Monday, January 25, 2010

Man's Most-Asked Question!

Barefaced arrogance can be quite entertaining in the right context. This cartoon from the Fellowship Tract League assumes that every human being on the planet asks one question more than any other: "How can I get to Heaven??" How pig-headed do you have to be to suggest the question on every man's mind is one specific to your belief system? And, that this question eclipses all others, including but not limited to: Is there a God? What happens when we die? I'd ask those before pondering the existence of Heaven, let alone whether or not I can get there. Or how about: Why are we here? Is there life on other planets? And don't forget: What's for lunch? Are you going to finish that? And, of course, Are we there yet? That last one should be the winner in the most-asked category by virtue of its repetition.

You could argue, I suppose, that the question "How can I get to Heaven??" could be interpreted to imply all forms of the afterlife, and thus relates to all religions. The context of the rest of the tract, however, squashes that argument flat. "The Bible tells you how," the tract says in the very next panel, making clear that only the Judao-Christian Heaven is under discussion. And by the tract's end you see that the Judao part can be scratched, too. "I've always believed in Jesus," the cartoon man says. "I'm not a heathen, you know." So while he's being told that mere belief in Jesus isn't enough, that the requirement for Heaven "is a total commitment to Christ," the rest of the world gets the very clear hint that non-belief in Jesus = heathenism.

Like I said, arrogance.

Man's most asked question, then, is how can one get to the Christian Heaven.

I wonder what Woman's most-asked question is?

But once you get past the arrogance (and sexism), you can better appreciate what this tract has to offer. The cartoons are nice but nothing special, depicting a guy in a suit responding to an 'off-screen' narrator. Pretty much like Are You Good Enough For Heaven?, but the uncredited artist doesn't have Ron Wheeler's level of talent. Still, the artist does manage to convey the man's terror upon learning "Everyone in the world is a... sinner?!?!"

The rest is pretty much what you'd expect. The man is told he needs to get Saved, and by the end he's prayin' his guts out. The cartoons enliven what is in essence a fairly pedestrian tract. It's got the usual fear-mongering (the word HELL appears on page 2 in big, fiery letters) and Salvation-explaining, and the arrogance takes it up a tiny notch in terms of entertainment value and offensive content, but that's it.

Forget the most-asked question. Tract makers need to find a way to spread their message without resorting to the most-preached formula.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Great White Throne of Judgment

"The judgment day is a fixed, definite, future event in the calendar of God," begins this offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors, proving beyond all doubt that you can never have too many adjectives. The author, who remains anonymous, wants us to believe that the Biblical Judgment Day (Revelation 20: 11-15, helpfully printed on the cover) is actually going to happen, and "you'll never laugh the fact away."

I love it when they talk about facts in tracts. The thinking seems to be that if you use the word 'fact', you don't actually need to provide any to back up your claims. This tract certainly doesn't.

But adjectives and 'fact'-deployment aren't the author's only weapons. He also uses repetition. "Every one of God's predicted judgments in the future is going to come true," we are told, twice. In the same paragraph. The author also uses his extensive knowledge of this supposed "fixed, definite, future event". "I know," he says, "you're twenty-four hours nearer to it than you were yesterday." But wait! There's more: "I know you have twenty-four hours less chance to prepare for that judgment than you had last night." Convincing stuff!

And that's just the first two paragraphs. They are very important paragraphs, because they are the only two that actually discuss the Judgment (or, for that matter, the Great White Throne). Two paragraphs out of eight, not including the cover. That's all the titular subject matter gets. No wonder it needed all those adjectives.

The remaining six paragraphs veer off into Rapture territory, starting with the title TOTAL EVACUATION INDICATED in bold red letters. "We are to evacuate the area," the author says, "that the enemy might be completely wiped out." The rest of the tract uses terms like 'the enemy', 'battle', 'soldiers' and others, and speaks of tactics and plans for fighting this enemy, who apparently "will drink the wine of the wrath of God and be tormented forever."

I could take some time to discuss the author's use of Capital Letters on Certain Words to make them seem More Important, but why bother? This tract is its own worst enemy, and hasn't a chance of converting anyone. That's okay, it isn't trying to; the intended audience seems to be Christians who aren't quite devout enough. You know, the ones who don't believe in "the Air Lift, which will deliver many into the Home Country" instead "of Shadow Valley."

Entertainingly melodramatic is about the best thing I can say for The Great White Throne of Judgment. Otherwise, the tossing of this tract into a blue bin is a fixed, definite, future event.

Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1