Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Amazing Sign of the End

No, this isn't an accidental reposting of Signs of the Times. It's just another tract dealing with Signs relating to the End. It's also another one from Evangelical Tract Distributors, as the last five have been. It wasn't my intention to focus exclusively on their work, but theirs are the ones I've been finding lately. It seems they've replaced the Fellowship Tract League as the tract-makers of choice.

But on with the tract. I'll skip past all the usual babble about the age ending and the unsaved being Judged and get right to this supposed 'amazing sign.' The tract writer doesn't come out and say what it is, but I think he/she was referring to the rebirth of Israel as a nation. Because Israel has been "suddenly reborn" "several decades ago," the writer thinks "it very probably could be that the end of this age may come upon us in the next few years."

Well, that's nailing it down. Notice the ass-saving use of the words "the end of this age MAY come..." The writer obviously wants to be prepared for the best.

And that isn't the only example of some daffy writing. When describing how bad things might get, the writer says: "I don't know if God is going to allow the use of the nuclear bomb, but that's what the Bible says."

Ahem. So the Bible specifically mentions nuclear weapons going off, does it? Apparently, it also says that "one third of all the ships will be destroyed." What about planes, trains and automobiles? The Bible mentions nukes, but not Chevies or 747s?

Suppose we readers chose not "to enjoy God's salvation?" What does the tract writer recommend? "You'd better indulge in your old sins," he/she says, "make the most of them while you can."

This tract is all over the map, and completely off its proverbial rocker. Makes for a very entertaining read, but the nuttiness distracts from the already dubious claim that "the end of this age may come."

I need to review something a little more sane after this one. I think I'll go back to the world of Jack T. Chick...

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 6
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Astronauts & Celestialnauts

This tract is just plain stupid. Evangelical Tract Distributors are clearly scraping the dirt under the bottom of the barrel when it comes to new ways to describe the Rapture.

"Astronauts are those who explore outer space," whereas "celestialnauts are those saved ones who shall be caught up to meet the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns."

That's really all there is to this tract, other than the standard Biblical quotes telling you how to become a celestialnaut; ie - get born again. Nothing more is done with the astronaut metaphor, either, so why it was even used is anyone's guess.

Come on, ETD! you guys can do better than this.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Signs Of The Times

Time for some prophecy. It's a wonderful thing, prophecy is. You can say anything will happen, and nobody can prove you wrong. Especially if you don't give any kind of time-frame for when stuff is coming.

Signs Of The Times discusses the End-Times prophecies from the Book of Revelations. Apparently, "many thoughtful persons" think the 'end of the age' is approaching, due to all kinds of 'signs'. What are those signs? "Materialism engulfing whole continents," "unrest and suspicion between scores of nations," and "the appalling standards of 'flaming youth'." Oh, and also "two giant world powers engaged in an endless war of nerves." Two world powers? When was this tract written? Actually I don't know - there's no copyright date on it - but I suspect that last sign is a bit behind the times.

Not that it matters. "Whether these 'signs' are correctly interpreted or not," the tract says, "there is an urgent need of preparation for the Lord's Return." The rest of the tract deals exclusively with prophecies of Jesus Christ's return, and no further mention is made of those 'timely signs'. Not even the flaming youth! Only one small paragraph of this tract is on topic, so why did they title it Signs Of The Times? Cuz they gotta call it something, that's why.

Like so many tracts before it, Signs Of The Times assumes you the reader will see everything from their point of view. It says terrible things will happen to us if we aren't ready for Jesus' Return. "What is it about (those terrible things) that appeals to you, dear reader?" Not much, but the prospect of joining a religion just so some deity won't hurt me isn't very appealing, either. And why should I believe the terrible things will actually happen? The tract writer could have at least tried to tie the 'signs of the times' to Biblical prophecy. that would have been something. Not enough to convince me, but something none the less.

What a disappointment. If this tract is a sign of Evangelical Tract Distributors' quality, then their creative apocalypse is certainly nigh.

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

You Shouldn't Read This

...unless, the inside of this tract warns, "you intend to do something about it!" Another one from Evangelical Tract Distributors, this one has the benefit of a gimmick that almost makes reading it worthwhile.

What doesn't make it worthwhile, in my opinion, is that it is yet another tract written in retaliation to the way tracts(and tract-givers) are treated by the general public. "If, after reading (that Jesus died for you), you are preparing to throw this folder away, uninterested, you should not have read it at all!"

And it doesn't stop there. The tract assumes "you will go about your daily work tomorrow," remembering Christ's name "only in the curses you invoke on the weather, bad drivers, or your business associates." And when you die, "that Gospel preacher you so successfully avoided" will tell everyone you are in Heaven "when he suspects, and YOU KNOW that you are in HELL!"

Or you can repent, become a Christian, and "prove that, after all, you should have read this."

I doubt the motives of a tract writer who says you will go to HELL if you throw their tract away. It smacks of smugness, and not a little bit of self-pity. I really don't think either trait will win new converts over. It's too bad; the gimmick of this tract is good, but the follow-through is such a letdown. You really shouldn't read this tract, unless you intend to have a quiet chuckle.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 2

Repentance: Your First Steps To Peace With God

My category for unintentional hilarity has never been more appropriate than for this offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors and writer Raymond Leeson. If anything, it's a case of the author seeing only what he wants to see.

Raymond describes talking to a man in his office, a man who was "expressing utter dejection." Raymond responds by telling him that God could make his life better, "to no avail."

"My friend was so down," Ray says, "that even as I shared the possibility that there was hope for his future, his depression noticeably deepened."

Wait, it gets better.

"Each time God was mentioned," Ray goes on, "he would become uncomfortable and change the subject."

And what does Raymond think is the reason for his friend's behaviour?

"Could it be," he postulates, "that my friend understood something about God's message that is so often missed, i.e. the need to repent?"

Yeeeeeah. Sure, Ray, that must be it. "He felt very uncomfortable about his sin, and what God thought about him." This is Raymond's opinion, of course, based on some... how shall we say, questionable logic. But who needs logic or facts when writing a tract? Besides, Ray wants to discuss Repentance(it is the title, after all) and that story was his best way in. That's a stretch, Ray, a real stretch.

The rest of the tract tells us worthless sinners the usual stuff about how we'll all go to Hell unless we get right with God. The process of repentance is broken into three steps: "genuine sorrow" for your sins, "inward repugnance to sin," and "a humble self-surrender to God's will and service." Then Ray gives us a splendid contradiction when he tells us "repentance is not a condition of salvation" because "salvation is free in Christ, but repentance is the condition through which we are able to receive salvation as a free gift." Sounds pretty conditional to me, Raymond.

For sheer juvenile laughs, I can't resist this next bit. Ray asks us, once we have invited Christ into our lives, "will you let Him have His way with you?"

Yes, this tract is really funny, clearly not what author Raymond intended. It might even cheer up someone who is "expressing utter dejection." I know it made my day.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 9
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

When The World is On Fire

I've pointed out many times in the past how tracts rarely if ever supply factual evidence to back up their claims. Never has that point been driven home more hilariously than in this offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors.

"Friends," the tract begins, "let us face the facts!" Then it goes on to offer no facts whatsoever.

When The World Is On Fire discusses the Biblical apocalypse, with the AntiChrist, the Rapture, the Tribulation and all that stuff. Readers are told we can avoid all that crap if we become Christians(no surprise there), and warns us we will face "a terrible day" if we do not.

