Reading It’s Not Your Fault

I always feel conflicted when I come across a Chick tract that includes some ideas that I agree with.  On the one hand, I feel like I need to re-examine these ideas to make sure they’re not the sort that I’ve held on to simply because I haven’t yet taken the time to consider the implications of those positions within my larger theological framework.  On the other hand, Jesus loves everyone, and even though I find a lot that’s objectionable in Chick’s oeuvre I have to remember that the people who publish this stuff profess to love Jesus; there is common ground between us, and it should be sought out.

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These are Ralph’s old foster parents. Clearly they’re not fit to raise children with faces like those. Also, do some foster homes really have names? (Image credit: Chick.com)

So when I read through It’s Not Your Fault, I thought, “This is actually a pretty compassionate tract.”  Yeah, it resolves things in a way that’s kind of absurd, but generally I can agree with the message about Jesus wanting to heal all wounds, especially those left by abusers.

So the basic plot is that a young boy, Ralph, is removed from the foster home where he lives by Child Protective Services after his roommate turns up dead of an apparent suicide and the police enact an investigation of the home.  Ralph shows signs of being abused, and his new foster mother tries to help him deal with the trauma by telling him about her own experiences as a missionary during the Rwandan Genocide.

As a side note, Chick can’t resist this opportunity to jab at the United Nations for their poor response to that incident, although I think the messages are a little confused when you criticize an agency that you fear will one day take over the world for refraining from interfering in a sovereign country’s internal politics.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Carpenter, the foster mother, explains how she was so angry at the men who killed her husband and friends, tortured her, and raped her that she spent months having nightmares about the experience.  She fantasized about torturing and killing them, which is an entirely reasonable response following that kind of trauma.  Then Mrs. Carpenter explains that her nightmares stopped after she realized that she was supposed to forgive her abusers, and that this is what Ralph needs to do in order to heal from his trauma as well.

Okay, let’s break this down a little bit, since there are parts of this that I agree with, and parts that I don’t.

Forgiving your abusers is definitely something that I believe Christ encourages us to do.  Even wishing them well in a capacity that doesn’t enable them to commit further abuses strikes me as loving above and beyond what the typical human response would be.  But Mrs. Carpenter ignores one very major distinction between her own story and her exhortations to Ralph to forgive the judge who’s been raping him: Ralph is still threatened by his abuser.

Mrs. Carpenter’s story is a sad one, and I’ll say that I think Chick handles it with a delicacy that I’ve come not to expect in these tracts.  But she should be aware that it’s unhelpful to suggest that a child who’s still a ward of the state and therefore vulnerable to further harm by this judge be willing to forgive him.  Healing doesn’t happen on a set timetable, but it is callous to talk about forgiveness when further harm is still a possibility.  Until Ralph is safely out of the judge’s reach, this kind of talk won’t be helpful.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Carpenter throws in the obligatory Chick tract coda about going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus, and explains that abusers go to hell if they don’t accept Jesus too, which I think means she’s implying that even though God wants us to forgive those who hurt us, they’ll still get punished in the end because they probably aren’t Christians anyway.

And that’s exactly what happens with Ralph and the judge; he accepts Christ, and then the next morning he gets a phone call from a friend saying that the judge suddenly died of a heart attack the previous night.  Chick even includes a little proof text about those who trouble you being judged to stick home the implication that Jesus did Ralph a solid and killed the judge for him.

Okay, so maybe there’s more troublesome stuff in this tract than I realized, but it’s not the worst one that I’ve ever read.  Chick does give abuse victims some dignity, although I wonder if the story would have played out the same if the scenario involved a battered wife and her abusive husband.  I’ll have to dig through the archives and see if there’s a story in that vein sometime.

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