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