What 'facts' are we supposed to be facing? Author Harold Brenneman seems to expect us to take his word for it, offering only a few quotes from scripture to back up his doomsaying. This is nothing new, like I said, but Harold's insistence that we "face the facts" without providing any makes him look like a bit of a dum-dum.

And did I mention he does it twice? "Friends, be sane enough to face the facts," he says in the tract's midsection. Maybe he thinks if he says it often enough, readers will believe they've been given something tangible.

While this tract is devoid of factual evidence, however, it has an overabundance of fear and melodrama. "When your house is on fire you flee to safety, but where will you flee when the world's on fire?" I don't know... maybe a lake? "Why will men be such fools as to attempt their own salvation?"

This tract is also notable for some eye-catching typos. Come on, Harold, that's just lazy. And your tract can't be taken seriously. "Oh friend, who shall be able to stand?" Not many, Harold. We'll be on the ground, laughing.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bibleman: Conquering the Wrath of Rage

Every now and then, my quest for religious weirdness leads me to something you really need to see to believe it exists. Readers, I give you Bibleman.

Yes, Bibleman, a superhero for Christ. He fights evil in a spandex suit, wielding a lightsabre-like weapon called the Sword of the Spirit. In fact, his entire outfit is the Armor of God from Eph 6:10-17: the waistbelt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, jockstrap of chastity... okay, I made that last one up at my wife's request, but the rest of it is all part of Bibleman's Full Armor Sequence when he dresses up to go fight sin.

Needless to say, this is a kid's video. It's also part of a series from Pamplin entertainment, with each episode dealing with a different problem. Conquering the Wrath of Rage deals with - you guessed it - anger management.

Bibleman stars former child star Willie Aames(Charles in Charge), who also produces and directs. He gives the show a tone similar to the old Adam West Batman show, with plenty of action and humour. Some of the jokes are even funny. Bibleman is, by far, the best Christian video I've yet seen.

If only that were saying something.

The story is simple enough. The dastardly El Furioso and his hench-dude Ludicrous(not the rapper) have developed a potent gold dust that brings out the rage in people. He successfully tests it on a kid named Jordan, and on Bibleman himself. Bibleman talks to Jordan at the request of his grandmother(Jordan's, not Bibleman's) and tries to make him see sense. Trouble is, Bibleman is dealing with his own issues; he recently lost his original partner, and an annoying guy named Cypher(named after his mother, perhaps?) keeps pestering him to let him be his new sidekick.

Can Bibleman save Jordan, defeat El Furioso and accept Cypher's help and friendship? Duh. It's a Christian video, aimed at kids. What else is gonna happen?

In spite of the predictability of the plot and general lack of acting skills when it counts (when sprinkled with the evil dust, Bibleman and Jordan seem more irritated than angry), this video also has some strange moments. The story begins with Bibleman dueling with two gun-toting villains(who they are is never explained). Bibleman gets a whiff of the gold dust, lets out a battlecry, and KILLS ONE OF THEM!!! The moment holds no gravity; Cypher seems more concerned that his friend lost his cool. "You always told me the fastest way to lose a fight is to lose your temper," Cypher says, when he should be saying, "Crap, man! you just killed a guy!"

Also strange is the inclusion of a scene in which Bibleman and Cypher stop a fight between Jordan and another boy. They wait in a nearby hedge as Jordan and the boy make threats at each other, waiting for El Furioso to make his move. Yes, two grown men in spandex outfits watching a pair of young boys from the bushes. Nothing wrong with that image! And why do they wait until El Furioso has dumped the fury dust on Jordan to intervene? Shouldn't heroic types try to prevent that sort of thing? And telling Jordan he has a bad attitude after he's been doused with a mood-altering substance is just mean.

Even stranger is the scene immediately before this one. Bibleman tells Cypher of a talk he's had with Jordan's grandmother, in which she revealed the details of Jordan's upcoming fight. Apparently granny overheard Jordan challenging the other kid to a fight, complete with time and place. Isn't it great that kids these days have such well-scheduled fights? Instead of doing something about it, granny calls Bibleman. It seems parental responsibility goes out the window when a spandex-clad hero is available.

And don't get me started on El Furioso's song and dance number. Or the fact that he has a lightsabre... er, Sword of the Spirit to fight Bibleman with(did George Lucas have a garage sale or something?).

The video does have some redeeming qualities, such as character development. Bibleman is affected by the fury dust because he hasn't dealt with his feelings over the loss of his former partner. Willie Aames' willingness to let Bibleman be less than perfect gives the character a tiny bit of depth. The same is true for Jordan, whose parents were killed in a car crash(which explains why he's so easy to anger, and why he lives with his grandmother). The other characters, however, are just window dressing, ranging from useless(like Jordan's granny) to annoying(Ludicrous & Cypher).

Like I said, this is one of the best Christian videos I've seen. However, as a children's video teaching the benefits of not giving in to anger, Bibleman is sorely lacking. Nothing is really resolved by the end; Bibleman offers empty Biblical platitudes to Jordan, then pulling an Obi Wan Kenobi during his final duel with El Furioso. Refusing to give in to anger, Bibleman lowers his sword and lets El Furioso strike him. At the last second a magical sheild from God surrounds Bibleman, saving him and reducing El Flurioso to a puddle of goo. If the message here is to tell kids to wait for the magic God sheild, they are going to be disappointed. And possibly chopped in half.

So now you've met Bibleman, an unique experience to say the least. If you have to watch a Christian kid's video, you could do a lot worse. I mean, you could get stuck with Commander Kellie.

Likely To Convert - 2
Production Values - 4
Acting/Direction - 3
Likely To Be Sat Through - 8
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Intentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Well, that brings my video reviewing to a close for now. It was fun to do something a little different for a while, but watching and writing about these things is a lot more trouble than it's worth. I might do some more later, but for now It's back to tracts for this blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Left Behind: The Movie

And now the big one! Left Behind is that rarest of rare things - a Christian movie that almost went mainstream. It even made it to cinema screens! Wow! Good for them. Of course, it vanished from those same screens pretty quickly...

Produced by Cloud Ten Pictures, Left Behind is based on the bestselling novel of the same name. I've read the book, and can confirm the movie is... ahem, faithful. I can also confirm that the movie is a big stinking pile of crap from start to finish.

It's bigger in scale than Cloud Ten's other films (like Deceived), and has a much bigger budget (and production values). Clearly, they were pulling out all the proverbial stops on this one. If only they'd spent some of their budget on a decent script.

Left Behind tells the story of the Rapture, an alleged Biblically-predicted event that will herald the onset of the Last Days. Supposedly, all the faithful Christians will vanish from the planet, leaving the nonbelievers to face seven years of Tribulation under the rule of the AntiChrist.

The authors of the novel, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, asked a simple question: what if the Rapture happened in our time (or the near future)? The book, and now the film, looks at the events leading up to the Rapture, and how the world copes afterward. Not a bad premise for a story, but if you want to convince unbelievers you have to have good execution.

(Warning: Spoiler Alert...)

