Today we learned that Jack Chick, Evangelical Cartoonist, died at the age of 92.
I could’ve sworn I’ve written about him before. I remember doing so. It was a long post about horror and taboos and fundamentalism. Maybe it was on a reivew, or maybe it was on a blog post. The point is, I can’t find it. So I’m putting it here, again.
I grew up on Chick Tracts. My church had them in their bookstore growing up, and I used to read them all the time. There were the “This Was Your Life”, with the protagonist more bleah on his faults until he gets tossed into hell. “Somebody Loves You”, which was a pretty grim about a street urchin, who is told by a girl that “Jesus Loves You” and then the urchin dies because, well, the girl gave the urchin books for a pillow and a jacket for warmth, but didn’t like, take the urchin to a shelter. But that’s okay because Jesus took the urchin in the end, so yay?
It hit me even at that early age that Jack Chick did not like Catholics. Or drunks. Or sinners. Or atheists. Or people who played Dungeons and Dragons (which I never understood). Or anyone, really. And neither did Chick’s God. He was always faceless, shining so bright, but faceless. An angry, angry God that would readily condemn you for doing anything, anything wrong.
Jack Chick also did comic books, which went beyond putting the fear of God in you into, well disturbing. The comic books was where I learned Jack Chick really, really hated Catholics. There’s an image that’s been burned on my brain of some people (can’t remember if they were the Inquisition or not )torturing a young pregnant woman. They had strapped her to a chair, pried her mouth open, and forced her to swallow some sort of bristly cloth by dripping water down her throat.
It was a grisly image, and I don’t think our parents ever knew such a thing was right there among the bibles and story books.
Looking back on it now that I’m older, I’m realizing that what Jack Chick did could be considered horror. There’s always a feeling of dread that almost bordered on demonic when you read his works. I got a stack of them now packed up with the rest of my books. I can’t read them for long before feeling sick. Maybe it’s because he saw anyone who wasn’t Christian as a villian, so they became these sneering caricatures that made you wonder why God would be trying to save them in the first place. And if they did become Christian, in a way, it was worse, because they became these grinning, dead-eyed dolls praising God. It was really creepy. Even the art was always this ugly 60s-era grotesqueness, sort of like Mad Magazine back in the day, but eviler. And over time, it just got worse and worse.
Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t bother me to write horror sometimes. Jack Chick certainly had an impact on me growing up, and it shows in some of my work. And I’ve grown enough theologically to know that there’s always something deeper to my faith. But still, I also recognize that there’s a side to my faith that yes, can be brimstone and fire. It’s a dark place, something to wrestle with.
I’m pretty sure though, that when it comes time to unpack my books, those Chick Tracks may stay in their box just a little bit longer. Maybe a year. Or two. Or ten.