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Chick tracts are short evangelical gospel tracts, originally created and published by American publisher and religious cartoonist Jack Chick. Since his death, his company (Chick Publications) has continued to print new tracts using other authors working for the company.
Although many of Chick's tracts express views that are generally accepted within Christian theology, several tracts have expressed controversial viewpoints. Most notably, Chick tracts were known for expressing strongly anti-Catholic views, as well as his criticisms of other faiths including Islam and Mormonism.
Chick Publications produces and markets the Chick tracts, along with other comic books, books, and posters. Chick Publications has its headquarters in Rancho Cucamonga and a mailing address in Ontario, California.
The company estimates it has printed over 800 million tracts during its first 50 years of business. On its website they note that "Our ministry is primarily publishing the gospel tracts of Jack T. Chick, but we do occasionally publish a manuscript in book form." They state that if the content "educates Christians in one of the areas for which we have a tract, we would love to see it" and cite several examples; the online store lists nearly a dozen book categories.
As of January 2015, Chick Publications had produced over 250 different titles, about 100 of which are still in print, and are available in over 100 languages.
Format and storylines
The tracts themselves are approximately three inches high by five inches wide in dimension, and approximately twenty pages in length. The material is written in comic book format, with the front panel featuring the title of the tract and the inside back panel devoted to a standard sinner's prayer. The back cover of the tract contains a blank space for churches to stamp their name and address; Chick Publications is willing to print custom back covers, but at least 10,000 tracts must be ordered.
The storyline commonly features at least one Christian person and one or more "non-Christians". Depending on the storyline the "non-Christian" may be 1) a stereotypical "wicked person" (such as a criminal; an example being the eponymous character of the tract Bad Bob!), 2) a member of a "false religion" (as Chick defines such; an example being the Mormon missionaries from The Visitors), and/or 3) a "moral person" depending on "good works" to gain eventual entrance to Heaven (as opposed to salvation through Jesus Christ; an example is the marshal in Gun Slinger). In these storylines, the Christian attempts to convert the non-Christian to Christianity (and may also feature a contrast where another character, often the "moral person", does not), with the convert receiving entry into heaven, while the person rejecting the message is condemned to hell. The endings may feature a recycled scene in which Jesus Christ (portrayed as a giant, glowing, faceless figure sitting on a throne) condemns or welcomes a character, an angel taking the believer to Heaven, and/or the non-believer meeting demons upon his/her arrival to Hell.
Chick tracts end with a suggested prayer for the reader to pray to accept Jesus Christ. In most of these tracts it is a standard sinner's prayer for salvation. In the tracts dealing with "false religions", the prayer includes a clause to reject these religions. Included with the prayer are directions for converting to Christianity, which is also repeated on the inside back panel along with steps to take should the reader convert to Christianity.
Strips, Toons, and Bluesies, written by Douglas Bevan Dowd and Todd Hignite, stated that "it's safe to assume Chick saw at least some" Tijuana bibles since the books and, according to Dowd and Hignite, Chick tracts were "strikingly similar" to Tijuana bibles; like Tijuana bibles the tracts mostly targeted youth of lower socioeconomic classes and "were loaded with stereotypes". The book stated that Chick tracts contained "way-out, wild" portrayals of recreational drug usage and portrayed "the sexual revolution". In addition the comics included supernatural elements, occult rituals, torture, and cannibalism.
Catholicism is a frequent target of Chick tracts and other writings. No fewer than 20 of the tracts are devoted to Catholicism, including Are Roman Catholics Christians? (arguing that they are not), The Death Cookie (a polemic against the Catholic Eucharist), and Why Is Mary Crying? (arguing that Mary does not support the veneration Catholicism gives her).
Elsewhere, Chick defended the controversial Alberto Rivera in at least one book and in an entire series of six full-length comics. Chick also asserted that the Catholic Church, in a grand conspiracy, created Islam, Communism, Nazism, and Freemasonry. In The New Anti-Catholicism, religious historian Philip Jenkins describes Chick tracts as promulgating "bizarre allegations of Catholic conspiracy and sexual hypocrisy" to perpetuate "anti-papal and anti-Catholic mythologies". Michael Ian Borer, a sociology professor of Furman University at the time, described Chick's strong anti-Catholic themes in a 2007 American Sociological Association presentation and in a peer-reviewed article the next year in Religion and American Culture.
