Friday, April 9, 2010

After Death, What?

I thought I might have already reviewed this one, but I haven't. I guess after a while the majority of these things start to look the same.

Which gives you a pretty good idea where I'm going with this review, doesn't it? I hardly need to go into any detail, but I will anyway. Some of it is too good to pass up.

Basically, this latest from the Fellowship Tract League tells you that, after death, you will either be in Heaven or Hell. "How many times have you looked into a casket, seen the face of the deceased," the tract begins, establishing the morbid tone. "If the deceased died in a lost spiritual condition, his troubles have just begun. The instant his soul leaves his body, it goes directly to hell to burn for ever and ever."

I'm sure those well-chosen words will be of great comfort to the deceased's family.

It gets better, too. "Suffering does not end at death for a lost person," the tract tells us. "After ten million years of eternity, he will still be burning." This author knows how to lay it on thick!

"You are not promised another day on this earth," the tract says. "Your life might end before another hour passes and your soul will be somewhere for eternity." Naturally, a version of the Salvation prayer is included at the end.

This tract scores for unintentional humour, but not much else. It doesn't even live up to its title, not really. It gives a few nasty images of Hell, but not much of Heaven. After Death, What? is more about what to avoid, instead of what to expect.

"Right now, while there is still life in your body, will you repent of your sins...?" Or will you wind up "screaming from the pits of hell" instead? The same questions every tract out there poses, with slightly more hellfire than most. And nobody needs any more hellfire.

Try again, FTL.

Likely to Convert - 2
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 2

And God Answers!

And another short one from Evangelical Tract Distributors. It's a quote tract, displaying scripture verses that supposedly answer the important questions.

The questions themselves are presented in large red type, the better to draw your attention to them. They start with "Must I Give An Account To God?" and end with "What About Death, Eternity?" Exactly the kind of questions you might ask yourself on your way to work.

That's really all there is to it. A handy reference to have on hand if you've ever wondered "Am I A Very Bad Sinner?" or "Can I Be Saved Now?" For people who don't wonder that stuff, however, this tract won't make much difference. I appreciate this tract's brevity, but brevity alone doesn't make for a religious conversion.

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

The Sinner's Prayer

This one is not a tract so much as a business card. It has a couple of Bible verses, a prayer usually found on the back of every other tract, and a clever little poem ("No Jesus No Peace Know Jesus Know Peace" Catchy, huh?).

And that's it. Not that there's room for anything else. Except for the dove. But that's more of a background watermark.

Simple, efficient and to the point, with all the info you need to get Saved. Of course, with a little more space they could have told the casual reader why he or she needs Salvation. Then again, even tracts that do spell out the terrors of unSavedness rarely manage to be convincing.

Not bad, but not great, that's what I say. Good concept, but if you're going to do a business card tract, make every word, every image and line of scripture count. With so little space, it's all about presentation.

No presentation no converts
Know presentation know converts

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 2
Ability to Hold Interest - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 1
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

1000 Years From Now

Here's another effort from Evangelical Tract Distributors that gets to the point quickly and wastes very little of one's time. The first page asks "what will it matter whether you..." did any of the things on the list that follows "1000 years from Now." Will it matter, for example, if you "travelled by car, or bus?" Or "used solid silver, or plated-ware?" Or "lived in a mansion, or a cottage?" The point being, a thousand years from now you'll be dead, so it really won't matter if you were stinking rich or desperately poor.

"But," says page two, "it will make a mighty big and eternal difference whether you are a Lost Soul or a Saved Soul." Most of that is printed in bold red letters, but the Lost and Saved Soul letters are huge, black and attention-getting. And, to make sure e get it, the words "Heaven or Hell" are in brackets just below. And the words "Lost or Saved" are in brackets below that. And following that are a couple more messages and a Bible quote to hammer the message home.

The last page of the tract is devoted to the usual I'm-a-sinner-Save-me-Jesus prayer.

This tract isn't bad, if a little depressing. A thousand years from now, how many of us will be remembered? And if not, do our lives in fact matter at all? It makes you think... which is the exact wrong thing for a tract like this one to be doing. If you want readers to swallow the notion that Jesus is the only thing in their lives that will ultimately matter, the last thing you want is for them to start thinking! Still, there's bound to be a few readers out there who won't, who will be so depressed about not mattering that they'll latch onto the big black words and get Saved. A few, for sure, but not many.

I wonder, in a thousand years' time, will people still be trying to convert other people to their view of spirituality, or will we have evolved beyond that? Will my reviews still exist on whatever the Internet becomes? And will they still be relevant in the year 3010? Food for thought. And that's more than most tracts provide. Well done.

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