So, every week when I sit down to find a new tract for this series, I stop and wonder to myself what topic I should pick out (Chick.com is so helpful with a system of categories for their tracts). This week I thought it might be interesting to see what tracts are recommended for specific locales and events, and I found that apparently the people at Chick have gotten feedback from their customers that there are a number of tracts they like to hand out at funerals.
As in, “You’re here to mourn someone’s death, and I’m going to give you a little booklet that explains why you need Jesus or you’re going to hell when you die.” This strikes me as hitting just a little below the belt. Also, as someone who’s had to deal with this personally, it is incredibly tasteless to use someone’s death (especially someone you knew was not a believer) as an excuse to make an altar call. Any mourner present who might be aware of this fact is not going to be comforted so much as steered towards thoughts of the departed’s eternal suffering and torment.
Setting that complaint aside, let’s just remember that Chick tracts and the type of evangelism they promote are a form of marketing. I think it’s pretty scummy to try to make a hard sell when a person’s in the midst of grief. That’s not to say that counseling and honest conversations aren’t helpful, but I maintain that what Chick does is neither honest nor designed for comforting the afflicted.
Anyway, I’ll put away my rantbox and get out my reviewbox now (spoiler alert: I can’t afford distinct boxes, so they’re actually the same thing) so we can talk about this week’s tract: The Choice.
This tract is a very simple presentation of Chick’s gospel framed by two characters, the middle-aged and balding nonbeliever George, and some old white dude who is unnamed, but who I think may be a Jack Chick stand-in. They’re having lunch together, and Chick proceeds to explain to George that he’s in a bad way, since he’s made an enemy of Satan just by existing.
After reading so many of these things, I feel like I’m starting to get numb to the absurdity, so there’s not much here that we haven’t seen before (although there’s a delightfully unfortunate stab at evolution where Chick claims that the devil tries to attack us through education–because God doesn’t want us to delight in and learn everything we can about his Creation).
One thing that is of note is that Chick takes a moment to tell an origin story for Satan, saying that he was originally the angel Lucifer, who fell when he rebelled against God. Aside from the fact that this interpretation of Isaiah 14:12-14 fails to take into account that Isaiah is telling Israel what they’re going to say to the king of Babylon when their oppression ends, it’s also just a poor exegesis even in the King James Version. Elizabethan poetry is rife with classical allusions and turns of phrase that are honestly beautiful, but don’t have anything to do with building a larger mythology. Lucifer’s a poetic name based on the Babylonian king’s association with the morning star (Venus) that fails to reach the same heavenly apex as the sun, not a reference to the devil’s pre-fall identity.
It’s this kind of insistence on maintaining ignorance of the Bible’s history that I think drives Chick to call out education as a tool of the devil. After all, if people learn where cultural memes originate and how they’ve been shaped and glommed onto our understanding of Christianity, then it might open things up to questioning and the realization that there are multiple ways to look at God’s interactions with humanity.
Of course, I might just be lying through my teeth because I have an axe to grind with Chick’s methods and presentation. After all, he says that everything he tells you in this tract is true because it’s supported by the Word of God.
The problem with that, if you haven’t already noticed, is that it is not logically possible to create a foundation for belief in the Bible as the Word of God based exclusively on the Bible saying it’s the Word of God. We call that sort of closed system a tautology, or circular reasoning, because its conclusion is derived from a premise that relies on the conclusion already being true.
Okay, I’m stepping off my rant/reviewbox.
The Choice is a wholly standard Chick tract in that it’s full of misinformation and misrepresentation about the authors’ viewpoint, and like the rest of these things should be given a wide berth, or at least read alongside multiple other sources offering points and counterpoints to Chick’s self-referential assertions.
Which, coincidentally, you probably can’t do at a funeral.