The story starts in the Middle East, with plucky reporter Buck Williams (yes, his name is Buck, you may now laugh) covering a special secret formula called Eden (keep laughing) that allows crops to grow in the desert. Eden's creator, Dr. Rosenzweig(Colin Fox), says he will only give the formula to those who will work to create peace for Israel. Peace doesn't come right away, because all of a sudden a million jet fighters descend upon the country in a surprise sneak attack. For some reason, the jets waste missiles firing at Buck(played by Left Behind II's Kirk Cameron) and Rosenzweig, who are really just a couple of guys in the desert. Are they really worth missiles that could be used on a military target? Probably not, but it does add a pinch of excitement. All the planes mysteriously explode over Israel, without Israel firing a shot. What, Buck wonders, was that all about?

Across the world, airline pilot Rayford Steele (yes, his name is Steele, you may laugh again) prepares to leave for work, even though he will miss his son Tom's birthday party. He does this to avoid his wife, who has gone all Christian on him. His daughter Chloe (Left Behind II's Janaya Stephens) asks why he won't at least pretend to take an interest in Mom's preaching the way she does, but Ray (Left Behind II's Brad Johnson) doesn't want to deal with that God stuff. Guess he's not gettin' raptured. Dialogue between sister and brother Steele also reveals who is rapture-ready: Chloe - "You always do as you're told?" Tom - "Yeah. You should try it sometime."

Meanwhile, in a sinister English castle that looks a lot like Casa Loma, two banker dudes and their buddy Nicolae Carpathia(Left Behind II's Gordon Currie) scheme and plot. It seems the banker dudes have set up Nicky Carpathia to take over as head of the United Nations. Seems like somebody's looking to take over the world... When Nicky Carp leaves the room, the bankers discuss an employee named Dirk Burton(a buddy of Buck's) who is trying to bust their scheme wide open. "I'd say that Mr. Burton will have to sacrifice his pension... and his health benefits." Bwa-ha-ha, aren't they evil?

Buck Williams boards a plane to London to follow up on something his buddy Dirk told him. He talks to Hattie(Left Behind II's Chelsea Noble), a stewardess whom he'd helped land a job at the United Nations. And guess what? The plane just happens to be the one that Ray Steele is piloting! Will those three become enmeshed in the dramatic events soon to follow?

What's more, Ray's been flirting with Hattie, big time! Nope, he's definitely not getttin' raptured. Of course, the novel authors and film writers could have been even more daring - Ray could have been having an actual affair with Hattie, with sex and everything - but this is a Christian production and they don't do that sort of thing.

Finally, somewhere over the Atlantic, the event we've all been waiting for... THE RAPTURE!!! Was there some great big expensive special effects sequence showing millions of Christians worldwide vanishing into the sky? Nope. No effects shots, not even a lousy in-camera trick. The raptured folks are just gone.

In spite of the disappointing lack of effects, the big event is still handled well. We start small, with the people on the plane realizing a bunch of people are missing. It is truly amazing how many devout Christians there are on that plane just then! All that remains of them are their clothes, jewellery, and of course crucifixes.

Next we turn to Chloe, who runs afoul of a traffic snarl caused by raptured drivers. Pretty soon, we learn the event is worldwide. Panic! Horror! Despair! Oh my. All flights are grounded, but Ray agrees to help Buck get back to New York by helping him find a pilot for hire. Then Ray rushes home and finds his wife and son are gone, so he starts reading his wife's Bible. Chloe comes home and starts to cry, and the acting goes from bad to cringe-worthy.

The bad guy bankers get another scene, and the bad acting and bad dialogue collide. When discussing how they can use this worldwide event ot their advantage, one of them says: "Never wait for opportunity to knock. Yank open the door and drag it screaming and kicking inside."

But that's nowhere near as bad as my favourite scene from the whole movie, the scene where Ray's wife's pastor sits alone in his church, musing about why he wasn't taken. Honestly, you have to see it to understand how truly bad and unintentionally hilarious it is. "What a fraud I am," Pastor Bruce Barnes says. "I'm living a lie... I'm living a lie." It seems that Brucie didn't really believe his own message, which conveniently leaves one guy on Earth who can supply necessary exposition. Ray finds him, they both get Saved, and then Ray heads out to Save Chloe. He also tries to save Hattie, who drops by for some more flirting. Ray doesn't want a sinful relationship, and Hattie doesn't want God, so that's it for those two.

Buck meets a CIA guy in Chicago, a guy his buddy Dirk contacted. They figure out that the evil bankers are going to bankrupt the UN with their buddy Nicky Carpy while simultaneously getting their hands on the Eden formula. "They're trying to control the world's food supply!" Buck gasps, but before they can bust this thing wide open, the CIA guy's car explodes. Buck would have been in the car with him, but he was busy giving a homeless lady some change. No, I'm not making that up, that's what happened. Buck, injured, goes to the only people in Chicago he trusts - the Steeles. Ray and Chloe take him to the church, where a convenient emergency centre has been set up, and the converting of Buck goes into full swing. Pastor Barnes and Ray provide Biblical explanations for everything that's going on, and Buck is convinced way too easily.

However, he doesn't quite get Saved yet. Instead, Buck heads for the UN to warn his buddy Rosenzweig and their mutual buddy Nicolae Carpathia about what the evil bankers are up to. Then, following a revelation revealing how Nicky Carpy will bring peace to the Middle East, Buck realizes all that Bible stuff was true. He ducks into the UN bathroom to get Saved, and soppy uplifting music plays to make sure we get the gravity of this moment.

The movie ends with the revelation that Nicky, not his evil banker buddies, was the AntiChrist all along. He kills the bankers and works his mind mojo on the UN, but Buck is immune because he's got Jesus now. He escapes and gets back to the Steeles in the church, where they prepare for the sequels that will prolong their acting careers. In a voiceover, Buck tells us "I don't have all the answers, but for now, faith is enough." The question is, will faith be enough for viewers.

Not if they're not already Christians. I can't see any non-believers being converted by this movie, let alone enjoying it on the level of an action blockbuster. Like the Commander Kellie video, this movie is so full of earnestness and importance and message that it forgets the cardinal rule of not sucking. When the acting is at its best, it is soap opera melodrama. And when it is bad, it is baaaaddd. How bad? Christian movie bad. There's no other word for it. Director Vic Sarin has no idea how to build suspense or stage drama, and the best you can say for the screenwriters is that they successfully condensed the novel into a 95 minute film.

One glaring omission is why God is doing this to humanity. Sure, the Rapture happens to spare the faithful from the horrors of the Tribulation before Jesus returns to set everything right, but that doesn't explain why God planned it that way. Sure, it's "in the Bible", but so what? The big picture makes no sense to me, and Left Behind(the book and the movie) does not provide enlightenment.

"What does it matter what we think we know?" Buck asks in a voiceover at the beginning. "In the end, there's no denying the truth." And the truth is, this movie is just plain awful. Watch it only if you want a mild chuckle.

Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 7
Acting/Direction - 3
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 9
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Revival of Evil

Here we have an informed documentary on the occult in our society, made in what has to be the early Eighties (I couldn't find a date, so I went by the hairstyles). "Is today's REVIVAL OF EVIL setting the stage for the antichrist?" asks the back packaging for this video by New Liberty Films. If it is, the antichrist is sure taking is sweet time.

Revival of Evil is primarily a talking heads documentary, with talks given by people who have experienced the supernatural in their lives. Some claim to have had psychic powers, one (nightclub owner Mike Putini) discusses the occult in rock music, and then there's international occult expert Dave Hunt. We also get a look inside the First Church of Satan, founded and run by Anton LaVey. It's exactly what you would think - people in dark robes praying to Satan.

