11 November 2016

Mistah Chick -- he dead

One news item I neglected to note here in the run-up to the election was the death of Jack T. Chick, one of the more bizarre figures in the world of evangelical propaganda.  For those who aren't aware, Chick produced and distributed vast numbers of tiny comic books, known as "Chick tracts", filled with fanaticism, hate, and ignorance in various proportions.  He was 92 at the time of his death on October 23.

Chick's work expresses a crude and simple form of Christianity.  If you accept Jesus before you die, you go to Heaven; otherwise you go to Hell regardless of your sins or virtues, with no thought given to explaining why God would make our lives such a simplistic and unjust game for such high yet invisible stakes.  The world is massively infested with demons -- homosexuality, drug use, pop culture, anything "occult", all non-Christian religions, and all forms of Christianity deviating from Chick's own (especially Catholicism) -- all are the work of demons.  "Illicit" sex is condemned, though that subject doesn't come up as often as one might expect.  Any character representing anything Chick doesn't like is mono-dimensionally evil and usually absurdly short-tempered.

There are several distinct art styles, and most likely several artists worked on the comics over the years.

Chick's ignorance is amazing.  Evolution, sexuality, Catholicism, atheism, science, history, pop culture, and non-Christian religions are absurdly misrepresented.  In one comic, Muslims are shown seeing the error of Islam because it conflicts with the Bible -- as if Chick were unaware of the very existence of the Koran.

The comics' subject matter varies considerably.  Some are simple retellings of Bible stories, many are tales of an individual being offered the chance to accept Jesus and either taking or rejecting it (though the circumstances shown in these tales are very varied), some are stories of sinners who either reform or come to a bad end, a few are visions of an apocalyptic future where Christians are viciously persecuted by a secular world.  Some of the comics can be pretty entertaining if you are in the right frame of mind.  A personal favorite image of mine from Chick's work is this one:
Though Chick's world-view is childishly simple, I'm not kidding about the hate.  If you're not in the right frame of mind, reading these things will make you feel constantly agitated at how they twist things to make everything and everyone Chick disapproves of look evil.  His is a vision of a tiny minority of virtuous fanatics under siege, yet fighting back heroically, against a world of demonic evil -- with you and me clearly part of the latter.

It's hard to believe many people were actually converted by Chick tracts.  The world they depict is so blatantly at odds with reality that one imagines Chick must have been some sort of hermit.  Smart propagandists work to understand the people they're trying to persuade.  Chick seems to have known very little about anyone different from himself.  The tracts are widely sold by secular vendors to secular customers for entertainment -- which is how I got my own large collection, including the ones scanned for the image at the top of this post.
In the unlikely event that Chick was right about the nature of the universe, he is now dwelling blissfully in a glowing-white, severely underpopulated, and extremely boring Heaven.  More probably, of course, he is simply nowhere.  But he left a legacy much more colorful and memorable than most of his ilk.


Anonymous Zosimus the Heathen said...

I had a mixed feelings when I heard of the death of Jack Chick. While a lot of his work had a certain cheesy charm to it, and epitomized the phrase "so bad it's good", there's no denying that the worldview it promoted was a malignant one, and that its creator relied heavily on fear to convert people to his particular brand of Christianity (as I once heard someone else point out, Chick never really explains why the God he believes in is any way "good" (particularly when so much of that deity's behaviour suggests otherwise); he just tells you to worship it because you'll burn in hell forever if you don't). There's also no denying that, as you pointed out, his comics were filled with blatant lies about pretty much everything; one wonders if he really believed half the bullshit he spouted, or if he knew full well he was "lying for Jesus", but decided that was justified in the name of saving souls.

Prior to the Internet, I'd only read one Chick tract, which I found on the school bus one morning (I wonder who put it there). Called "The Trick", it was one of the many tracts he wrote condemning Halloween, and featured the memorable scene of some modern-day witch suffering an inopportune heart attack on the night in question (just after she'd toasted Satan for the success of some evil scheme she and the other members of her coven had carried out), dying, and discovering to her horror she was destined for an eternity of suffering in hell. That was kind of disturbing. With the advent of the Internet, though, I discovered all manner of other weird and wonderful works he'd penned (including a couple of particularly messed up ones he'd tried to erase all memory of). A classic was, of course, the infamous Dark Dungeons, which I believe is much loved by fans of D&D due to its utter ridiculousness. (I dabbled in that game myself as a teenager, though sadly lost all enthusiasm for it after my first campaign. That wasn't due to any realization I was fooling around with demonic forces, however; rather, it was the fact that said campaign was run by The World's Worst Dungeon Master(TM).)

11 November, 2016 05:51  
Blogger Rosa Rubicondior said...

Another pious creationist Christian who felt his piety exempted him from the rules he demanded other people adhere to, namely the ban on bearing false witness. No lie too big for Jesus.

11 November, 2016 06:06  
Blogger One Fly said...

Never heard of this slug and glad of it.

11 November, 2016 07:15  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, although I am surprised that Jack Chick was still alive. I first encountered his work decades ago, and I must say that it always seemed to me to be sort of the "Plan Nine from Outer Space" of religious proselytizing. How the guy could have labored on year after year, and been so clueless about the real nature of his intended audience, and the effect this ludicrous material had on them, is a wonder in itself.

And Zoismus, when you say "one wonders if he really believed half the bullshit he spouted," can this not be said of Donald Trump, Republican leaders, Evangelical con men and all the rest of the public figures on the right? I have been following the right since the 1960's and to this day I find it impossible to determine with a lot of them, what they really believe and what is just bullshit for suckers. Do Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or Alex Jones believe a word of their claims? Who knows? And I don't think we ever will figure it out.

11 November, 2016 18:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Zosimus: If we must have evil, at least let it be absurdly incompetent evil. Dark Dungeons is a favorite of mine, even though I never played those kinds of games. The idea of claiming those games are such an existential danger is just so overwrought.

Rosa: Thing is, I don't think he was lying. I think he really saw the world that way. A liar would have made it less unrealistic.

One: Well, you have now. :-)

Green: I don't know why I didn't think of that -- Trump as the Jack Chick of politicians! And yes, with guys like Limbaugh and Beck, we may never really know how much of their own bullshit they really believe. They may have reached the point where they themselves no longer quite know.

12 November, 2016 04:15  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

And let me add, as I have said before, that there is nobody that is easier to lie to than yourself, because no one has as much stake in believing your lies as you do. That's why I think that it is often pretty irrelevant to ask whether they believe what they say; they say it to get their way, and whether they really believe it is pretty irrelevant to them, as long as it works.

12 November, 2016 11:42  
Blogger mendip said...

I absolutely adore Chick Comics, but for reasons that would appall old Jack. As you and others have already pointed out: the willful ignorance, hatred, bile, and hypocrisy perfectly encapsulate my opinion of the Christ cult. Like you, Infidel, I collect 'em, and think that I must be nearing a hundred or so. One of the better ones, devoted to Jack's views on D&D, is a classic - 'Dark Dungeons'. It's been made into a short film that I heartily recommend. Jack gave his permission to the crew for it, as long as they remained true to the text and spirit of the comic, which they did. It's cinematic Gold!

05 March, 2017 07:50  

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