Catholic Answers published a response to the claims of Chick Publications against Roman Catholics and a criticism of Chick tracts in general called The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick, detailing the inaccuracies, factual errors, and how a "typical tactic in Chick tracts is to portray Catholics as being unpleasant or revolting in various ways".
Chick tracts are unequivocal and explicit in their opposition to homosexuality, and repeatedly employ two anti-homosexual themes:
- the belief that God hates homosexuality and considers it to be sinful, and
- the true nature of homosexuality is revealed in the Christian interpretation of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah story.
According to Cynthia Burack, Chick's earliest anti-homosexuality tract, The Gay Blade (originally written in 1972, revised in 1984 and now out-of-print except by special order), borrowed several of its frames from a 1971 Life magazine photo-essay on the Gay Liberation movement, but with the images altered to make the gay men look more dissolute or stereotypically feminized.
Chick published several anti-evolution tracts, but Big Daddy? (which also attempts to refute the existence of the strong nuclear force) remains "the most widely distributed anti-evolution booklet in history".
Critics point out that the Big Daddy? tract mainly uses Kent Hovind as a reference, despite the fact that Hovind has no degrees from accredited institutions in the relevant fields, that the thesis referred to is considered to be of very poor quality, and that his claims are at odds with the published statements of experts in the field.
Big Daddy? is presented in the 2007 book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters as a "typical of the genre" example of just how "misleading and dishonest" creationist presentations are. The examples of the "deceptive and misleading" distortions, misrepresentation, and fabrications presented in that work regarding Big Daddy? are "Nebraska Man" (the misinterpretation of which was corrected after only a year and its existence was debated from the beginning), "New Guinea Man" (which is actually Homo sapiens), and the implication "Cro-Magnon" man was viewed as different from Homo sapiens.
Views on Satanism and Satanic influence
The concept of malign influences led to the theme of spiritual warfare being frequently portrayed in the tracts. Chick considered all forms of witchcraft to be demonic, regardless of whether it was "white witchcraft" (i.e. purportedly using such gifts for good) or "black witchcraft" (i.e. purportedly using such gifts for evil). Gladys is an example of one of Chick's tracts on this issue. Consistent with his views on demonic influence, Chick also considered Halloween to be "the devil's holiday" and opposed Christians celebrating it, with one notable exception – Chick did not oppose Christians engaging in the traditional Halloween custom of passing out candy to neighborhood children, considering it to be an opportunity to present the Gospel message via his tracts.
Based on Chick's views on Satanism and Satanic influence, Catholic Answers states that "Chick portrays a world full of paranoia and conspiracy where nothing is what it seems and nearly everything is a Satanic plot to lead people to hell."
The tracts' claims about conspiracies are based in large part on the testimony of people who claim to have been members of these groups before converting to Evangelical Christianity, most prominently Alberto Rivera and William Schnoebelen. Many of Chick's critics consider these sources to be frauds or fantasists. One such case was "The Prophet", a tract containing a fantastic tale related by Rivera of how the papacy helped start Islam that turned out to have no basis in reality.
Parodies and popular culture
- A live-action film Dark Dungeons, based on the Chick tract of the same name that warns against the supposed evil influence of Dungeons and Dragons, was released in August 2014. Producer JR Ralls was given the rights to the tract for free after contacting Chick.
- Devil Doll? by Daniel Clowes, Antlers of the Damned' by Adam Thrasher, Jesus Delivers! by Jim Woodring and David Lasky, and Demonic Deviltry by "Dr. Robert Ramos" (actually Justin Achilli of White Wolf Game Studios).
- Issue #2 of Daniel K. Raeburn's zine The Imp, which consists of a lengthy essay on Jack T. Chick's work and a concordance of terms and concepts used in his comics, has dimensions and covers that imitate a Chick tract.
