Life, Death & Jack Chick Or, Why Can’t Johnny Sin?

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by Michael Heaney, Creative Director //

Perhaps you recall coming out of the supermarket one fine afternoon to find a bizarre little publication nestled comfortably under your windshield, waiting to be taken home to begin its task of soul nurturing. Those of you who recognize the title probably are already cringing in terror; I urge you to take another look at these fine works. In case my bias is unclear, I give Chick tracts two thumbs up and an Our Father. Putting aside any other merits these little books might contain, there is one simple fact about Chick tracts that makes them worthy in my world: they can save souls! I mean, sure, Angela’s Ashes was a good read, but did it keep me from burning for all eternity in the fiery pits of hell? I’m afraid that it did not. It’s a good thing I found Chick tracts when I did. Of course, some of you are undoubtedly still in the dark as to what Chick tracts are and are probably starting to lose patience.

Let me begin by telling you the story of my first chick tract. It all began one fine June day in Columbus Missouri. I had just stumbled out the doors of the Motel 6 where I was staying, my eyes blurry, by soul tarnished, when there on the ground my eye caught something strange. There on the ground lay a little book, about two by six inches, upon which read the title Doom Town. I opened it and was swept away into the world of chick tracts, a land where Jesus rules, the Devil corrupts, and all your good works can’t buy you a ticket to heaven. It’s a world of evil homosexuals and wealthy Buddhists, holy assassins and dead little kids. It’s a place for saving the soul or for damning it! Chick tracts are, for a more concrete definition, small booklets published on a variety of topics all related to finding Jesus and saving souls. They range in subject material from why Jesus loves you [or hates you, depending], to what happened to Sodom, or why Catholics are evil. Most importantly, they tell you how to change your ways in order to avoid hell.

Since that first one, I’ve been hooked. I read every tract I can find. They just keep getting better, and so do I. I can completely guarantee their validity, as proof I simply offer up the evidence, namely that I’m not in hell. Of course, chick tracts shouldn’t be viewed as just a bunch of insane little rants written by a bizarre fundamentalist psycho, because they’re a lot more than that. Brilliantly written and superbly illustrated, chick tracts provide the last, best word in religious literature. In Doom Town [my first and favorite Chick Tract], we learn the powerful and moving story of Sean, a pleasant young gay man who learns the errors of being homosexual [a lesson we could all stand to be reminded of from time to time]. Chick takes the bold move of telling his story in the third person, providing the reader with a sense of honesty and realism that grabs you and keeps your attention. My God, you say to yourself, this is the real thing! Jack confronts Sean with the sins of his actions, using the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate to fate that awaits sinners, particularly the gay kind.

As the story comes to an end, swayed by the purity and strength of Jack’s argument, Sean repents and finds Jesus. There won’t be a dry eye at the end of story hour as Jack tells Sean that all men deserve hell.

Beyond being a good read, Chick tracts are very educational. Challenging many institutionally backed beliefs, they challenge us to look beyond the lies of our society to the bitter truth beneath. From Chick tracts we learn such useful facts as the true age of the earth, how to make oil out of garbage, and why you should never ever pray to Mary, or anyone named Mary, or even acknowledge that the name Mary exists.

For Chick, writing is like faith, it comes naturally, without thought or effort. Though his metaphors are cliched and his analogies just plain bizarre, he has developed a unique and interesting style that one can never mistake. He prefers to place the sinner in the role of the protagonist, with the story ultimately ending in his redemption or condemnation in the pits of fire. While it might sound like the theme would grow redundant, Chick always manages to place a unique spin on it which, mixed with the urgency of his message, makes every reader into a tract addict. Chick is a self proclaimed Witnesser. He supposedly began life a regular little hell raiser, but a stint in an acting troupe turned him down the path of Christ. He tried many different denominations, ultimately finding each one too watered down or corrupt for his super pious soul. His revelation came while driving along the road. [A St. Paul reference?] when he came across several hippies loitering on the side. Suddenly his heart was open, and he knew what he must do, which is to say that he immediately pulled up beside them and began preaching his own special version of the gospel. Since then, Chick has founded his own movement in the Protestant faith. He’s a fundamentalist’s fundamentalist, the sort of guy who Billy Graham looks at and says, “Freak man, you’re just a fuckin’ freak.”

Chick’s artistic style is beautiful, combining minimalism with cartooning in a unity of style and practicality which flows perfectly with his narrative. Chick received his degree in art from. well. come to think of it, I don’t think he has a degree in art, but we can at least be thankful that he didn’t end up like Hitler, despite his best efforts. So for a little of the love of Christ, as well as a damned good read, turn to Chick tracts. You can find the latest chick tract on your car windshield, the local Laundromat or lying in open gutters, or simply go to


About the Author

Michael Heaney

See Michael. See Michael seethe. See Michael rant. See Michael detained by Homeland Security.

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