of Artwork, Unintentional Hilarity, Ability To Hold Interest, and Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content.

Like I said, the chances are good you've seen at least one tract lying around somewhere. Some are handed out on streetcorners, others are left in places where they are likely to be found. If you're curious about them, and want to know if the one you've found is worth reading, then this blog is the place for you. Enjoy, and please share your comments. Also, if you've seen a tract that hasn't yet been reviewed, and you think it should be, let me know and I'll try to find it.

And to those who would be offended at the very idea of this blog, all I can say is... try to be a good sport.