- Two parodies by Jack C. Trick, LLC and published by Trick Publications titled Chemical Salvation? (2006) and ADAM & EVIL?! (2007) tell the history of LSD and MDMA. The LSD Trick tract, which was released on Albert Hofmann's 100th birthday and was partially reprinted in a recent biography of the inventor of LSD, also appeared in a Japanese translation and a Spanish translation.
- The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by cartoonist Robert Crumb, published in Weirdo magazine in 1986, parodies the style of a Chick tract comic sequence.
- A parody entitled The Collector was drawn by cartoonist Hal Robins and included in chapter 13 of The Art of Jack T. Chick by Kurt Kuersteiner (2004, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.).
- The first edition of the Season 1 Blu-ray of the animated comedy show Rick and Morty came with a print version of The Good Morty, a parody of Chick's work which also appears in Season 1 Episode 10 titled "Close Encounters of the Rick Kind." The comic is written by Justin Roiland & Ryan Ridley and illustrated by Erica Hayes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Chick Publications as an active hate group. The group was listed due to its strong anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, and anti-homosexual rhetoric. Chick's views on homosexuality have angered gay activists since his first tract on the subject in 1972 (The Gay Blade tract warned of a gay agenda to push for same-sex marriage and urged homosexuals to repent so they could make it into heaven).
The Hindu American Foundation put out an electronic PDF paper called "Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus" which contains a section on Chick's site; the paper ends with the statement "Chick Publications promotes hatred not just against Hindus, but also towards Muslims, Catholics, and others as is evidenced by the following titles of their tracts: 'Last Rites – When this Catholic dies, he learns that his church couldn't save him'; 'The Little Bride – Protect children against being recruited as Muslims. Li'l Susy explains that only Jesus can save them'; and 'Allah Had No Son – The Allah of Islam is not the God of creation'" (in both these anti-Islamic tracts Allah is revealed to be a pagan moon god).
The content of That Crazy Guy! was changed after the rise of the AIDS crisis (the tract was originally about herpes). Also, the ending to The Poor Little Witch (in which a little girl is murdered by Satanists after forsaking occultism and converting to fundamentalist Christianity) was changed because the urban myth which states that "every year in the U.S. at least 40,000 people ... are murdered in witchcraft ceremonies" (about twice the entire reported homicide rate for the U.S.) turned out to be false and was removed from the tract. Chick Publications depicts Paganism and Neo-Paganism as forms of Satanism, a position Neo-Pagans and other observers strongly dispute.
The Chick Publications website is blocked in Singapore. In December 2008, a Singaporean couple was charged with sedition for distributing the Chick tracts The Little Bride and Who Is Allah?, said to "promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims in Singapore".
In October 2011, the Northview Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Ohio gave out copies of the Chick tract Mean Momma along with candy at Halloween. The church received complaints from parishioners, and its pastor apologized for issuing the tracts, saying that, "Our church does not endorse this type of extreme methodology that was represented in this particular tract, and we can assure you that we will not let this happen again ... our church is a loving church that loves souls and wants to do all we can in our community to help as well as spread and share the Gospel message of Christ."
In 2014, the Chick tract Unforgiven was distributed by Bible Baptist Church in Garden City, Roanoke, Virginia and drew outrage from the area's Muslim community. The tract tells the story of an African-American man who, while in prison, is coerced into joining the Islamic faith and changes his name to Muhammad. Upon his release he threatens his Christian grandmother. Hussain Al-Shiblawi, a local man, told WDBJ-TV that he gets pamphlets from the church every Sunday and that they are typically inspirational, but that this one was different. "It basically indicated that the people are violent, the religion itself is violent, and the facts in here are not true," he said. "It shows him trying to kill his mother saying, 'If you weren't my grandma, I'd kill you where you stand, Allahu Akbar.'" In one scene, the grandmother begs Lamont to return to the Christian faith, telling him he will "die in [his] sins" and be unforgiven by God if he does not. But the young man is not swayed by her pleas. "I choose Muhammad! And I hate your Jesus, your Bible and you!" he screams. "Get out of my house, you infidel!" Bible Baptist Church said the church did not write the tract and simply distributed it.
