I heard that Jack Chick died the other day. You may not know the name, but you’re probably familiar with his work. At some point you’ve probably been given or come across a Chick Tract; a little black and white comic about why you’re going to Hell unless you confess that Jesus is your savior. I suppose at it’s most basic level, he wasn’t wrong, just ignorant.
Unlike most people who disagree with his message, I don’t see him as a hateful old fossil but instead someone who is really out of touch with reality; sometimes hilariously so. The message of the gospel he would try to deliver was almost always in the most offensive way possible and I don’t mean offensive in the way that the gospel is offensive. I mean offensive in the way that the issues are discussed without actually understanding the issues or the people in the issues themselves. To the reader, this comes across as hate-filled, racist, or just downright laughable. More often than not, it came across as all three.
Conspiracy theories abound in tracts on Roman Catholicism. Satan gives AIDs to Christian rock bands as a punishment for going gay. Dungeons and Dragons teaches you to kill your family. Blacksploitation. No, I’m not making that last one up. Somewhere along the line Jack Chick thought black people might have difficulty relating to his predominately white comics so he made black versions of many of his tracts complete with jive talk. And yes, I’m reasonably sure these tracts came out well after the ’70s.
The strange thing is, there’s a certain level of honesty to them I can’t explain. Not in how they portray the people and issues, but in Jack’s worldview. This is why I don’t see him as a complete douche (I could be totally wrong here, I don’t know the guy) but instead as someone who genuinely thinks he’s helping people. And that’s kinda tragic because in his misguided attempt at helping people, he’s probably done much more harm than good. I imagine that for every person these brought to Jesus, twenty more were driven away.
Sadly, these tracts can still be found everywhere. Well meaning people find clever ways to hand these out. Invariably, my daughter will get at least one trick or treating this year. Those of us who are older will remember finding them in phone booths. I once found one in a case of beer I had purchased at the grocery store. Most recently, I got one in the mail with my health care check from a Baptist church. I speculate that since my health sharing ministry will allow just about any Christian to join, they may have been worried that they might be sending money to a Roman Catholic, because for what other reason would a Christian send a Chick Tract to another Christian.
I believe Jack is in heaven. Not because his theology was right, but because I believe, as misguided as it was, that his faith in Christ was genuine. I believe that his faith was strong and even though misapplied, it still comes down to faith in the one who came down and died for our sins and that his word is true. Could I be wrong? Sure. I didn’t know Jack Chick personally. I can only speculate based on what I’ve read. But I don’t think he was intentionally malicious. Just paranoid and out of touch with reality.