Gospel tracts

Chick Publications Inc.

Chick Publications is an American publishing company founded and run by Jack Chick which produces and markets Protestant fundamentalist pamphlets, DVDs, VCDs, videos, books, and posters. Chick Publications' best-known products are Chick tracts, which are comic tracts that are available in nearly 100 languages. Arguably all of its products promote and seek to win converts to Christian fundamentalism. While the tracts express views that are generally accepted within Christian theology, e.g. the Incarnation of Christ, they are also often seen as controversial, even by some Christians, for views and criticisms against cultures, religions and theological concepts. Chick's "espous[ing] a variety of hateful doctrines" have moved the Southern Poverty Law Center to label the organization as a hate group.

Chick Publications is based in Rancho Cucamonga with a mailing address in Ontario, California. All of Chick Publications tracts, and several excerpts from his full-length comics, are available for free reading on the Chick website. Many older tracts are out of print; however, Chick Publications will print a minimum 10,000 tract special order of any out-of-print series.

On the companies website they also note that "Our ministry is primarily publishing the gospel tracts of Jack T. Chick, but we do occasionally publish a manuscript in book form." They state that if the content "educates Christians in one of the areas for which we have a tract, we would love to see it" and cite several examples, the online store lists nearly a dozens book categories.

Overview

The company's web site lists more than 150 comic tracts; all of them can be viewed online, but other materials can generally only be sampled. The site states that several hundred million tracts have been distributed worldwide, with some of them translated into almost 100 languages. However, for the majority of languages, only one tract is available: This Was Your Life. This tract is unique in that, apart from the large number of languages it is published in, it also appears in six different artwork versions, depicting the major racial groups.

Like many other religious publishing organizations, Chick Publications does not distribute their tracts for free; they are normally purchased in bulk by the people handing them out.

While Chick's tracts are meant to be handed out directly (for instance, he encourages Christians to give out anti-Halloween tracts along with Halloween candy), they are often distributed by leaving them in places where they will be found and read (for example, public restrooms), an appealing witnessing tool for shy Christians. This strategy is intended to reach those who are hostile to evangelists and unlikely to accept an offered tract, by appealing instead to their curiosity. The Chick Publications website claims that many people have been converted by encountering Chick Publication's comic tracts.

Chick Publications also publishes conventional non-graphical books on these same topics, by authors other than Chick. Many of these are also used as sources for Chick's tracts; notable sources include Alberto Rivera, Rebecca Brown, Jeff Godwin, Kent Hovind, Charles Chiniquy, William Schnoebelen, John Todd, Avro Manhattan, and Alexander Hislop.

Copies of Chick's tracts were requested by the Smithsonian Institution to be displayed among other examples of American religious culture.

Chick Publications and its founder and namesake Jack Chick have been regularly criticized for publishing strong opinions seen as negative such as opposition to Freemasonry, and Catholicism. Many of the products also oppose secularized holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving, as well as several forms of entertainment such as role-playing games and popular music. Defenders of the comics assert all his comics carry the same message: salvation through Jesus. Tracts typically follow the themes of punishment or redemption in the afterlife, or set up a confrontation between a Christian and non-Christian in order to spread a religious message. Many Chick tracts end with a non-Christian being converted to Christianity. Other endings provide a contrast between those who accept Jesus and those who reject Jesus; in some tracts, a convert receives entry to heaven, while in other tract, a non-believer is condemned to hell.

Most Chick tracts end with a suggested prayer for the reader to pray to accept Christ. In most of these tracts it is a standard sinner's prayer for salvation. In the tracts dealing with Catholicism or Islam, the prayer includes a clause to reject these religions. Included with the prayer are directions for converting to Christianity.

The graphics in Chick's tracts are often simple, but eye-catching. Some Christians consider them to be valuable witnessing tools, due to the striking nature of the cartoons and their clear-cut messages.

Claims

Chick's tracts and other publications make many controversial claims. Some are typical of conservative Protestant beliefs. For example, Chick claims that the theory of evolution is false, homosexuality is sinful, and abortion is murder.