In July 2020, UK Police investigated the distribution of Chick publications in Bristol, England.
- "English Tract Assortment Pack". Chick Tracts. Archived from the original on June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
- Chapman, Roger (2010) Culture Wars: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices, Volume 1 M E Sharpe, p. 84
- "Company Profile:Chick Publications, Inc". Dun and Bradstreet, Inc. 2007. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2008.
- "FAQ: Will Chick Publications publish my book?". Chick Publications, Inc. 1984–2008. Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved February 25, 2008.
- "ChickComics.com: The Jack Chick Museum of Fine Art". The Chick Tract Collector's Club; Not affiliated with Jack T Chick, LLC. 2015. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- Bivins 2008, p. 41.
- "Bad Bob!". Chick.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Jack Chick (w). The Visitors (1984), retrieved on 2006-12-07
- "Gun Slinger". Chick.com. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- "The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick | Catholic Answers". Catholic.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Dowd, Douglas Bevan; Hignite, Todd (2006). Strips, Toons, and Bluesies. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-56898-621-0.
- Jack Chick (w). Are Roman Catholics Christians? (1985), retrieved on 2006-12-07
- Jack Chick (w). The Death Cookie (1988), retrieved on 2006-07-16
- Jack Chick (w). Why is Mary Crying? (1987), retrieved on 2006-12-07
- Akin, Jimmy (2008). The Nightmare World of Jack Chick. San Diego: Catholic Answers.
- Hunter, Sidney (1988). Is Alberto for Real?. ISBN 978-0-937958-29-2. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
- "The compelling testimony of Alberto Rivera, a former Jesuit priest". Chick.com. Archived from the original on May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "Comic List". Chick.com. Archived from the original on December 1, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Jack Chick (w). Mama's Girls (2012), retrieved on 2013-02-16
- Jenkins, Philip (2004). The New Anti-Catholicism. City: Oxford University Press, USA. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-19-517604-9.
- Borer, Michael. (2007) "Drawing Religious Battle Lines: The "Culture Wars Work" of Jack Chick's Anti-Catholic Cartoons""Drawing Religious Battle Lines: The "Culture Wars Work" of Jack Chick's Anti-Catholic Cartoons" paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York, New York City, Aug 11, 2007
- Borer, Michael Ian; Murphree, Adam (Winter 2008). "Framing Catholicism: Jack Chick's Anti-Catholic Cartoons and the Flexible Boundaries of the Culture Wars". Religion and American Culture. 18 (1): 95–112. doi:10.1525/rac.2008.18.1.95.
- "The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick". Archived from the original on September 4, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "The Gay Blade". Chick.com. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Burack, Cynthia (2008). Sin, Sex, and Democracy. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 33–66. ISBN 978-0-7914-7405-1.
- "Big Daddy?". Chick.com. Archived from the original on November 23, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Moore, Randy; Decker, Mark D. (2008). More than Darwin: an Encyclopedia of the People and Places of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy. Greenwood Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-313-34155-7.
- Vickers, Brett (1998). "Some Questionable Creationist Credentials". Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- Bartelt, Foley, Ph.D. (2001). "The Dissertation Kent Hovind Doesn't Want You to Read". Archived from the original on July 18, 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- Foley, Jim (August 31, 2001). "Fossil Hominids: Big Daddy?". talkorigins.org. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- Fowler, Robert B. (2001). The World of Jack T. Chick. Last Gasp. pp. 2–10. ISBN 0-86719-512-6.
- Wolf, John; James S. Mellett (1985) "The role of "Nebraska man" in the creation-evolution debate" Archived 2012-03-13 at the Wayback Machine Creation/Evolution 16:31-43, National Center for Science Education
- Prothero & Buell 2007, pp. 334–335.
