Monday, October 29, 2012

Who, Me?

Note: this is a rewrite of a review I'd posted over a year ago, along with several copyrighted images. I deleted it along with several other reviews, but recently decided to re-post it if I could find my original handwritten draft. I did, so here it is.

To take people's minds off of Hurricane Sandy, I bring you another look into the world of the nearly-always reliable Jack Chick. But this one, dear readers, is no ordinary Chick Tract. This one was specially created for timid Christians who want to Save people as passively as possible. And more, it's also a shameless advert for Jack's other tracts, to be distributed by those timid Christians in the hopes of converting them into Chick Publications customers. And Saving the unSaved too, I suppose.

First, Jack uses his own unique style to demonstrate how hard it is to Witness. Most methods (like gospel radio & TV sows) won't work, he says, and most other tracts are also doomed to failure because they have "too many words." Before presenting his own work as the solution to this Witnessing dilemma, Jack tells an interesting story about where he got the idea to draw his cartoons. "A missionary told us that the Communists in China had developed a powerful way to reach the multitudes." It seems "their agents watched our children spend hours reading comic books." Jack illustrates this point with an image of a drug store, where children read comics while an evil-looking Chinese dude takes pictures of them from behind a display stand. "The communists spent millions of dollars printing their propaganda in a cartoon format," and "the results were extremely successful."

Apparently people will believe anything if it's in cartoon form. Think I'll go find some toxic waste to swim in when I'm done this review, so I can get me some superpowers!

Anyway, seeing the success of the Chinese propaganda, Jack Chick made his illustrated gospel tracts to spread God's Word. Because when he does it, it's spreading God's Word. But when the Chinese do it, it's propaganda. Hmm. I'm certain Jack missed the irony on this one.

According to Jack, his cartoon tracts succeeded "beyond all expectations" because "people find them IRRESISTIBLE!" If he does say so himself. Which he does.

The rest of the tract tells the reader how they can go about Witnessing with his tracts, and gives suggestions on where those tracts could be placed. Jack also devotes two pages to quotes from people who got Saved because they read his work. "NOBODY can resist illustrated Chick Tracts!"

The back cover provides information on how to get your hands on some, so you can have "a successful and satisfying personal ministry." Chick tracts are "available at your favorite Christian bookstore," and a phone number and website address are provided just in case they are not.

As tracts go, this is a unique item. It's fairly inoffensive, except of course to the Chinese, and it is amusing to see just how highly Jack thinks of himself and his product. Doesn't the Bible have a few things to say about pride? Still, Jack has a valid point - his tracts make it very easy for shy people to spread Jack Chick's word.

Who, Me?
Likely to Convert - N/A
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Beast

Jack Chick loves to recycle his previous material, especially when it comes to the End Times. The Beast was published, according to the copyright notice, back in 1988, which very nearly makes it the tract that begat all of Chick's end-times stuff (including the hilarious Here He Comes! in 2003 and the stupid and offensive Where Did They Go? in 2007).

Very nearly, but not quite; there's The Only Hope, which predates The Beast by three years. I don’t have that one, though, so let’s stick with The Beast.

It starts with two pages depicting the Noah apocalypse, a time when “everything was totally evil” because mankind “had become so rotten.” Jack compares that epoch with today’s world(or, rather, what he thought today’s world was back in 1988), and declares that “today’s conditions are the same as it was in the days of Noah.” No, he’s not predicting bad weather. Jack uses another two pages to depict “life as it is today,” and sets both images in a bar. There’s a knife fight going on, a bunch of men groping women and talking adultery, there’s a gay couple in the corner, and the waitresses appear to be topless.

Wait! There’s more – a guy shouts about “an old nut” preaching outside, and suggests they all “go give him the business. Haw! Haw! Haw!” There is simply no other way for a person to laugh in a Chick tract.

Oh, and people praise Lucifer’s name, too. The way we all do in today’s world. Back in 1988.

So, we’ve seen Noah’s world (inclement, with a chance of Ark), and we’ve seen Jack’s paranoid delusion of the late eighties. What’s all this got to do with the Beast? Jack’s getting to that; be patient. First there are two pages depicting the Rapture, because one image of Christians flying up to Heaven just wouldn’t be enough. The Four Horsemen start riding, and the Beast finally takes centre stage.

The Beast is “a leader that the world will love,” and is also “Satan’s masterpiece.” He “stabilizes the world economy and pulls the religions of the world together.” Then he uses computers to “control every person on the globe” with his infamous 666 mark. That’s one busy beast!

The world continues its decline, becoming “one gigantic witches’ coven.” The people “will not repent,” so “God pours out his wrath on an unbelieving and rebellious world.” On one page Jack depicts this wrath, which includes the poisoning of water, a third of the sea turning to blood, men being “scorched with great heat,” and swarms of unconvincing bugs with crowns on their heads and nice hairdos.

Like I said, all that stuff takes up only one page. The Rapture, two pages. Not sure what to make of that. Plus, out of 22 panels, the Beast (or his name) only appears in four.

The Beast continues to screw around and the people still won’t repent, so God decides it is time to put his holy foot down. He interrupts the Battle of Armageddon and wipes everyone out, then He throws all the sinners into Hell a thousand years later. Why a thousand years later? It’s a Bible thing.

So there’s Jack Chick’s second (I think) End Time tract. Not a lot in there to convince a secular audience of its validity; The Beast seems to be targeted at the Saved. As Chick tracts go, this one isn’t bad; the art is nice, as always, and the paranoia is good for a laugh. It’s not as good as Flight 144, but tract enthusiasts like me could do a lot worse.

The Beast
Likely to Convert - 2
Artwork - 9
Ability to Hold Interest - 8
Unintentional Hilarity - 8
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Unspeakable Gift

Here's a tract that could really have benefited from the work of a decent editor. Unnecessarily wordy and lacking narrative focus, The Unspeakable Gift is practically unreadable, too!

Published by Evangelical Tract Distributors and "Selected by A. C. P." - whatever that means - this tract makes the oft-repeated point that "Eternal Life" is a Gift. Apparently the Apostle Paul said "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift," which explains this tract's title. Nothing else does. I mean, one usually associates the word Unspeakable with something negative, doesn't one? Paul likely meant something positive, but will the average secular person on the street make that assumption when handed this unspeakable tract?

But the title, while off-putting, is hardly this tract's only problem. Run-on sentences abound, and the author lacks knowledge of basic punctuation. And did I mention narrative focus? Yes I did. The tract begins by talking about our "beclouded" minds, then tells of how the thief being crucified next to Jesus got himself Saved in the nick of time. He had no good works to his credit, you see, but was still "carried into paradise where Christ was" because "the righteousness of Christ was imputed to him."

And then, just after the Apostle Paul and his Unspeakable quote, the tract dives headfirst into a clumsy metaphor. Imagine "an unskilled man taking his crude colors and clumsy brush and trying to add to" a great work of art. "The idea is unthinkable." So why are people "doing it every day when they come to the question of their soul's salvation" by trying to add to God's Gift of Eternal Life?

Further salvation talk ensues, and the author trips over his/her own explanations. The tract also states that "The Cross of Christ our Lord" is "the central FACT of history." No, that "FACT" is not backed up with any evidence, but that's hardly a surprise.

Evangelical Tract Distributors, this little number is proof that good writing is every bit as important as scripture. If you want to impute your message into our minds without beclouding them, you'll need to do much better than this!

And no, I'm not going to end on a gag about this tract's unspeakableness, because that would be too easy. I'm above cheap jokes. Some of the time.

The Unspeakable Gift
Likely to Convert - 0
Artwork - 4
Ability to Hold Interest - 2
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0