Each psychic person tells their story in small chunks, intercut with each other. There's Jim Gold, an entertainer and Gospel singer, who claims he could move objects with his mind. Susan Brooks, a wife and mother, performed seances in her mom's basement. Dave hansen, a teacher, got into Satanism. Carole Carmichael, a spiritual counterfeits counsellor, got astral powers from Yoga, and Mike Putini... well, he basically just went to rock concerts.

And then there's Dave Hunt, the expert. He's seen wandering around inside a library, looking intellectual. There's a shot of him slotting a book back onto a shelf before he starts talking, as if he'd just been reading something quite fascinating. He's clearly done a lot of research, but he still comes off as someone whose only source of 'facts' is the Bible. "The modern western mind is being psychologically programmed to accept the religion of the antichrist," Hunt tells us, "which I believe will be a merger between modern science and eastern mysticism, or occultism." Woah, did he just say that eastern mysticism is the same thing as the occult? You bet he did! And he's just warming up. Next he has a go at Hindu gods, "which the Bible says are demons."

Pick an occult subject, and Dave Hunt's got an answer for you. "The souls and spirits of the dead are either in Heaven or Hell and can't communicate with the living," he says, so therefore all spirits contacted by seances and mediums are really demons. What about reincarnation? "There are only two possible explanations," he says when discussing regression hypnotherapy, used to regress a subject back into prior lives. "Either reincarnation is true, which the Bible denies... or an impersonating demon is speaking through the hypnotized person, spreading the same old lies." Pretty clear cut, eh? It must be a demon spreading lies, because the Bible says there's no reincarnation. End of story.

Everything that isn't Biblical is demonic to him, it seems. "The apparitions from seances, haunted houses and ghostly shapes and shadows that appear on the walls of children's bedrooms, and fascinate and draw them into the occult, are demonic manifestations. So are UFOs." He does have some interesting tidbits along the way, though. He reveals that in 1967, Ouija boards replaced Monopoly as America's #1 parlour game. He also talks about Ouija boards used in lab conditions, where blindfolded people were still able to spell out clear messages with them.

But enough about him. Let's get to the rock and roll stuff! Mike Putini talks about the use of Satanism and the occult in rock music, as if that were a big secret. The band name KISS, he says, stands for Kings In Satan's Service, and the band members were deliberately made up to look like demons. He also talks about rock groups like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles using 'backwards masking' to put messages into their songs. Yep, he's talking about playing records backwards to hear Satanic messages! Anyone else remember that?

Mike's best story is that a friend told him the untimely deaths in the rock world were due to deals with the Devil. Singers like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died so young because they sold their souls for fame and power, and Satan came to collect. I guess that's a more interesting story than simply saying they overdosed and drowned in their own vomit.

This film was interesting to watch from the perspective of looking back at Christian attitudes from the 1980's, and how they haven't really changed all that much. The stories from the psychic people are also interesting - if you can believe them. Dave Hunt's stuffy intellectualism doesn't convince me, but he might get through to others. The film would be more convincing, however, if there was more discussion from both sides of the issue; we only hear from people who wound up thinking that anything supernatural was bad. This movie clearly isn't out for a balanced discussion on the topic - it's right there in the title. The movie isn't called Revival of Spiritualism or Revival of the Supernatural or even Revival of the Occult - it's Revival of Evil.

"The Book of Revelation seems to indicate," Dave Hunt says, "that in the Last Days, sorcery would be revived." Maybe, Dave, but it's 20 years later and the apocalypse still hasn't happened. The only thing I see that needs reviving is your closed mind.

Likely To Convert - 3
Production Values - 4
Acting/Direction - 6
Likely To Be Sat Through - 6
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 7

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


No, this isn't that old Goldie Hawn thriller. It's "a chilling 21st century supernatural thriller" from Cloud Ten Pictures, the guys who made Left Behind: The Movie and other Christian stuff. Written by Paul Lalonde (the Apocalypse series) and John Patus, directed by Andre Van Heerden (Apocalypse III: Tribulation and Judgment), and released to video in 2001, this is Christian science fiction at its absolute best.

Unfortunately, that's not saying very much. Battlefield Earth was a better SF movie.

The story concerns a radio signal, supposedly from space, which has a duration of 6.66 seconds. A rich guy named Shaw(Stewart Bick), whose company owns the observatory where the signal was detected, thinks this signal will make him rich. His Christian assistant Smitty Turner, however, thinks it's from the Devil. I wonder who'll turn out to be right?

Shaw rounds up a group of people to go to the observatory and find out what's what. It seems he's lost contact with the people there... as if something dark and sinister happened to them. The team consists of Reverend Fletcher(Jefferson Mappin), Shaw's spiritual advisor; Smitty(Michelle Nolden), his assistant; Kara Walsh(Deborah Odell), a plucky investigative journalist who always gets the story; and a deaf technician with a hearing aid named Jack, played by Judd Nelson. Judd has always been a hero of mine since he voiced Hot Rod in the 1986 Transformers: The Movie, so it's a shame to see him slumming here. Jack and Smitty used to be involved with one another, but Jack couldn't deal with the God stuff. And the fact that Smitty wasn't giving him any because of the God stuff.

More trouble is brewing in the form of Colonel Garrett, played by Louis Gossett Jr. It seems he's running a military program involving telekinesis (people who can move objects with their minds, for those of you who didn't see X-Men), and he has his own connection to this strange signal. If you don't like spoilers, bail out now.

Shaw and his team get to the observatory and find the place in bad shape. All trace of the signal was destroyed by the two technicians who'd been monitoring it, so it's up to Jack to put everything back together. Shaw plans to broadcast this signal to the world, proving the existence of extraterrestrial life, while Reverend Fletcher hopes the signal will raise humanity to a new level of consciousness. Kara(the investigative journalist with a knack for digging up the facts) wants to be the one to break the story, which will be excellent for her career. Therefore, they all want something from Jack, who is the only one who can repair the equipment.

When he does, everyone has a listen when the signal comes back. Those who hear it get this cheap special effect thing with their eyes to show they are under the influence of evil. Smitty isn't influenced because she has Jesus, and Jack can't hear the signal because Satan can't bypass his hearing aid. Those who've had the funky eyeball start to exhibit the Seven Deadly Sins, which means they are pretty much the way they were before, but their acting is a bit hammier.

Colonel Garrett arrives and takes control of the observatory with the help of his telekinetic Lieutenant Vasquez(Ramona Milano). He explains the signal is a matter of national security, shortly before he gets eye-funked himself. Bad things start to happen; the Colonel's soldiers hear the signal and go crazy, except for the one with a cross around his neck. Maybe the signal turned the others into vampires. Smitty, now convinced the signal is from Satan, tries to convince the others of the danger. Jack, the deaf guy, is the only one who listens. Colonel Garrett makes dire plans, Vasquez starts hurting people with her mind, the others go nuts and slash one-another, and the truth about the signal finally comes out.

Sad to say, this limply-directed and horribly written piece of crap is one of the better Christian movies out there. It doesn't have Left Behind's epic scope, but it does manage to be slightly less cheesy. The effects are the sub-par quality you'd expect from a direct-to-video feature, but the sets are merely serviceable. Most of them, anyway. The entrance to the observatory(which is underground, by the way) looks like someone stuck a large metal porta-potty in front of a cliff-face.

