Jack Chick is dead. His ministry has released a statement that he has died at age 92.
If you were raised as a Christian and are of a certain age chances are you have seen, or perhaps even handed out, tracts from Chick Publications. In his obituary Christianity Today says that he has distributed more than half a billion of his cheesy-looking evangelistic tracts. There was nothing subtle about a Chick tract. His black and white cartoon characters gave the message that there were just two kinds of people out there; the true believers and the deliberately and despicably evil.
Over time he told us just who those willfully evil people were in his many tracts. He made it clear that – just choosing a few – atheists, LGBT people, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, those who played Dungeons & Dragons, rock musicians and those who listened to them, evolutionists, communists, intellectuals, secular humanists, and anyone reading anything other translation of the Bible than the KJV were damned to Hell and deserved to be so.
The concept of love was totally absent from his tracts. There was no mention of the love of God, no call to love Jesus or our neighbor. His entire methodology was a “scare them to repentance” horror show. Pictures of Satan holding a horrified (fill in the blank on which wrong-doer) by the throat and saying things like “I tricked you and now you are mine FOREVER! Haw, Haw, Haw.” were the norm.
While they were meant to be evangelistic his tracts drew a lot of fire, even from many evangelicals. I have no way of knowing how many, if any, came to Christ through reading a Jack Chick tract. Equally, I have no way of knowing how many recipients of his tracts came away convinced that Christians are hate-filled people who believe that the supreme delight awaiting them in heaven would be that they got to watch the eternal torment of wicked sinners in Hell.
To me the biggest problem with Chick’s tracts is that they promote a minimalist version of evangelism. The goal seems not to be seeking and saving the lost but rather doing just enough to make sure that we can absolve ourselves of any guilt feelings about them not hearing the Gospel.
Giving out a tract in a hit-and-run style, and his tracts certainly did not lend themselves to starting an intelligent conversation, was the norm. Indeed, since they were so offensive to so many, sticking around to talk after passing one out could be considered dangerous.
I can’t help but think that, in heaven, Chick came to a moment that C.S. Lewis called “exquisite pain;” that, like Saul on the Damascus road, he was knocked off his high horse. And then, also like Saul, he had the scales fall from his eyes and truly saw the grace and love of God for the first time. But we can’t be too smug about that. Each of us, in our own way, can look forward to the day when our own customized, self-constructed scales will do the same.