Almost everyone knows who Jack Chick is, though many people don’t know that they do. You know those tiny Christian tracts that are structured like comic books? That is the work of Mr. Jack Chick.
Once upon a time, Chick tracts really did appear like little miracles from God, usually found on a park bench or a bus stop or lying on the sidewalk. Those days are gone and no longer does a seeker of the skewed truth need to wander around city streets looking downward — they go online.
Chick Publications (www.chick.com) features all your favorite finger-wagging, reactionary, hateful, ridiculous cartoon bile from years past and puts them a mere click away. All the old favorites are available, including “Angels,” the bizarre tale of a lazy Christian rock band that falls into service of Satan and his plan for world domination through rock music. Tawdry pathos unfolds as the band hits the big time and falls victim to the excesses of gay marriage, drugs, and vampirism. At least someone is standing up to the vile, sinful scourge of Christian rock. What next? Skiffle music? Polka? Lullabies?
One of Chick’s favorite targets is non-Protestant Christianity. “Man in Black,” wherein a Catholic priest discovers that not only does Jesus hate the Catholic Church, but that it is in reality a “counterfeit religion” that “controls all the money in the world” and “can create wars to enhance her power.” In another tract, “Holocaust,” Chick alleges that the Holocaust was a Roman Catholic controlled inquisition against the Jewish people. Two Mormon missionaries become distressed by a similar dissection in “The Visitors.”
Imagine the surprise on their faces when they discover that Joseph Smith was actually a demon-worshipping Freemason who crafted his religion as a modern form of Baal worship! Gotcha!
Science is, of course, another big target. In “Big Daddy,” a clean cut, smiling Christian college student takes a belligerent academic down a notch by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that evolution is part of a conspiratorial sham that causes another student to lament “Then we didn’t evolve! The system has been feeding us THE BIG LIE!”
What is so shocking about Chick comics is that there are a good number of people who accessed them through the most un-radical religious outlets around. I remember going in unassuming little churches as a child and quiet Christian bookstores that offered these tracts as if no one had bothered to read the extreme hateful radicalism presented in their pages. Generations of kids were exposed to small-minded religious hate because adults couldn’t be bothered to check what they were handing out for free.
The best way to disarm such an awful spew is to transform it into campy, ridiculed nostalgia.
The Jack T. Chick Museum of Fine Art (www.chickcomics.com) is a fun compendium featuring reviews of the comics (“a wonderful job showing the brainlessness of Rock ‘N Roll” they rave about “Angels”) and people’s reminiscences of their first encounters with Chick comics (“I think Jack taught many of us an important lesson about ‘directness of method,'” muses a self-described fundamentalist Baptist as he talks about his high school janitor distributing Chick tracts into student lockers).
One man raised as a Conservative Christian likens Chick comics to pornography since “they are based on something beautiful and precious, but distort it so greatly that they are downright evil, and yet exert a strangely compelling fascination upon all who fall under their sway!”
The Jack T. Chick Parody Archives (www.weirdcrap.com/chick) features several comics that poke fun at Chick. “Dead to Rights” lampoons his classic tract “Last Rites” by featuring Chick himself. After his death in a car accident, Chick ascends to heaven and discovers everything he believed to be entirely untrue. “Of course I love you,” God assures him, “but you’re an adult, Jack, and responsible for your own salvation”
The real question is “Who is Jack Chick?” and a couple sources do their best to reveal this mysterious recluse to his fans. The Wikipedia article on Chick (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Chick) does a great job of tracing his life and career and examine his religious influences — apparently we owe it all to his fundamentalist first wife, the very righteously monikered Lola Lynn.
Meanwhile, Cathlolic evangelist blogger Jimmy Aikin recounts his bizarre recent meeting with Chick at a religious film premiere (members.cox.net/jimmyakin/x-meet-jack-chick.htm) during which Chick confided “I love Catholics.”
The real Jack Chick could never live up to the massive shadow he has cast with his output. If any unknown crackpot can be qualified as influential to American thought, it is this man. There will always be people who believe the information he offers as truth, but at least the Internet allows some people to frame his diatribes more honestly than ever before — and laugh at them.
Oct. 23, 2004