While the dialogue is woefully pedestrian, the actors do their best with it. Judd Nelson makes the best of his character and actually seems to be having some fun. You'd never think he was really deaf if it weren't for the constant reminders, but he's nevertheless the most enjoyable one to watch. The rest go through the motions like they were extras in a bad episode of Star Trek, and director Van Heerden sticks to obvious cliches when it comes to building suspense and atmosphere.

This leads to unintentional hilarity - the scene where Shaw, Fletcher and Kara go crazy and fight for a knife to stab Jack with had me chuckling, but a scene near the beginning had me roaring. Before he gets on the helicopter to go to the observatory, Jack meets a deaf kid who hands him a wooden cross. Jack looks at it for a moment, then looks up to discover the kid has vanished. Was the kid... an angel? Was it a message... from Jesus? Will Jack pull out that cross during a pivotal scene and become Saved? I laughed till I cried, I really did.

Deceived sends the message that evil can come at us from anywhere, so you'd better get Saved if you don't want to get funky-eyed and go crazy. That may be great for devout audiences, but not for anyone else. And moderate Christian viewers will long for the sinful pleasures of Hollywood and go rent Independence Day or Armageddon instead.

The film also says that if your acting career is floundering, doing Christian flicks is at least more respectable than porn.

Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 4
Acting/Direction - 4
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jerry Falwell & The Old Time Gospel Hour

Remember how I wrote that one video was 3+ hours of hate? This is the one. Brace yourselves. I'm not kidding. If you want my usual tongue-in-cheek stuff, you'd better wait for the next post.

Saying Jerry Falwell was anti-gay is like saying the sun emits light in the visible spectrum. Nevertheless, for those who need proof, this is it. Made in 1993 and broken into five segments, the tape contains two episodes of Jerry's Old Time Gospel Hour show, followed by a series of "exposes".

First, though, there's an advert for Liberty University, "a distinctly Christian university." Jerry asks viewers to send him the names and addresses of high school students, so he can send them information on the place. If you do send him some names, you get a free lapel pin! Next, there's an introduction from Jerry, where he expresses his desire that this video will be 'a blessing'.

Then we're on to the meat of the tape, starting with a Gospel Hour episode titled "It's High Time for Christians to Come Out of the Closet." By this he means Christians need to stop hiding their beliefs behind "political correctness" and fear of being called a bigot - they must stand up for what they believe in, and stop those "perverts" and "weirdos" from taking over the country. Yes, he actually uses those words to describe homosexuals. And he really does think they are trying to conquer the United States. "The future of America depends on Christians coming out of the closet now," he says, because failure to change the current sate of affairs "may well bring the Judgment of God upon this land." He's also against homosexuals as Scout leaders, because "you don't put the fox in the henhouse."

Then he insults feminists for no obvious reason. "If you're going to overcome political correctness in the schools..." he tells the nations' parents, "new age doctrine and feminism and all that, you have to live Christ in front of your children 24/7."

And that's just the first hour. The next episode is titled "The Deafening Silence of America's Pulpits." Basically, its Jerry whining about how other priests don't preach anti-gay scripture the way he does.

I got bored and skipped ahead to the next bit, titled "The Roberta Achtenberg Scandal Tape," and it is hilarious for being not much of a scandal at all. He reveals that Achtenberg, then-Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a lesbian. So? A little research shows she's been 'out' since the '80s, and from the tape it appears she's quite happy about it.

The bulk of this section is a 17-minute tape of the 1992 San Francisco Gay/Lesbian Pride Parade, filmed and sent in by a devoted Christian. Jerry stresses the footage is for adults only, because the material is "shocking" and will "turn your stomach." Maybe to you, Jerry. However, anyone who's seen a Gay Pride Parade, and all the costumes and naughtiness and sense of fun that goes into one, won't be shocked at all.

The tape starts with Roberta Achtenberg sitting on the back of a convertible with her partner, then-San Francisco Municipal Court judge Mary Morgan, and their son Benji. As the car goes by, the two women put their arms around each other and kiss. The tape goes into slow motion here, just to make sure we don't miss anything. "What a terrible roll model for America's young people," Jerry says, before telling us the tape hasn't been edited in any way. That's a lie right there, Jerry. Not only is there the aforementioned slow-mo, there is also the issue of the time index in the lower right-hand corner. It clearly jumps around from one o'clock to twelve o'clock to two o'clock and back again. Unless the cameraperson was a time-traveller, that's editing. Also, the Achtenberg-Morgan kiss appears twice, and all the nudity is pixilated. I can understand the pixilation, but that still counts as editing, Jerry.

The next two parts of this video, "Expose of the Clinton Inaugral Galas" and "Expanded Expose of the Radical Gay and Lesbian Agenda Volumes 1 & 2," continue to draw from the same bag of bigotry. President Bill Clinton was pro-gay rights, so many in the gay and lesbian community came out to his inaugural gala to celebrate. Jerry seeks to show us "what really happened," the sort of things the "liberal media" didn't show us. All Jerry reveals, however, is that homosexuals want the same rights and freedoms that straight Americans enjoy, including the right to marry or join the army. The tape ends with Jerry making a plea to Christians to stop proposed legislation that would grant homosexuals equal rights. I'm not sure which is worse - that gay human beings have had to live without those rights, or that people like Jerry Falwell would fight so hard to suppress them.

On May 15, 2007, Jerry Falwell, organizer of the Moral Majority and founder of Liberty University, passed away. This tape serves not as an expose of homosexuals but an expose on him, revealing the hate that hides behind the cross. He clearly was a hate-filled man - he wouldn't call homosexuals weirdos and perverts if he was speaking from a place of love. What a sad, terrible legacy to leave behind.

This is the worst thing I've had to review so far, and I'm glad it's over. Goodbye, Jerry Falwell. It hasn't been pleasant.

Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 5
Acting/Direction - 7
Likely To Be Sat Through - 1
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 10

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Commander Kellie and the Superkids: The Sword

This is the perfect movie to start my video review section off with a whimper. Aimed at young kids and dumbed down to fetus level, Commander Kellie and the Superkids: The Sword is wonderfully, delightfully terrible.

The Sword is at least the third (or possibly fourth) Superkid adventure from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, starring Ken's daughter Kellie as the titular commander. I think the story is supposed to be set in the future; no doubt the exact time and place for these stories was given in a previous adventure. What can be gleaned is this - a powerful broadcast media company called NME (clever, huh?) has taken over the airwaves to promote The Lie.

However, the Superkids - a secret organization made up almost entirely of children - fights back with their own broadcast network, SKTV. The Superkids basically steal airtime from NME so they can spread the Christian message and sing lame songs. This is a musical, and the movie frequently pauses for songs like You've Got To Know Who You Are In Jesus or Faithful Friend, even if the songs don't have anything to do with the story.

SKTV has its home in Superkid Academy, a Starship Enterprise-like secret base where cute kids walk around spouting technobabble. Commander Kellie runs the show, and leads a crack team of Bible-knowing teenagers known as the Blue Squad: Paul, Missy, Rapper, Valerie and Alex. They all wear blue Star Trek: The Next Generation outfits, and refer to the Bible as the Superkid Manual. "This is our weapon!" Commander Kellie says, holding up the Bible... er, Manual during a pivotal scene, and indeed it is: their endless quoting from it could put any enemy into a coma.