Others are controversial even within conservative Protestantism. In particular, Chick's tracts make frequent reference to a vast Satanic conspiracy controlling many of the world's organizations and institutions. Religions other than Protestantism, especially the Roman Catholic Church, are generally presented as instruments of Satan. Chick claims that the King James Version of the Bible is the only recorded word of God, and all other editions are corrupt. Christian ecumenism is rejected as a ploy to corrupt true Christianity by encouraging acceptance of corrupted beliefs.

Chick's claims about Catholic, Masonic, Satanic, etc., conspiracies are based in large part on the testimony of people who claim to have been members of these groups before converting to Evangelical Christianity, most prominently Alberto Rivera, William Schnoebelen, and John Todd. The reliability of these sources is hotly disputed, as detailed in their individual articles.

Catholicism

A recurring theme in Chick's tracts is the role of the Roman Catholic Church, which he presents as one of the most powerful and insidious branches of this conspiracy. According to Chick, the Catholic Church is the "Great Whore" referred to in the Book of Revelation, and will bring about a Satanic New World Order before it is destroyed by Jesus Christ.

Drawing on the claims of Rivera and debunked authors like Charles Chiniquy, Chick claims that the Catholic Church helped to mold Islam as a tool to lure people away from Christianity, that it infiltrates and attempts to destroy or corrupt all other religions and churches, and that it uses various means including seduction, framing, and murder to silence its critics. He accuses Catholicism, specifically the Jesuits, of instigating the American Civil War, supporting the Confederate cause and seeking to undermine the Union. When that failed, they arranged the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and created the Ku Klux Klan, which happens to be anti-Catholic itself. According to Chick, the Catholic Church has also supported such ideologies as Nazism and Communism, the two of which are widely considered to be incompatible, and used the Holocaust to persecute opponents of the Catholic Church. He claims that the Catholic Church keeps "the name of every Protestant church member in the world" in a "big computer" in the Vatican for use in future persecutions. "Jesuits worked closely with Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin" to create Communism, and it was "believed that soon . . . Communism would rise up as the new strong daughter of the Vatican." It was Rome that instigated the Bolshevik Revolution and the murder of the czar’s family. The Communist liberation theology movement also is a Vatican plot regardless of Papal condemnations, and Pope John Paul II who condemned it was in fact a good communist.

Occultism

Chick publications present various forms of occultism as part of a Satanic conspiracy. Most forms of fantasy and depictions of magic, including Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons. and Halloween celebrations are portrayed as an attempt to draw children into witchcraft, which Chick considers to be a tool of Satan.

For example, the tract Boo! is set on Halloween, Satan's supposed birthday. Satan kills people dressed as a chainsaw-wielding maniac dressed in black and wearing a Jack-o'-lantern on his head. In the tract, Chick states that the Druids of the British Isles would take victims for their human sacrifices by force on October 31 and leave a Jack-o'-lantern in exchange. In reality, squashes or pumpkins would not have been accessible to the Druids, since squashes came from the Americas and were not brought to the British Isles until nearly a thousand years after the time of the Druids. Also, the Druids in this instance are seen holding an ankh, which is actually an Ancient Egyptian symbol.

Many of the tracts also mention that Holy Communion is an Egyptian tradition, and portray the Egyptian people as worshiping wafers of unleavened bread as the god Osiris, who is described as the sun. In reality, Osiris was never a solar deity, but rather associated with fertility, agriculture, and death. For more information on Ancient Egyptian Religion, see the associated wiki pages.

Criticism

Chick's critics accuse him of misrepresentation — for instance, Chick's tract Big Daddy accuses evolutionary scientists of circular reasoning in dating geological strata by the fossils they contain, with nothing in the tract to inform its readers that the usual technique is in fact radiometric dating. (This technique is mentioned elsewhere on Chick's site, but not in that tract.)

The tracts display those who do not share the same fundamentalist Christian view as Chick as being immoral. Gays, Catholics, Masons, Pagans, Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts, those accepting the Theory of Evolution, rock musicians - all are portrayed as morally flawed.

