View Full Version : Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits

10-29-2016, 09:46 AM
Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits (http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/october/died-jack-chick-cartoonist-controversial-gospel-tracts.html)
Kate Shellnutt
POSTED 10/24/2016 06:03PM

Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92.

The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.

Chick’s messages were controversial—including among evangelicals—but his work enjoyed a global reach. His most popular tract, This Was Your Life!, was translated into more than 60 languages.

Chick came to faith shortly after World War II through Charles E. Fuller’s radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” The former technical illustrator began drawing and funding his first comic books and pocket-sized tracks in the early 1960s, according to Christian Comics International. Chick Publications grew to start its own print shop, and took off in the ’70s.

I just heard of this yesterday. Sad to say, I'm not much saddened by this news.

His medium ... I couldn't say Chick was the very first to merge comic book into tract, but he may have been. He certainly was successful, in the volume and longevity senses (>500M copies, >150 titles, ~5 1/2 decades). Knowingly or not, his chosen medium was also very much in tune with US culture when Chick came on the scene.

His message, part 1 ... as was said by a pastor, quoted at the end of the article, "I (don't)see how tracts or impersonal witness is adequate to our message." In the senses of a full presentation of the Gospel or building relationships in which one could be a witness, that is not what Chick tried to do. What he did try to communicate at a very simple level was key basics of the Gospel. He left to the initiative of the people distributing and reading his tracts the task of teaching/learning the Christian faith and becoming active in a church congregation.

His message, part 2a ... one doesn't publish 500M copies in 150+ titles telling the exact same story, and Chick didn't. Some of his topics were Biblical subjects - he was very much into the Dispensationalist view of the end times. Some were people stories: following a soldier in basic through fighting in battle (Vietnam); a self-satisfied materialistic suburbanite meeting his Maker; a revolutionary getting the revolution he desired and being "rewarded" by those who lead/used him. Some dealt with contemporary issues: environmentalism (The world is collapsing! Escape it through salvation and the Rapture!); homosexuality (stereotypes on steroids); evolution (making shallow look deep).

His message, part 2b ... one topic to which Chick returned over and over was the Catholic Church. In sum, he was agin it, virulently. While he apparent said at some point that he was against the institution, not the people, his publications (the ones I've seen) don't make that distinction clear. He didn't go as far (AFAIK) as buying into the "Pope Joan" myth, but he was pretty loony. Having been brought up in the Lutheran Church and having spent decades in Evangelical churches of various flavors, there are areas in which I disagree with the Catholic Church. However, one thing I learned a very long time ago is that whatever disagreements I might have with this or that believer in Jesus, one who is truly a believer is my brother or sister in Christ. We can discuss our points of disagreement, but attacking him or her is just wrong. Working together in fellowship, to the most we can, accomplishes more than keeping isolated from and sniping at each other.

In the mid-70s I worked at a Christian bookstore that, among many other things, carried Chick tracts. I became familiar with much of what Chick published at the time. As should be apparent from the above (if anyone has had the patience to wade through it), I was worse than unimpressed. While some were not bad, some were cringingly cornball and just-so, some were cringingly stereotyped, some made shallowness look profound, and his implicit assumption in his anti-Catholic attacks that there are no Christian believers in the Catholic Church was the epitome of the kind of judging Jesus forbade.

I won't judge Jack T. Chick's eternal fate. That's for God to do. What I do see, with my very limited vista, is that Chick caused much harm among and to Christians. How much good Chick may have brought to his millions of readers, probably only God can know. From an eternal perspective, if we both spend eternity with Jesus, we will both be objects of God's grace and mercy.

10-29-2016, 10:10 AM
But I had misgivings, too. It seemed that some common enemy whether it be Masons, or Roman Catholics, or abortion providers were always caught in Chick’s cross-hairs. Although we didn’t have the phrase back then, it was as though we were known for what we were against instead of what we were for…

…The approach of This Was Your Life, Chick’s bestseller, would haunt me later. As I studied Christian communication at a deeper level, I learned that while guilt and especially fear were good vehicles for making decisions, the decisions often didn’t last when the guilt or fear wore off. Again, we didn’t use the phrase back then, but the tracts resulted in people making decisions instead of making people disciples.

Nonetheless, there were a few comments on Twitter from people who marked the reading of one of the little booklets as the beginning of their journey with Christ…

This was Chick’s legacy. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Chick) describes his motivation for using comic art because he “was too shy to talk to people directly about religion.”


Great post SVPete. The article above sums it up, time would be better spent telling the world what Christians supported rather then simply what some oppose.

10-29-2016, 12:26 PM
A very good article, saying much but less verbose than yours truly.

Striking out against something somehow comes easier to many/most/almost-all humans than speaking well of something with equal strength. Totally different context ... I recently wrote a letter of recommendation for some one I knew was looking for a new job. I wanted to communicate my respect for her abilities and how well she worked with people, but I found myself second-guessing how a third party might misunderstand what I wrote. So, while my recommendation was very strong, I ended up saying a bit less than I might.

The evangelism context Chick seems to have envisioned and addressed in his particular way was pretty much impromptu or planned stranger-to-stranger. I.E. the person you chanced to meet at the supermarket or the people you walk up to during planned witnessing somewhere like a county fair. For something like that, his approach was less in your face than a Campus Crusade "Four Spiritual Laws" tract.

What Chick didn't speak to was the sort of evangelism that happens in the context of building relationships and friendships with people around you. That's a kind of evangelism and relationship in which substantial information can be communicated and learned - and in which a new Christian can be discipled - more naturally.

The term "Evangelical" is rather vague, as to who is one. It's used pretty broadly - and appropriately, IMO - including groups as diverse as theologically conservative mainstream Protestants (e.g. LCMS and WELS Lutherans), Baptists, Holiness/Wesleyan, Pentecostals, charismatics, independents, and Fundamentalists. I'm not implying these folks all get along with each other well, all the time, just recognizing their reliance on the Bible (to the best of their understanding). I have a problem with folks - e.g. at DU - who toss around the term "Fundamentalist" carelessly. It's not that I lack respect for Fundamentalists - quite the contrary. It's the I-Don't-Give-A-@#$% ignorance to which I object. As best I can tell, Chick may have been a Fundamentalist. Strong anti-Catholicism is fairly common in Fundamentalist circles - more so than in other Evangelical circles - as is a knee-jerk suspicion and rejection of cultural trends (again, a difference of degree than of kind in comparison to other Evangelicals).

From my limited - and possibly errant -knowledge and understanding, Jack T. Chick is a story of some one diverted from what might have been. The name of another and tract illustrator just came to mind as an artist whomay have done more toward his potential in Christian ministry, Greg Laurie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Laurie). The Wikipedia article doesn't mention Laurie's artwork, but here's a sample from the early 1970s: