Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why He Died

I love story tracts. They tell you a tale to illustrate the need for Salvation, but due to a tract's limited paper space they have to cut a lot of narrative corners. Such is the case with this 4-page piece from Evangelical Tract Distributors and author Oswald J. Smith.

Why He Died tells the story of a young man who killed a guy, got caught, was tried and sentenced to die. The governor takes pity on him and writes out a pardon for the fellow, then dresses like a priest to go and see him. The young man doesn't like priests, so he tells the governor to take a hike. After the governor leaves, the warden tells the young man that the priest was in fact the governor come to pardon him. The young man goes to his death realizing he had been offered salvation for his crime, but he had rejected it.

Get it? Huh, huh? Get it?

Assuming you have more brains than a tin of spam (quite a lot of brains, really), the point of the story is clear. What is not so clear is why the governor dressed like a priest. Author Oswald never tells us he is a priest. He tells us the governor is a Christian, yes, but not all Christians are priests. For all we know, the governor might have been on his way to a Halloween costume party, but had to stop off at the prison to deliver the pardon first.

Also unclear is why the young man murdered the dude at the beginning of the story. It seems "he was playing a game of cards and he lost his temper. Picking up a revolver, he shot his opponent and killed him." Quite an overreaction for a character who "had never done anything very wrong." What made him angry? Why did he have a gun close at hand? For that matter, what game were they playing? If it had been solitaire, he'd have shot himself and the tract would have been much shorter.

The young man's "relatives and friends got up a petition for him" and that "everyone wanted to sign it," including folks from "all over the state." Why? "Because of the wonderful life he had previously lived."

To recap, this young man lived a life so wonderful that he touched the lives of people throughout the state he lived in, and yet he owned a gun and was so unstable that he shot and killed someone over a game of cards. Riiiiight. And then that same man tells the governor to get lost because he thinks he's a priest? Are these the actions of someone who lived a "wonderful life" of never doing "anything very wrong?"

Oswald Smith, if this tract represents a sample of your best work, then boy do you suck. From one writer to another, if you are telling a story in order to illustrate the need for people to accept Jesus as their saviour, that story should not be full of holes. If readers can't suspend their disbelief for your tale, how can you expect them to swallow the claims of Christianity?

Make your story Holy, Oswald, not holey!

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


fr49200 said...

I've been reading your blog for about a week now, and I've been meaning to ask: do you happen to be athiest? I'd understand why you have a blog bashing these tracts, but my goodness I never realised the kind of garbage these people write, and I'm a Catholic! XD

Timothy Carter said...

I consider myself agnostic; I'd like to think there is a God, because that would make the universe more interesting and meaningful. I don't have much faith (pun intended) with organized religion, though. If God is anything like the way these tracts depict him, then I want no part of it.