Over at NME, the shots are called by Major Dread. Yes, Major Dread. He's a rolly-poley dude with a scruffy beard who looks as threatening as McDonaldland's Grimace. It seems he wasn't successful in destroying the Superkids in the previous adventures, because his boss has come to run the show. His boss's name? General Fear. The actor playing him looks like a former pro-wrestler, and has about as much acting talent. However, he at least manages to say his own name with a straight face. Fear's right hand man is Captain Verath, a baldie with a thick mustache and pants designed to look like assless chaps. Dread also has a lackey, but I never caught his name.

Silly though they seem, NME has a workable plot-driving plan. General Fear has located Superkid Academy, and has successfully planted a spy in their midst. At the same time, he's had a scientist named Timothean build him a huge machine called The Sword (Secret Weapon Of Radical Deception - I bet the writers spent all night coming up with that one), which will give him power over every electronic media device in the world. It seems they already have that power - no competitors to NME are named - but at least it will enable them to permanently block SKTV. "We will see how strong Commander Kellie and the Superkids' faith is," Fear says, "when they come face to face with real fear!"

Back at SK Academy, a new recruit named C.J. has just joined the Blue Squad. She runs into the room carrying a bomb (no, not a copy of their previous video), and the technobabble and Manual-quoting goes into overdrive. CJ saves the day and gains acceptance, and immediately sets to work driving a wedge between the other Blue Squad members by creating false gossip. This leads the Blue Squad into a state where they are mildly uncomfortable around each other, but Valerie senses more evil may be afoot: "If we don't get in with the Word and find out who we are in Christ, Satan is going to deceive us."

Incidentally, the Superkids always refer to their enemy as being Satan, not General Fear or Major Dread. Commander Dana, a character who appears out of nowhere with no explanation, explains to the Blue Squad that the Devil's lies reveal him to be a liar. Thanks, Dana. Glad you could make it. And those NME guys never refer to Satan as their ultimate boss, though one is led to assume they do his work. Also, Fear repeatedly says that what he is spreading is a Lie, and he acknowledges that the power behind the Superkids is real power. Kinda defeatist, if you ask me. I guess the producers wanted to be sure kids understood who was who. Like I said, dumbed down to fetus level.

Anyway, back to the plot(and if you don't like SPOILERS, now's the time to bail out). NME broadcasts a big announcement - the Superkids have joined them! That's the Lie, you see - Fear has created exact doubles of Commander Kellie and the Superkids, who will now sing lame songs for him! How Fear achieved this - cloning? holograms? masks? - is never explained.

The Blue Squad head out to NME to find out what's going on, and are captured in short order. Luckily they are put into a cell with Dr. Timothean, the dude who built The Sword, and who also put handy-dandy self-destruct code in there. Gosh, that'll be handy! They escape, and cheap special effects take over.

Back at SK Academy, CJ is revealed as the spy (big surprise) She duels with Commander Kellie, but is ultimately won over to Christ. CJ gets Saved, The Sword is destroyed, and another song get sung.

To call this video bad is like clubbing a baby seal that's already dying of cancer. The acting is terrible - some actors look at the camera, others spout their lines as if they only just learned them and are desperate to get them right - and the dialogue is horrible, but everyone is so damned EARNEST. This story has a Message, and it Means Something, but their utter seriousness only makes the lameness stand out more.

To be fair, they aren't always serious; they have a comic relief robot named Techno, who says silly robotic things. Also, Major Dread and his lackey keep getting into trouble, and General Fear keeps pointing out their stupidity. I suppose one is meant to laugh at that stuff.

This is essentially Power Rangers for Christ, but without the kicking and punching. It might entertain very young kids, and the Message will satisfy devout parents' desire for family-friendly viewing. Everyone else, I'm guessing, will shake their heads and laugh in all the wrong places.

Likely To Convert - 1
Production Values - 2
Acting/Direction - 2
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Sunday, April 27, 2008

And Now... Videos

The tract pickings have been pretty lame of late, so I've decided to take drastic action. I'm finally going to make good on my promise to include other mediums in this blog - I'm going to review some Christian videos.

Why only Christian? Like the tracts, I haven't seen any videos promoting any other religion. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough. Or maybe Christian videos are a lot easier to find. Either way, all these videos I've collected over the last several years attempt to do the same work as the tracts - convince you that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light.

I've picked up my collection mostly in used video stores, but a couple came from Value Village and one came from a Christian bookstore in Stratford.

Some are aimed at kids, some are nonfiction, and one actually made it into movie theatres. A few even have celebrities on the marquee.

Some are well-known, but most are obscure. Some are wacky, some are serious, and a couple are disturbing. One is basically 3+ hours of pure hate.

But the one thing these videos have in common, apart from their Christian agendas, is this: they are all bad. Hopelessly, pathetically lame. I realize this is my own personal opinion I am expressing here, but I've looked at these videos as objectively as I possibly can and I cannot give a single one a good grade. All one can hope for with this lot is varying levels of badness.

Bad production values. Bad writing. Acting? Don't get me started! These definitely aren't Jewish films, not with this much ham!

My list of categories will change a bit to reflect this new medium, but not by much. They are:

1. Likely To Convert
2. Production Values
3. Acting/Direction
4. Likely To Be Sat Through
5. Unintentional Hilarity
6. Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content

Brace yourselves, readers, for a whole new level of weird. Stay tuned - you wouldn't want to get... Left Behind!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Title To Heaven

I've been trying out a new method for uploading tract pictures. This time I used my wife's camera rather than the one built into the computer. Trouble is, I took the picture sideways to get all of the tract in, and blogger has no function to allow me to rotate it the way I want it. Still, it's a step up from a backwards or mirror shot. Modern technology, eh?

Anyway, on to the tract. It is published by the Evangelical Tract Distributors, and it is slightly better than it first appears with its dull cover. Half of it is a letter from some old guy describing the plot of land he was given in Heaven. "I have held a clear title to a bit of property there for over 55 years," he says. "The donor purchased it for me at tremendous sacrifice." What's that property like? "Termites can never undermine its foundations, for they rest upon the Rock of Ages." Not bad, but that must make it hard to get the plumbing in.

The letter is a little lame, but I found it kind of charming. It is nice to read material in a tract that doesn't condemn you, or dwell on sin and death.

No, this tract saves all of that for the last page. "You may be one who is reading this leaflet," it says, "and who never yet has tasted the joys of sins forgiven or the assurance of a home in Heaven." Wow, the old coot with the title to Heaven wrote better sentences than that one.

Between the end of the letter and the beginning of that sentence, there is a poem titled Heaven-Home. The less said about that, the better.

Points for a (mostly) different approach, but this tract is still fairly underwhelming. They were off to a good start - maybe they should get the old guy to write tracts for them.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Saturday, April 19, 2008

God's Offer Is Expiring

Here's an offering from the Gospel Tract Distributors, a group who don't quite have the resources to be as good as the Fellowship Tract League. Their formula is the same - a fairly unimaginative cover followed by three pages of text. They also have the same message, that God sent his son Jesus to save us from our sins. The hook this tract offers is that "God's offer of mercy and pardon to sinners is now fast running out."