- "Gladys". Chick.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Chick portrayed this dramatically in the tract The Little Princess (http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0063/0063_01.asp Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine), the story of a terminally-ill young girl who receives a Chick tract from her neighbors on Halloween, accepts Christ and has the neighbors share the Gospel with her family, before dying later that night.
- "The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick". Archived from the original on September 4, 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2010.
- Hodapp, Christopher; Von Kannon, Alice (2008). Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-470-18408-0.
- Camp, Gregory S. (1997). Selling fear: Conspiracy Theories and End-Times Paranoia. Baker Pub Group. p. 189. ISBN 0-8010-5721-3.
- Lewis, James R. (2001). Satanism Today: an Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-57607-292-9.
- Jack Chick (w). The Prophet 6 (1988), Chick Publications, retrieved on 2011-07-03
- Edidin, Rachel. "A Fearmongering Anti-RPG Comic Gets the Film Adaptation It Deserves | Underwire". WIRED. Archived from the original on May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Thrasher, Adam. "Antlers Of The Damned". The Jack T. Chick Parody Archive. Missing or empty
- "Chemical Salvation?" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 26, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "ADAM & EVIL?! for Web" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Hagenbach, Dieter; Werthmüller, Lucius; Grof, Stanislav (2013). Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD (First English ed.). Santa Fe, NM: Synergetic Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-907791-46-1.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 5, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "SDCC – 'Rick and Morty' Creators and Cast Tease a 'More Intergalactic' Season 2". comicbookresources.com. August 15, 2014. Archived from the original on June 30, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
- "Active General Hate Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on July 23, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
- "Pastor Apologizes For Hate-filled Halloween Hand-out". splcenter.org. Archived from the original on May 8, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
- "Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 21, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "Last Rites". Chick.com. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "English "The Little Bride"". Chick.com. Archived from the original on July 23, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "Allah Had No Son". Chick.com. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- "That Crazy Guy". Chick.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Monsterwax (2000). "Jack T. Chick's Museum of Fine Art REVIEW WING". Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- "The Poor Little Witch". Chick.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Homicide victimization, 1950–2005 Archived 2006-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, United States Department of Justice, July 11, 2007
- Tim (June 3, 2008). "Homophobic Evangelical Comics, Now Available in Singapore!". Trevvy. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011.
- Chong, Elena (December 4, 2008). "Couple on sedition trial". Straits Times. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- Chong, Elena (December 6, 2008). "No ill will intended". Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
- "Mean Momma, Chick Publications". Chick.com. Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Mean Momma tells the story of Petunia Parker, hated by the town for her prior actions and her delinquent raising of her three sons; she scornfully rejects the church and refuses to fear God, only to have all three children die. The tract shows a gruesome detail of one child hanging himself, while a caption quotes that "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away" while showing a tornado hitting her house, killing her only remaining child (the first died in a car crash while attempting to elude law enforcement).
- "Pastor apologizes for pamphlet handed out to trick-or-treaters". November 4, 2011. Archived from the original on November 4, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Unforgiven". Chick Publications. 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2016. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
- "'I Choose Muhammad!': The Fiery Christian Tract That Has Some Muslims Up in Arms". TheBlaze. June 12, 2014. Archived from the original on April 23, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
- "BBC news - UK police investigate".
- Bivins, Jason (2008). "Jesus Was Not a Weak Fairy: Chick Tracts and the Visual Culture of Evangelical Fear". Religion of Fear: the Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 41–88. ISBN 978-0-19-534081-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Prothero, Donald R.; Buell, Carl Dennis (2007). Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13962-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Fowler, Robert (2001). The World of Chick?. San Francisco: Last Gasp. ISBN 0-86719-512-6.
- Kuersteiner, Kurt (2004). The Art of Jack Chick. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-1892-6.
- Doner, Colonel V. (May 23, 2012). Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Samizdat Creative.
- Chick Publications official website
- The Jack Chick Museum of Fine Art
- God's Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack T. Chick – Documentary film on Chick and Chick comics.
- "The Nightmare World of Jack Chick", Catholic Answers
- Critical view by Freemasons