Author Topic: Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits  (Read 6526 times)

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Offline SVPete

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Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits
Kate Shellnutt
POSTED 10/24/2016 06:03PM
Quote
Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92.

The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.

Chick’s messages were controversial—including among evangelicals—but his work enjoyed a global reach. His most popular tract, This Was Your Life!, was translated into more than 60 languages.

Chick came to faith shortly after World War II through Charles E. Fuller’s radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” The former technical illustrator began drawing and funding his first comic books and pocket-sized tracks in the early 1960s, according to Christian Comics International. Chick Publications grew to start its own print shop, and took off in the ’70s.

I just heard of this yesterday. Sad to say, I'm not much saddened by this news.

His medium ... I couldn't say Chick was the very first to merge comic book into tract, but he may have been. He certainly was successful, in the volume and longevity senses (>500M copies, >150 titles, ~5 1/2 decades). Knowingly or not, his chosen medium was also very much in tune with US culture when Chick came on the scene.

His message, part 1 ... as was said by a pastor, quoted at the end of the article, "I (don't)see how tracts or impersonal witness is adequate to our message." In the senses of a full presentation of the Gospel or building relationships in which one could be a witness, that is not what Chick tried to do. What he did try to communicate at a very simple level was key basics of the Gospel. He left to the initiative of the people distributing and reading his tracts the task of teaching/learning the Christian faith and becoming active in a church congregation.

His message, part 2a ... one doesn't publish 500M copies in 150+ titles telling the exact same story, and Chick didn't. Some of his topics were Biblical subjects - he was very much into the Dispensationalist view of the end times. Some were people stories: following a soldier in basic through fighting in battle (Vietnam); a self-satisfied materialistic suburbanite meeting his Maker; a revolutionary getting the revolution he desired and being "rewarded" by those who lead/used him. Some dealt with contemporary issues: environmentalism (The world is collapsing! Escape it through salvation and the Rapture!); homosexuality (stereotypes on steroids); evolution (making shallow look deep).

His message, part 2b ... one topic to which Chick returned over and over was the Catholic Church. In sum, he was agin it, virulently. While he apparent said at some point that he was against the institution, not the people, his publications (the ones I've seen) don't make that distinction clear. He didn't go as far (AFAIK) as buying into the "Pope Joan" myth, but he was pretty loony. Having been brought up in the Lutheran Church and having spent decades in Evangelical churches of various flavors, there are areas in which I disagree with the Catholic Church.  However, one thing I learned a very long time ago is that whatever disagreements I might have with this or that believer in Jesus, one who is truly a believer is my brother or sister in Christ. We can discuss our points of disagreement, but attacking him or her is just wrong. Working together in fellowship, to the most we can, accomplishes more than keeping isolated from and sniping at each other.

In the mid-70s I worked at a Christian bookstore that, among many other things, carried Chick tracts. I became familiar with much of what Chick published at the time. As should be apparent from the above (if anyone has had the patience to wade through it), I was worse than unimpressed. While some were not bad, some were cringingly cornball and just-so, some were cringingly stereotyped, some made shallowness look profound, and his implicit assumption in his anti-Catholic attacks that there are no Christian believers in the Catholic Church was the epitome of the kind of judging Jesus forbade.

I won't judge Jack T. Chick's eternal fate. That's for God to do. What I do see, with my very limited vista, is that Chick caused much harm among and to Christians. How much good Chick may have brought to his millions of readers, probably only God can know. From an eternal perspective, if we both spend eternity with Jesus, we will both be objects of God's grace and mercy.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2016, 08:49:20 AM by SVPete »
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Offline SSG Snuggle Bunny

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Re: Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2016, 06:18:24 AM »
"Cult hits" is an ironic title to be sure.

In the restaurant business workers tend to be superstitious. Whenever a tract would show up nobody wanted to be the one to throw it away so it would be shuffled around the store until it just disappeared.
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Offline Movie buff- The Sequel