Chick has changed the claims made in Big Daddy? in response to more recent scientific findings supporting evolution. He has also changed the content of other tracts such as The Last Generation and his book The Next Step to reflect his increasingly anti-Catholic beliefs, and the content of That Crazy Guy! was changed after the rise of the AIDS crisis (the tract was originally about herpes). Also, the ending to The Poor Little Witch (in which a little girl is murdered by Satanists after forsaking Occultism and converting to Fundamentalist Christianity) was changed because the urban myth, which states that "every year in the U.S. at least 40,000 people... are murdered in witchcraft ceremonies" (about twice the entire reported homicide rate for the USA), turned out to be false and was removed from the tract.

Chick's claims about Catholic, Masonic, Satanic, etc., conspiracies are based in large part on the testimony of people who claim to have been members of these groups before converting to Evangelical Christianity, most prominently Rivera and Schnoebelen. Many of Chick's critics consider these sources to be frauds or fantasists. Nevertheless, many Chick supporters believe their claims to be legitimate. Further discussion of these controversies may be found in the articles on Alberto Rivera, William Schnoebelen, and John Todd.

Chick Publications depict Paganism and Neo-Paganism as a form of Satanism, a position that is contrary to that of all objective sources. As a response to this, a comic strip in the style of a Chick Publication called The Other People was written by Oberon Zell Ravenheart of the Neo-Pagan Church of All Worlds, with art by Don Lewis, in which fundamentalist Christians ring the doorbell of a Pagan family, and get a Bible lesson from the Neo-Pagan point of view.

One rather unusual claim that used to pop up frequently in Chick's publications was that the Soviet Union would invade Israel under orders of the Pope, with East Germany aiding it. Tracts that used to contain this claim (like "Escape") had it removed in later revisions. It can still be seen on Page 33 of "The Godfathers."

Most Christians, including many mainstream Protestants and evangelicals, consider many of Chick Publications' views to be misrepresentations or distortions of general Christian or evangelical views, and as such find them offensive and embarrassing. Among other issues, many Protestants reject Chick's King James Only stance and hence do not support those of Chick's assertions that rely on the King James Version being the only 'true Bible'.

Chick (verb) has been used on the website Fark.com to describe a declaration or statement so outrageous that the speaker unintentionally gives his audience the false impression that he is engaged in a comedic parody of an extreme or reactionary belief. For example: "When he told me Satan appeared to Adam and Eve as a dinosaur I was sure he was pulling my leg. But he really believed it, so I guess he was actually chicking".

Defense

Many fundamentalist Protestants, both past and present, agree with at least some of Chick Publications's more controversial claims. Some reject Chick's Roman Catholic conspiracy theories but accept other claims promoted in his tracts (such as his view that a person must be saved so as to avoid eternal damnation in Hell), and so offer qualified agreement with Chick's beliefs. Some anti-cult organizations view Chick's website and publications as a valuable source of material on groups they see as cults.

Jack Chick claims that cartoons are a more effective medium for witnessing than conventional text based tracts. Some of the characteristics often seen as failings of his tracts - for instance, their simplistic messages - can also be viewed as strengths, making them more appealing to readers who are unsympathetic to more conventional forms of evangelism. Some tracts go further, and use only words aimed at children, or tell their stories without words. Recently people in cartoons have been coloured in to appeal more to black people.

Chick's more controversial claims are usually accompanied by supporting references to the Bible (always quoting the King James Version), other books (often also published by Chick), and historical facts; debate commonly focuses on the reliability of these sources and of Chick's representation of them.

Cultural influence

Jack T. Chick's tracts have had an unintentional influence on pop culture. The Chick Tract Club was established for collectors of Chick's works. A website for parodies of his works (The Jack T. Chick Parody Archive) is on line. Kurt Kuersteiner, the author of The Unofficial Guide to the Art of Jack T. Chick, has produced a documentary on Jack Chick and his works entitled God's Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick. Comedian David Cross (a self-professed atheist ) released a DVD of his comedy works entitled Let America Laugh with the chapters titled after Chick tracts (This Was Your Life, Who Cares?, Is There Another Christ?, Gomez Is Coming, etc.).

See also

References

External links

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