Proving that only the good die young, obsessive fundamentalist protestant propagandist and cartoonist Jack T. Chick finally went to meet his maker yesterday, aged 92. He leaves behind over fifty years worth of unforgiving tracts – small, illustrated booklets dealing with aspects of Christianity that could be easily disseminated or slipped into a pocket.
I first came across his work in the 1990s, when I picked up two evangelical documentary films in a second hand shop – Fear is the Master was a hysterical expose of cults, while AIDS – What You haven’t Been Told was deranged anti-gay propaganda. Intrigued, I write to producers Jeremiah Films to ask what else they had (I was working on a project about documentary films, so it wasn’t as mad a move as it sounds), and received back an envelope stuffed with catalogues – and various Chick tracts. Maybe they didn’t believe me when I said I was a believer who admired their work.
The Chick schtick was simple – a black and white (in all ways) morality tale, often following the life of a sinner as the reject the word of Christ and pay the price. Chick might have been a Christian, but he had a decidedly Old Testament view on sin and punishment in the after life. His work is somewhere between evangelism and out-and-out hate speech, and all the more fascinating for it. Reading a Chick tract is like having direct access to a deranged mind. I don’t doubt that he was sincere in everything he did – and that’s what makes it scary.
Over the years, Chick tackled most subjects that keep the religiously fanatical up at night. In the 1980s, he explored the horrors of Dungeons and Dragons, which – like pretty much anything from rock music to left wing politics to Harry Potter – was seen as a gateway to misery, suicide and eternal damnation.
Abortion was high on Chick’s list of sins as well, as you might expect, with Who Murdered Clarice being especially hysterical:
and of course, homosexuality was a regular subject for damnation:
AS you might expect, other religions come in for a lot of criticism. Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others get their own tracts, but oddly, Chick reserves most of his ire for Catholics, who a more sensible person might see as simply being a variation on his own brand of Christianity. Perhaps that’s why he is so furious, and in various tracts, catholics are condemned as at best misguided, and at worse in league with Satan and on a mission to control the world (to be fair, he’s not far off on that point – but then, he could equally apply it to any religion, including his own).
If you have a taste for the bizarre – and are fairly unshockable – then I very much recommend tracking down Chick tracts. As for the man himself – well, I guess he’s now fund out if he was right all along. Imagine if he went to the gates of Heaven only to find that God really is a Catholic, and is then cast into Hell – the very stuff of one of his own tracts. Hopefully, he’d see the funny side.