It's a good hook. Instead of saying "Jesus loves you and died to save your sins" they are saying "Jesus loves you and died for your sins, so act now before He changes his mind and it's TOO LATE!!!" Okay, it doesn't say God will change his mind. Rather, it says "the day is fixed for judgment upon the whole world," and that day of judgment is the deadline after which it will be too late to be Saved. At that time, the Lord Jesus will say to us, "I know you not whence ye are!" To which I will reply, "Huh?"

This tract provides a good analogy. They tell the story of how the British government, at the end of World War II, offered
a deal to deserters - if they came forward and reported themselves, they would be shown leniency. The expiration date for that offer was March 31st, 1947, and when that date came and went the thousands who hadn't turned themselves in "were hunted down one by one to face the full penalty of the law." We are basically the same as those deserters, but instead of a known expiration date of March 31, we have a day of judgment that, while "fixed," could come at any time.

Why should we worry about the day of judgment? "The present dispensation (or age) is doubtless near its end," the tract tells us. Doubtless? How can they be so doubtless? "The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is drawing very near; the time of earth's dark night of tribulation, and of 'vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ' is surely at hand." Surely? How can they be so surely? Because "everything in the present international state of affairs attests to this fact." Ah, I see. That clears everything up.

This tract was an entertaining read, but I've had much better. I find it hilarious that these tract writers think that people can be swayed with arguments that stand on "doubtless" and "surely" and "everything attests to this fact." What fact? Most tracts try to hide their lack of actual evidence, but most are smart enough not to use "doubtless" and "surely" to do so. Also, as a fear-mongering tract, this one fails to use any word more harsh than judgment. What will that judgment be? Other tracts delight in giving us the gory details - torment day and night, worms that dieth not, gnashing of teeth, that sort of thing. If you don't show us what's at stake, you can't terrify us into a rash decision to join a religion, guys! I'd offer you a chance to do better next time, but given the higher quality of most tracts out there, I'd say that offer has already expired.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Virus Guy

I've had someone try to give me a virus on this site three times. I haven't been able to find anywhere on Blogger to report the guy, so I'm posting this message to warn readers to stay away from him.

You can identify Virus Guy by the comments he leaves. He'll say Click Here or Here, or some variation on that theme, with each 'here' being a link. If you click on either link, or on his name (he's used several, the latest being Salar), you'll be taken to a website that warns you that you have a virus and must install virus protection software. The site gives you the option to download the software or decline, but no matter what you choose it will start to download to your computer.

I was almost fooled by this; I'd like to say it was my brilliance and Internet savvy that saved the day, but in truth it was my wife. However, I was at least smart enough to go and ask her if she wanted this helpful software loaded onto her computer. She knew it for what it was right away.

I've been deleting Virus Guy's comments from this blog, but he's bound to try again. Keep an eye out for those comments and don't go anywhere near them! And if any of you know how I can report him to Blogger, please let me know.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Who Really Rules The World?

This is the first Jehovah's Witness tract to appear on this site. Their tracts aren't as plentiful; mostly JW's give out copies of their magazines - Awake & The Watchtower - instead.

Published by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, this tract poses an interesting premise; our world is in fact ruled by Satan and his demons.

Well, that explains how George W. got two terms.

Seriously, though, this tract tries to convince readers that Satan's ownership of us is the reason the world is so messed up. It's a nice thought, really, because it lets all of humanity off the hook. No factual evidence backs up this claim; the tract relies solely on Biblical quotes and stories to prove its point. For example, the tract discusses the time when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would fall to his knees and worship him. How could Satan offer Him the world, the tract asks, if it wasn't his to offer? Ah ha! And Jesus does not deny Satan's ownership, either. So there.

As with most tracts, you have to already believe the Bible in order to accept the Biblical truth at face value. If you don't, what reason do you have to believe that Satan rules us, rather than us simply ruling ourselves?

Having run out of material to back up the World Emperor Satan claim, the tract spends the next two pages off on a tangent about demons. Apparently, demons pretend to be dead people to fool people who go to mediums and seances. This kind of involvement is called Spiritism, and the tract urges readers to "resist all its practices regardless of how much fun, or how exciting, they may seem to be."

Demons also promote "literature, movies, and television programs that feature immoral and unnatural sexual behaviour." What do you suppose those unnatural behaviours are? Probably not navel penetration, I'm guessing.

The tract ends not with the usual 'Save me' prayer but an announcement that "the time is near when Satan and his cohorts will be no more!" How this will happen is not revealed.

This tract, while mostly text, isn't as lame as one might guess. There's some interesting background on Satan and his great rebellion against God, and the stuff on unnatural sexual behaviour is either hilarious or deeply offensive, depending on how you choose to look at it.

It is worth noting the tract never mentions how Satan came to rule the world - quite the glaring omission. Also, the tract doesn't ask the reader to convert. Instead, it says that "those who do God's will" will "enjoy life forever in God's righteous new world." Good on them. I hope they have a good time.

And I hope their other tracts will be better than this one.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 3

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


A woman handed me this in a subway station on my way home from work. She told me that "the wrath is coming, to Canada as well as other countries." Glad to hear we won't be left out.

I told her the tract had a nice cover, but the words were unlikely to grab anyone's attention. I don't think she understood what I meant. She offered me another from the same publisher (Canadian Bible Society), but it wasn't any better.

You know, it occurs to me the religious community might not wholly appreciate the work I do critiquing their tracts. Just a hunch.

Anyway, Trinity is another quote tract. The cover is a lovely stained-glass window, but the inside is mostly Bible quotes and way too much white space.

Notice I said mostly. The introductory paragraph is slightly intriguing, as it talks about why the Old Testament "never refers explicitly to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." No, it isn't because they hadn't come up with the whole Trinity concept yet. Instead, the Old Testament "insists on the unity of God" because of "the large number of polytheistic religions of the time." Neat. It doesn't save this tract or anything, but it's the most interesting thing it has to say.

Sorry, subway lady, but if you want to save us from this wrath thingie, you'll need to find better tracts than this one.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Eternal Life Is A Free Gift

This one's going out to the three cute girls I met on the subway on Sunday. I saw them reading this tract, and asked if I could review it for this blog. Thanks, girls!

Sadly, it's not one of the good ones. Published by the Fellowship Tract League, it's just three pages of text with a lame clip-art cover (and not even the good clip art, either).

The message inside is nothing new, nor is it presented in an original or creative way. You're a sinner, you're going to Hell, good works can't save you, you can't save yourself, you gotta be born again. Blah, blah, blah, heard it all before.

Still, this 'free gift' does have some amusing bits. To make sure we understand what Hell will be like, this tract says it will be "eternal burning!" With the quotation marks and exclamation point. And those two words were in bold and italic typeface. They could have done each letter in different colours, but that would have been overkill.

There's also some of that old time Biblical talk. Apparently, Jesus once said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee..." Wow. Don't hear a lot of that nowadays. And you gotta hand it to the Lord, one 'verily' would not have been enough. Later we get a description of life, described as "a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." Love the use of 'eth' in there. Just sprinkle a few eth's into daily conversation and you get instant Biblicability.

The same goes for 'hath', as in this sentence: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins." You can't go wrong with hath.

I gotta tell you, Fellowship Tract League, this Free Gift of yours looks suspiciously like a cheap tie you bought at Value Village. Or a Santa-shaped tin you re-gifted from a friend. You won't be saving any souls with this one.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 0
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Are You Good Enough For Heaven?

Short answer - NO.

