So I picked up the mail at our post office box on the way in to the office this morning, and as I was flipping through the envelopes to do the mental calculation of the cheques:bills ratio, I noticed one envelope that was smaller in size. It appeared to be from a client, but was too thick to be just a cheque. I assumed he must have folded up a note in the envelope along with their payment. On the back of the envelope along the top fold there was a reference from Mark 4, something like that. I didn’t think much about it, and gave the stack of envelopes to the receptionist when I came in.
I was happier about the courier deliveries for the day, as they included my new digicam… I wasn’t expecting it before Monday, but it’s nice to have for the weekend to play around with.
Fridays we’ve been known to buy a case or two of beer and crack it open with the staff at 4:00 (the odd Friday, usually meaning the weeks that have an odd number of calendar days in them). It’s a good team-building time and a chance for people to announce particular news or accomplishments for the week as well as knock off a bit early and chit-chat a little before breaking for the weekend. So I’m on my way back to the staff area today and I see a couple of the staff looking at a Chick tract. And not just any Chick tract, but the most famous one, This Was Your Life.
Now, my first reaction was to be a little unhappy about it — although there was a time in my past where these tracts were normative, I don’t so much think these are the best introduction to Jesus anymore. The general reaction seemed to be that they made great reading — which sentiment I echoed, and pointed out that you could read more of them online. Okay, maybe I’m feeling conflicted about the whole thing. Perhaps they make a good discussion point, but… The receptionist informed me that it had come in the mail this morning (oh yeah, that envelope…) and that she didn’t find it amusing, she just found it creepy. Why would she want to read more of them online?
Well…. yeah. I guess not everybody’s going to see it as the unintentional satire that amuses me. “Creepy.” How many other evangelistic efforts come over that way? I remember in college mocking the book Witnessing Made Easy, when a quick excerpt or two made obvious the re-dub, “Witnessing Made Sleazy.” It was big on tracts too.
So I discovered that Jack Chick has his own Wikipedia entry, as does Chick Publications. There’s also a bonus entry, Claims by Chick Publications, though its neutrality is disputed (ironic, innit?).
Soul-Winning Tracts: “Live your life, share your faith.” Creepy.
Missional: “Live your faith, share your life.” Friendly.
What else can you say?
I think his tracts are absolutely awful. I never realized just how bad they were until you pointed me to the website. The anti-Catholic tracts are really bad. I also looked at an anti-Islam one in which Mohammed is called a pedophile. Then there’s the evolution tract in which the teacher is convinced how stupid he was after being confronted by his student.
This guy is aggravating, to put it mildly!
I’d never seen those before clicking on your link. I will say (even as a Christian) it put my stomach in knots. To me, it looked like selling fire insurance in a cheap, sort of used car lot kind of way. I felt kind of dirty after reading it.
In general, I’m not a “tract” person. I’ve spent plenty of time mocking the Four Spiritual Laws; the tract of choice in the evangelical church. So I might not be a good barometer on this.
That had to come as a shock to see in the workplace tho. Did it give rise to any productive conversations, or did it just make you want to dissociate from any sort of organized Christianity?
No, no productive conversations — but I didn’t pursue any based on it, I kinda wanted to go the dissociative route. The same receptionist went to the dentist last week and he prayed for her before he started working… he does that all the time. I actually know the guy and we talked about it and she really likes him for her kids and stuff. From her perspective he’s a nice guy, very gentle, and “really religious or something.” I was doing better talking about the dentist than about the tract. Makes you just want to cut bait and run.
The dentist sounds like safer conversational territory. I wondered, because I always want to dissociate when those things/topics come up in mixed theological company. It’s so embarassing. I don’t know of any light that can shine on it that says, “No, really, He is a loving God.” when my voice is muffled by the paper bag I’ve just thrown over my head (virtually speaking, of course). I wish that there would be something mitigating I could say, but there isn’t. I just try to make myself and my faith small until the moment passes.
I’m with you, Sonja. I haven’t figured out an elegant way of getting from there to a normal conversation. I suppose I could say, “You know how slavery, the KKK and the Crusades were carried in the name of the church and how muslim extremists use Islam to support their cause, and how none of these really represents the tenets of their own faith?” I’m not sure that’s the best route to go… Blaise Pascal said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” I think the same is true of these “soul-winning” tactics. This is why I came up the the tagline for my blog… let’s try relating to people as people first, rather than targets. I guess that’s really the only response, to continue to relate to people, tell them what we think of the tract (or whatever) and slowly allow the Holy Spirit to draw them and their curiosity into more productive conversations — and relationship.
Not that I’m good at this, I mostly suck at being friendly and relational.
LOL at the comment, “Not that Iâ€™m good at this, I mostly suck at being friendly and relational.” Good thing our God is a bigger than our humble attempts at representing him eh? :)
Well, I find your blog engaging because that tagline also describes my values. I dropped looking at people as targets long ago. I can remember the exact moment. I was at some sort of rally, there was an “altar call,” and I had the distasteful sensation that I used to get at bars when I was in college; that these people were nothing more than notches on the bedpost for someone. Granted, it was for a greater end than sexual satisfaction, but still the altar respondents were not unique individuals, they were just fodder to make the rally holders feel better. That said, tho, I don’t know how to make that jump or really if it’s necessary to make it from being a friend to “talking about Jesus.” That feels forced and disingenous. I’m coming to a point where I’m not really sure anymore that the whole “saying the prayer” or “asking Jesus in your heart” or any of those catch phrases are really necessary and that they may just be modern day incantations. I just don’t know for sure, there’s a lot more to God than we give Him credit for.
Well, sorry for taking up so much of your comment space. I’m not very good at being friendly and relational either. Or rather, I have good days, but I don’t do very well at it if there are going to be ulterior motives involved.
One thing about those little chick tracts that “seem to materialize under your fingers” is that they seem to get read.