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