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My own feelings towards Jack "Haw- Haw" Chick have always been mixed.
On the one hand, some of his tracts I received were part of what led me to Jesus and helped me learn more about the basics of the faith (i.e. I first learned that salvation can't be earned through good works by reading a Chick tract). Also, the sadly discontinued 1977 tract 'Soul Story' actually makes for kind of a cool/ entertaining story, sort of like a blaxploitation movie with a Gospel message.
On the other hand, as you've noted, his tracts can often be really corny and unintentionally over- the- top, rely on pretty nasty stereotypes and straw- men of those with differing views (i.e. One tract he put out regarding homosexuality portrayed gay activists as plotting to deliberately infect America's blood supply with AIDS, and of course that's not even touching the way he's portrayed Catholics), and at times deliberately instill unnecessary paranoia and panic among readers (i.e. his anti- Halloween tract 'The Trick' promoted the old, pretty much completely false urban legend about fiends slipping poison and razor blades into the candy they pass out to trick or treaters and made it seem like people can't even trust their own neighbors for that reason). Also, on a personal level, I've been bothered by tracts he's made which insulted Contemporary Christian music and the Harry Potter series, both of which I'm a fan of, and both of which he attacked in really ignorant ways that made it clear he really knew nothing about either of them.
I'd agree that he almost certainly harmed the advancement of the Christian faith more than he helped it.

Offline SVPete

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My own feelings towards Jack "Haw- Haw" Chick have always been mixed.
On the one hand, some of his tracts I received were part of what led me to Jesus and helped me learn more about the basics of the faith (i.e. I first learned that salvation can't be earned through good works by reading a Chick tract). Also, the sadly discontinued 1977 tract 'Soul Story' actually makes for kind of a cool/ entertaining story, sort of like a blaxploitation movie with a Gospel message.
On the other hand, as you've noted, his tracts can often be really corny and unintentionally over- the- top, rely on pretty nasty stereotypes and straw- men of those with differing views (i.e. One tract he put out regarding homosexuality portrayed gay activists as plotting to deliberately infect America's blood supply with AIDS, and of course that's not even touching the way he's portrayed Catholics), and at times deliberately instill unnecessary paranoia and panic among readers (i.e. his anti- Halloween tract 'The Trick' promoted the old, pretty much completely false urban legend about fiends slipping poison and razor blades into the candy they pass out to trick or treaters and made it seem like people can't even trust their own neighbors for that reason). Also, on a personal level, I've been bothered by tracts he's made which insulted Contemporary Christian music and the Harry Potter series, both of which I'm a fan of, and both of which he attacked in really ignorant ways that made it clear he really knew nothing about either of them.
I'd agree that he almost certainly harmed the advancement of the Christian faith more than he helped it.

With your personal history, I can certainly understand the mixed feelings. On a general level, I think there is a place for tracts (an old political term for something similar in function would be "pamphlet"). It's something relatively brief on which some one can "chew" if they are interested. Comics-stories certainly are a friendly medium of presentation. And if the one giving out the tracts makes themselves available for follow-up, discipling could happen.

I got away from Chick tracts around 1975ish so I didn't see "Soul Story" or the one about AIDS (an earlier tract about homosexuality "merely" played on common stereotypes of swishy gays). How exactly he imagined the anti-gay and -Catholic attack-tracts would incline Catholics and homosexuals to Christianity (as JTC understood it) mystifies me.

I didn't see his attack-tract on CCM, but it sounds like he was really late in hitting that topic, especially given that he was 50 miles or less from Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa (Maranatha Records) and Church on the Way (e.g. Barry McGuire, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Jamie Owens Collins). Many of the Fundamentalist part of the Evangelical spectrum (Chick was very private, so what, if any, church he attended seems not to be known) were condemnatory of CCM. Bill Gothard would be another example of this. I suppose spiritually ambiguous songs like "Spirit in the Sky" or Harrison's Hindu paean, "My Sweet Lord" could be cited as confusing the matter, but they don't excuse the carelessness or the equation of a certain cultural era with Christianity. While 70s CCM songs varied in depth, their lyrics were generally well within the realm of Christian teaching and thought. "Ballad of Luke Warm" (on "Maranatha 2") was practically a Chick Tract set to music:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHXzMFXjWoU[/youtube]

I suppose my appreciation for CCM, especially of the "Jesus Music" era is apparent. For several years I ran sound for several Christian "garage bands" in the Phoenix, AZ area.

As for the HP books, the over-reaction and fact-free condemnations common in some Evangelical circles was shameful. At some point a challenge to actually read the HP books rather than repeating second- or tenth-hand criticisms got through my thick skull. I allowed my kids who wanted to to read the books, and I did too. The falsehoods, quarter-truths, and distortions making the rounds among Christians at the time were worse than embarrassing! That Chick parroted those second- or tenth-hand criticisms doesn't, sadly, surprise me.

I haven't seen much good fruit from JTC's "ministry", but I know my experience is very limited. I also fear that he caused more harm than good, but I'm glad to leave that judgment to God.
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