Our Chick tract this week is categorized as a story intended to help people dealing with one of life’s struggles: anger. If anyone is curious, the other life struggles that Chick.com has written tracts specifically for include: drug abuse, depression/suicide, homosexuality, abortion, gangs, and gambling. In future installments I’ll probably take a look at these issues and what Chick suggests to deal with them (Spoiler alert: the answer’s Jesus).
Anyway, The Bully is a story that deals with an abusive, alcoholic father, Harry, and his daughter, Ashley. Harry despises religion because his dead wife used to pray all the time, and it irritated him. He also mentions with pride that he used to beat her just for going to church and reading the Bible.
Clearly, Harry is angry with the Church about something.
The problem is that we’re never told what he’s angry about. Was he mistreated by someone in the Church when he was younger? Did he resent the fact that his wife had a social life that didn’t revolve around him? Does he have a personal beef with God for failing to answer one of his prayers, one that was really important for Harry to have answered? We don’t know, because the story never tells us.
Okay, I’m going to pause for a second and make a point here. Uncontrolled anger can definitely be a real issue. I work with lots of kids who have anger problems, and they very regularly do things that are not excusable. But anger does not come out of a vacuum. If you were to give someone this tract as a way of opening dialogue about how Christ can help them deal with their anger issues, it would have a lot more credibility if it showed the angry guy as having something he was actually angry at.
As it stands, Harry really is just a bully, as the title implies, but he’s not an angry bully. He’s interested in exercising his power, and inexplicably he expresses this need for power by being abusive towards people who are positively disposed towards religion. There may be a real motivation behind his actions, but the story doesn’t tell us, so it’s just as likely that he’s just a sociopath, in which case he doesn’t need Jesus to heal his anger; he needs a licensed psychiatrist who can assist him with appropriate therapy and perhaps medication to fix his brain chemistry.
Going back to the story, Harry is so angry that his daughter might be falling in with the church crowd that he makes her swear that she’ll never “read the Bible again, or pray, or get saved” or else he’ll throw her out on the street.
And Ashley agrees to it.
So we flash forward a couple years to find that Harry has succeeded in turning Ashley into a raging alcoholic, like himself. She’s passed out drunk one night, so he decides to go to the bar by himself, where he promptly has a heart attack and dies.
Then at the hospital they revive him (hurray for medical technology!). Harry, who had a vision of hell while he was dead, decides the only place he can go for answers is the church of a pastor whom he beat up previously. The pastor is understandably wary of another encounter, though he does explain to Harry that he has to repent in order to avoid hell.
Coincidentally, I’ve noticed a pattern with Chick tracts; they always want you to avoid going to hell, but they never talk about how great it is to be in the presence of Christ. My father-in-law once asked me the question, would I want to go to heaven if Jesus weren’t there? I’ll admit that it threw me at first but upon thinking about it, I started to understand what he was getting at. The great thing about Christianity is that it’s about trying to draw closer to and be like this amazing person, Jesus. I’d probably go so far as to say it’s the central desire of any Christian. So getting back to the question, if Jesus weren’t in heaven, I wouldn’t want to be there. Of course, it’s kind of a paradox, because heaven, more accurately defined, is the location of Christ. He’s the reason it’s heaven in the first place. All this is to say that Christians are really excited about heaven, but it’s not because we’re afraid of hell. There are much better reasons to be a Christian than just to avoid being punished, and I think the makers of Chick tracts are missing that.
Of course, Harry gets saved (read: avoids damnation) and he manages to get his alcoholic daughter to repent as well while she’s on her death bed (she’s dying of cirrhosis of the liver), so unlike the last Chick tract, this one actually has a happy ending, I guess? There wasn’t a whole lot in here about how Jesus can help a person deal with their anger though, which I admit was disappointing after the prominent billing it got on the website.
What about you guys? Are there any Chick tracts that you’d like to see me take a look at in this ongoing series?