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