Monday, March 16, 2015

Spooky

Here's a Jack Chick tract that lives up to its title, though not necessarily the way the author/illustrator intended. Jack has another go at Halloween in this one, and delivers the message that wielding fear is a very bad thing - unless you do it for Jesus

Spooky tells the story of Sam and Mr. Hill, two protagonists who couldn't be more different (even if they are destined to be a lot more similar by the tract's end). Sam is a wide-eyed, innocent little kid visiting his Christian Aunt Sarah. Mr. Hill lives in the house across from Aunt Sarah, and every Halloween he "gets a little spooky" when he "makes his home into a haunted house." He does this to "find out who's brave and who's a sissy," and tells Sam if he doesn't come over on Halloween, he's "a little, yellow-bellied coward."

Naturally, Sam goes. As creative as Jack Chick usually is with this sort of setup, only four panels are used to show the haunted house, and they aren't terribly imaginative. Nevertheless, Sam is "really scared," especially when he sees Mr. Hill dressed up like the Devil. Or maybe he's afraid of Bettlejuice standing beside him. I'm not kidding! Chick drew a really good likeness of Tim Burton's ghost-with-the-most. How about that? "You've got guts, kid!" Hill tells Sam, who has apparently passed the manliness test. But Sam's night of terror isn't over yet! On his way home, Aunt Sarah uses Sam's fright to her advantage. "Is (the Devil) gonna get me, Aunt Sarah?" Sam asks. "Not if you do what the Bible tells us to do, Sam," she replies, and proceeds to tell her nephew all about Jesus and Sin and Getting Saved.

"If we can't get rid of (our sin), God won't let us into heaven," she tells him.

"Ugh! That's scary, Aunt Sarah!" Sam replies, putting himself right where she wants him. She tells Sam of "God's great love gift," and that all those who reject that gift "will end up with the Devil... Down in a lake of fire - forever." Upon hearing that, Sam wastes no time getting down on his knees. "God forgave little Sam and saved Him from the Devil's grasp."

Jesus does ask "one little favor," however. "The Lord wants us to tell others the good news that Jesus saves." "I can do that!" Sam declares, and the very next day he puts the Jesus moves on Mr. Hill. "There's no way you'd ever get me in a church!" Mr. Hill tells the young lad. "Why?" Sam wants to know. "Are you afraid to go?" Sam tells Mr. Hill that he sounds "like a big sissy" who is "not as brave as I thought," and "if you don't go with us tomorrow, I'll know you're just a big phony."

Yes, Sam turns the tables on his tough-talking neighbour, using the same tactics that Mr. Hill used to get him into his haunted house. In doing so, of course, Sam sinks down to Mr. Hill's level. Isn't someone whose heart is filled with Jesus' love supposed to be above name-calling and manipulation? Sam even stoops to using Mr. Hill's own words against him; he takes Hill's "little, yellow-bellied coward" and raises him a "gutless, yellow-bellied coward."

"Nobody talks to me like that!" Mr. Hill says, and he's off with Sam and Aunt Sarah to church. Sam keeps the pressure on, in spite of Hill's obvious discomfort. Especially when the priest gets to the good stuff! "So choose. It's either Jesus or the lake of fire!" Mr. Hill makes a run for it. "Stop him, Lord!" Sam prays. Jesus delivers, filling Hill's head with "visions of demons and fire." Hill runs the other way and begs the priest to help him, and gets Saved.

"I became scared of what He could do to me!" Mr. Hill tells Sam on the drive home. "I'm too big a coward to face that nightmare, so I turned to Jesus to save me, and He did!"

What's wrong with this tract? Where do I begin? The whole thing is an invitation to reprehensible behaviour, provided it's done for God. Then there's the central issue of fear; both Sam and Mr. Hill are converted because of it. Even after his Salvation, Hill still seems scared, not filled with the spirit the way the post-Saved are in other Chick tracts. Admittedly, Sam "don't look scared anymore, haw haw!" But like I said, the presence of Jesus within him does not make him any better than Mr. Hill. Salvation is reduced to a protection racket - turn or burn. This tract may convert a few on-the-fence types because of that, but mainstream secular readers will see this for exactly what it is.

And let's not forget the "visions of demons and fire," either. It's not just a vision; Mr. Hill "can hear people screaming" too. Hill may say he became scared "when I heard God's words" in the next panel, but that's bullshit - it was the visions and the screaming that convinced him to "go down front and pray." So why doesn't God use those visions on everybody? It would cancel the need for faith, for one thing. Why have faith in the Bible (and a God you can't see) if you can get visions that prove Hell is real? So why does Hill get the vision treatment? Maybe it's a supernatural gift that only Sam has - based on the art in that "Stop him, Lord!" panel, it certainly looks like Sam is zapping Hill, not God. But why would God give anyone that kind of power if he wants people to come to him through faith? Except he's perfectly happy having them come to him in fear...

Ah, forget it. I keep expecting these things to make sense, or at least stick to their own rules.

"Hell is beyond 'spooky'..." Mr. Hill says at the end. "I turned to Jesus to save me, and He did!" So no more haunted houses for Hill? Or will he simply turn them into Hell Houses? I'm sure he'll do whatever God tells him to do, without thinking or questioning. Fear does that to you, and nothing is more terrifying than Jesus. That is the message, right?

It's a Chick tract. What else would it be?

Likely to Convert - 2
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4

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