Friday, December 3, 2010

Can We Know?

No, we can't. But this offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors would seek to convince us otherwise. Convince us of what? What do you think? That Jesus is the only way to Heaven, naturally.

"Many preachers and religious leaders step forward boldly with their opinions," the tract writer assures us. "But eternity is too serious a matter to trust to opinions." None of those preachers or religious leaders are identified by name, of course. And even better, the words of this tract are based entirely on opinions - namely, those of the tract authors. Sure, they use scripture quotes to back their words up, but the interpretation of those quotes (and their supposed infallibility) are the authors' opinions.

Yes they are.

"Although there are many theories and opinions, there are really only two ways - man's way and God's way." And according to this tract, God's way is the way presented in the New Testament. Every other belief system is Man's way, and therefore doomed.


And did I mention that the existence of Heaven is itself a matter of opinion? I did, in another review. Secular readers won't care. But the tract authors are of the opinion that they will care.

The tract attempts to illustrate its point with a story about two men entering a temple. "One came in man's way, and the other came in God's way." One of them "will spend eternity with the lost." Can you guess who?

"Friend, are you in the right way?" Then the tract asks, "Are you trusting the right Man?" just to confuse things. They've spent four pages poo-pooing man's way, then they ask if we're trusting the right one? This will only end up confusing the very people they are trying to reach. Namely, people dumb enough to be drawn in by this kind of thing.

" can a person know the right way to Heaven?" By dying. That's when all of us find out. We certainly won't learn about the afterlife from lame tracts like this.

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free Beautiful Homes

I know I keep asking for tracts that don't just say 'you're going to burn in HELL if you don't accept Jesus'. I know I've asked that they try something new. This new offering from Evangelical Tract Distributors does both, and while that's very nice of them, the end result is so lame it is almost laughable.

If only it were laughable! That, at least, would be something.

Rather than kick the HELL can, this tract goes in the opposite direction. That's right, they're selling Heaven.

"No Water Bills," promises the tract. "No Light Bills," "Nothing Undesirable," "The Best Of Society," "Beautiful Music," "Permanent Pavement - Pure Gold" and "Free Transportation To The City" are among the promises of this sales pitch, complete with scripture quotes to back them up. Are these promises also backed up with verifiable empirical evidence? Don't be silly.

The tract briefly raises the issue of Salvation, saying it is the only way to obtain a free title to your new home. But why would one need Salvation to get this new home? The Salvation issue is just pasted on, without any context. In their effort to be different, the tract writers have entirely missed their own point. You can't just throw it in there! If you don't want to talk about Hell and Damnation and Eternal Burning In Agony and Scorching Tongues, you can't go bringing up Salvation, either. Not without a radical re-definition of the term. And we all know the church's stance on re-defining terms!

Sorry, that was a low blow, but I couldn't resist. What I can resist, however, is this lame attempt to sell me an eternal destiny that may or may not exist. It sounds nice, but so do all real-estate pitches. I appreciate them trying a different approach, but they use the same tactics, and those don't work with the approach they've chosen.

Come to think of it, the use of Bible quotes to convince the UnSaved never works. At least, it doesn't ever work on me.

Try again, ETD!

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So What's In It For Me?

There's that old expression about not judging a book by its cover. It applies equally well to tracts, especially this one. Published by Canadian Bible Society, this one has a great, eye-catching cover, but the inside is something of a letdown.

The cover features a tough-looking dude in a toque, presumably asking the titular question. It's like he's saying: "Hey, I'm just an average schlub like you, and I'm askin' the same question you're prob'ly askin', right?" The tract writers seem to assume we'll relate to this dude, and therefore find the inside material more appealing.

Well, I don't relate to him. And I wouldn't be caught dead in that shirt. Just look at it, for God's sake.

Other people might relate to him and his shirt and his toque, however, and they might open this tract expecting to find something that would appeal to toque-wearing schlubs like them.

The tract assumes you know it is a tract, and begins at once trying to convert you. It poses seven questions, then supplies answers to those questions that are supposed to convince you that Jesus is the way to go. The questions are written in schlub language, and include: 1. "What has God done for me?"; 2. "Nothing comes free in this world so why would God give me something for free?"; and 6. "What have I got to lose?"

The answers provide no facts or proof, as is common with nearly all tracts. They don't even supply the Bible verses the answers are based on! Rather, familiar lines of scripture are rewritten into modern English, presumably so schlubs can understand them.

It's as if the tract authors have figured out you can't convert someone who isn't already a believer just by throwing scripture in his/her face. Kudos to that, I say! Sadly, they don't take the next logical step. Telling someone that Jesus can forgive their sins means nothing if you have no concept of sin in the first place. For a tract like this to have any relevance, the reader must first accept the Christian notion of sin, and understand why that's a bad thing.

The tract does take a step in the right direction when addressing the question: 5. "What else do I get out of it?" "God's Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled." It's not often that a tract does more than offer a get-out-of-Hell pass. It's the fifth question, however, well after the sin stuff. Too little, too late.

This is one of the better tracts I've reviewed, with an above-average idea of who they are writing for. It still won't save any souls, but it shows that tracts can, ahem, evolve. Let's hope the Canadian Bible Society keeps moving in this promising direction. If they do, we just might see some decent stuff from them in the future.

Likely to Convert - 1
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 6
Unintentional Hilarity - 2
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 2