Here's another tract from Ron Wheeler, the cartoonist behind Is Christianity Just A Crutch? and others. Usually, cartoon tracts guarantee at least some entertainment value, but not this one. Here, Ron is clearly slumming it.

Published by Good News Publishers, this entire tract is a conversation between the author (who appears simply as text) and a guy in a yellow shirt (who represents all of us lowly scumbag sinners). The floating text asks the yellow-shirted guy what he's done to deserve to go to Heaven, then points out that he's really not that great at all. The yellow-shirted guy lets the text questions walk all over him, then admits he's a sinner who doesn't obey God's laws. The text tells him to pray for Salvation, which he does on the last page.

Ron, what the fudge? Why didn't you have a character like God or an angel talk to the guy? That would have been a lot more interesting than simple text.

Plus, I have to take you to task for the bullying nature you demonstrate. You ask your yellow-shirted guy what good deeds he's done, then chastise him for not fighting hunger in 3rd world countries. You even have a go at him for not helping an old lady with her groceries. And yet, countless tracts have said that good works are meaningless (one even referred to them as 'filthy rags'). You even point that out to the yellow shirted dude when you tell him he needs to be born again.

So why all the talk about helping 3rd world countries? That won't help him get to Heaven, so why bring it up? That's like trying to tell someone they need a ticket to get on a train by criticizing the way they packed their luggage.

Next time, Ron, I hope you'll do a better job. It can't be easy being a poor man's Jack Chick, but that's no excuse for sloppy work. I may not be good enough for Heaven, but this tract ain't good enough for me.

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

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The True Meaning of Christmas

In one of the South Park Christmas Specials, Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo tells viewers that "for some people, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus!" This tract shares that sentiment, and encourages readers to give a life in Christ a go.

Sadly, it's a quote tract. Four Biblical quotations seek to convince the reader that Jesus is the true reason for the season. What have I always said about quote tracts? They are boring, and no one will read them. I mean, if you picked up a piece of paper on which were written the words: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," would you be all, like, "Woah! I never thought of life like that before. I'm converting immediately!" I mean, really?

And speaking of conversion, this tract has no instructions on how to go about it. It asks you to receive Jesus as your personal Saviour, but doesn't include the standard "I'm a sinner please Save me" prayer that practically every other tract has some version of. A very strange and unusual omission, indeed. Especially as Christians consider it the Gift of Life, and this tract is about Christmas.

This tract does, however, offer up a very nice painting of a church in winter. It is called Moonlit Village, and the artist is Thomas Kinkade. Very pretty. Too bad you can't judge a tract by its cover (although in all honesty, you usually can).

Christmas is a time of giving, but I have only contempt to offer up for this one.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 6
Ability to Hold Interest - 0
Unintentional Hilarity - 0
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

It's A Honey of a Deal!

Did humanity make a deal with God regarding the fate of our eternal souls? No, we did not. But the Fellowship Tract League thought that suggesting we had might make for a more interesting tract.

And boy, are they wrong.

The tract is divided into three parts: The Negative Aspects of the Deal, The Positive Aspects of the Deal, and The Terms of the Deal. This makes you think that there is in fact a deal involved. However, the Negative section merely states that you are a sinner destined for Hell, and the Positive part only tells you that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin. The Terms? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be Saved."

Where, exactly, does the deal come in? It doesn't. But making it seem like a deal disguises the fact that this is another quote tract!

Don't get me started on the cover, or the title. What's a bear eating honey got to do with a supposed deal humanity did not make with God regarding Salvation?

Face it, League - your tracts suck. Deal with it.

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

There Is Hope In This Troubled World: What You Need To Know

I hope you all enjoyed my examination of tracts that use their words creatively. Now, unfortunately, we're back to the boring ones.

The only interesting thing about this offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors is its overly long title. As long titles go, it gives Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl a run for its money.

Otherwise, this tract is dull as watching dry paint get dryer. You need to be Saved, you cannot Save yourself, God has made a way for you to be Saved, blah, blah, blah, heard it all before, guys. Nothing is less interesting and convincing than a quote tract, and this is the worst of the bunch.

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

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Excuses That Will Not Stand The Test

This tract, published by Evangelical Tract Distributors, takes a clever approach to what is basically the same old, tired message. Rather than point out that you need Christ to Save you from HELL, this tract assumes you've already heard and rejected the Good News on the grounds of some flimsy 'excuse'. This tract's job is to point out all of the possible excuses you might make and show you how they will not stand up to God's Judgment.

Like I said, clever approach. If only the follow-through had been equally clever. Like so many tracts before and after it, Excuses makes the critical error of assuming its source material (the Bible) is infallibly correct, and it assumes the reader believes this, too. It does not try to convince people of the error of their excuses with anything other than Biblical 'truths'.

The tract lists as excuses all the people you're not allowed to blame. You can't blame God, Christ, Hypocrites, or even the person who gave you the tract. Furthermore, you can't say you're doing the best you can (because all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags), you can't say you weren't warned (because the tract is itself a warning), you can't say there is plenty of time (because now is the day of salvation, apparently), and you can't say you've kept the law and never sinned (because nobody'll believe that!).

You also can't say you don't believe in Hell, because "two minutes in Hell amid the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth will change your mind." Why two minutes, I wonder? I would have thought a few seconds would do the trick. The tract doesn't say, but it does get points for the "gnashing of teeth" line.

This tract does not list my reason... sorry, excuse for not getting Saved: any religion based on fear of punishment is not worth following. It does say, however, that "the mere fact that you do not believe it does not alter the facts." What facts? This tract offers none. Either you believe the Bible, or you don't. And if you don't, this tract will not convince you.

Sorry, Evangelical Tract Distributors. I know you have a very limited world view, but that's no excuse for a bad tract.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

The Grace of God

My wife Violet found this one for me, and it's just freakin' great! It's also another one from Robert E. Surgenor, the guy who brought us the Believe It Or Not tract. Once again, he's published by The Gospel Messenger.

Robert starts out with Romans 3:24, which goes: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." He ways this quote is "fourteen divinely inspired words" that came "from the very mouth of God Himself." Robert would rather trust those words "than trust my soul on the intellectual and theological ideas of mere men." Why? Because "Heaven and hell lie before all of us and death will put us into one of those abodes - forever!"

And we haven't even got to the good stuff yet. Robert bemoans how people today don't give much thought to eternal damnation, and suggests their upbringing must have been "far different" from his own. "My mother would often warn me that I was a sinner, and if I died with even one sin on my soul, I would plunge into hell forever." Poor kid!

In spite of these "faithful warnings" and "nine close calls with death," Robert says he "wasn't Saved until the age of twenty-three." This information raises more questions about him than it answers. Why, for instance, did it take him so long to convert? And nine close calls with death? What is all that about?

Freaky, freaky stuff!

Robert spends the rest of the tract discussing Romans 3:24, defining the words 'justified' and 'grace'. Oh, and 'freely' too. Turns out it's a really big deal that Jesus freely makes us justified by his grace. Which basically means God forgives us unworthy losers of our sins, even though we don't deserve it, so we don't have to burn in hell forever.

Same old stuff, but boy does Robert's choice of words make this one entertaining. We learn entirely too much about his childhood, and his current state of mind. When God Saved him, he says he was "destitute of good works" and "entirely unworthy of such attention." The guy clearly has self-esteem issues. Makes for an entertaining read, but I wouldn't want to meet the guy.

Or his mother.

Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 0
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 5