Thursday, May 3, 2012

Flight 144

It's been a while since I've had the dubious pleasure of finding a Chick Tract out in the world. This one had been placed atop a pay phone in a subway station, and I spotted it as my train pulled in. I was on my way to a job interview and had two more stops to go, but I hopped off the train to grab it anyway. Such is my dedication to this blog. But enough about me! As you have no doubt surmised from the title, this tract is about some airline passengers. And if you guessed that their plane is doomed, give yourself a pat on the back. On board the doomed Flight 144 we meet Rev. Davidson and his wife, a pair of missionaries returning to America after a 50-year stint in Africa building schools and hospitals ("one just for lepers")and helping poor people in need. And did I mention they are heading for the USA "to raise funds for another hospital"? Well, they are. What a lovely couple of do-gooders. They are surely bound for Heaven when they die, right? First, don't call me Shirley (come on, this is a tract about an airplane!). Secondly, no they are not. Not according to Ed, the handsome and smiling young man the Davidsons sit next to. He seems like a nice guy, even when he freely admits "I killed a guy in a drunken brawl. I just got out of jail last week." What a terrific way to start a conversation! Ed goes on to ask the Davidsons "how many sinners have been saved through your ministry?" Like it's a contest or something. And maybe it is. Ed talks about them getting crowns in Heaven for their efforts. However, when Ed realizes the Davidsons "DON'T tell people how to get saved," he gets all righteous indignation on them. Their "good works are fine," but they "can't save ANYONE!" He tries to Save them, but then the plane crashes into the ocean and everybody dies. Too late, Davidsons! Ed the drunken brawl killer gets to go to his "beautiful mansion in heaven," but the missionaries have a date with Ol' Faceless. And it's gonna be a date from Hell. Faceless tells the Davidsons their lives of kindness and sacrifice are essentially meaningless, since neither of them were Saved. He also implies very strongly that no one from any other religion will escape Hell, since He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and all that jazz. "This is HORRIFYING!" Rev. Davidson says, right before the angels throw him and his wife face-first into Flame County (is Flame County funny? Be honest. I was also thinking of Burntimore.) You know, I'm starting to recognize tracts like this one for what they are - revenge fantasies. How smug must Jack and other tract makers feel, knowing that they are Right and have the Truth while everyone else is basically just a walking, talking Instant-Light briquette? Visualizing such a fate on paper, complete with the "YAAAAAH!" of those fools who wouldn't listen (or take you seriously)... well, that's almost as good as the real thing, right? The cartoon art in Flight 144 is up to Jack's usual high standard, especially the facial expressions of the doomed Davidsons. And the image of the angels tossing them into Hell is awesome. I really like the image of Rev. Davidson protecting his wife from their god. The look on his face seems to say, "Don't come near her, you monster!" I'm sure that's not what Jack T. intended. The message of this tract is fairly standard; nothing but Jesus will get you into Heaven. Chick has explored this theme many times before, going through the things that won't spare you from Hell one by one. Flight 144 explores Good Works (and uses the words 'good works' no less than eleven times, twelve if you count 'wonderful works'). Others have explored being lawful, going to church, being ordained, being Jewish or Muslim or Catholic, etc... Flight 144 isn't so much disturbing as it is arrogant. Okay, yes, it's definitely disturbing, but the arrogance is just as strong. Chick presents a faceless God without any redeeming features - the reader is given no reason to want HIM. The only reason anyone would follow HIM would be out of sheer terror. Or the possibility of a beautiful mansion. Terror or greed, then. And these are the 'Good' guys? As far as the characters go, I like the Davidsons a lot more than Ed. He confesses to murder the way I'd confess to farting in public - no remorse at all. And he's pushy, too. And a self-righteous holier-than-thou know-it-all. But he's Saved, so he gets a heavenly mansion. The Davidsons, by contrast, are polite, friendly and self-sacrificing, even if Rev. D does love to toot his own horn. They are the ones I identify with and root for. So when Ol' Faceless sends them on a nose-dive to San Flamecisco (or the Poachian Gulf), I don't immediately see why HE is RIGHT. Perhaps this tract is meant for other Christians, who are UnSaved and believing they are Good Enough. Jack has a much better chance of reaching them. When it comes to secular people, though, Jack's efforts crash and burn. Likely to Convert - 2 Artwork - 7 Ability to Hold Interest - 6 Unintentional Hilarity - 6 Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

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