Chick Tracts and the Truth

Being brought up in a fundamentalist Bible church I can remember being given Chick tracts to read. I don’t think we had them at home, but you’d pick one up at church or at some Christian event. Their pocket sized format, comic book artwork and lurid, sensationalist style made them attractive and easy to read. Most of them weren’t particularly anti-Catholic. They were mostly about worldly sinners who faced the fires of hell and then got saved. However, the ones that were anti-Catholic certainly made a strong impression. There were pictures of fat, corrupt bishops, ugly priests worshipping pagan deities and unspeakable blasphemies against our faith.

The main problem with Chick tracts is not that they spread lies, half truths, slander and blasphemy about the Catholic Church, but that the authors, customers and people who spread the lies, half truths, slander and blasphemy don’t think they are spreading lies, half truths, slander and blasphemy. They appear to be good Christian souls who think they are serving the truth, serving the Lord and helping to expose a demonic cult called the Catholic Church.

These well meaning Protestants are only parroting the traditions they have received from their teachers who have received the same traditions from their teachers passed down for 500 years of anti-Catholic Protestantism. Ironic then that these folks eschew the ‘traditions of men’. What the authors, printers and purveyors of this anti Catholic trash never stop to do is to check their facts, challenge their sources and find out what Catholics really believe.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said there are very few people who disagree with what Catholics believe, but there are millions who disagree with what they think Catholics believe. Therefore it is important that Catholics engage in apologetics in an intelligent, compassionate and down to earth manner. We should cut through the sensationalism, the paranoia and the hatred with common sense, good manners and Christian charity. Bishop Stika of Knoxville TN has done just this. His pastoral letter is an example of how to deal with the aggressive anti-Catholicism we still find here in the Bible Belt.

In a way Chick tracts and the angry fundamentalists who write them, buy them and disseminate them are easy to deal with. Their anti-Catholicism is ‘inyerface’. What is more difficult to deal with is what I term ‘soft anti Catholicism’. Most Protestants now seem to be accepting of Catholics. Much of the old ‘whore of Babylon’ talk has faded away. Some regard us as brothers and sisters in Christ. However, most mainstream Evangelicals regard us as targets for evangelization. In their minds we’re rather like Mormons: good folks with strong moral values who have been lured into a cult. This is why they expend so much time, money and effort in evangelizing Catholics in Central and South America.

The ‘soft’ anti Catholic Protestants smile sweetly when you tell them you are a Catholic and then proceed to tell you without the slightest embarrassment about their latest mission trip to Mexico where they helped hundreds of Catholics to become Baptists through their slick, well funded mission work. This type of Protestant anti-Catholicism does not seem as aggressive or ugly as a Chick tract, but it’s more effective because far more Catholics in the developing world are likely to respond positively to a sweet Evangelical and leave their Catholic faith than they are to read a Chick tract and leave the faith.

We should denounce Chick tracts, but we should be honest with our Evangelical brothers and sisters and also challenge them firmly but charitably on their continued aggressive Evangelistic enterprises amongst our Catholic brothers and sisters in the developing world. Like the people who distribute Chick tracts, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They think they’re serving Jesus and saving souls. They need to be corrected.

Give More Money For Heaven's Sake!
How to Be a Creative Conservative
It's All or Nuthin'
The Catholic Pentecostal Church
  • Bad Catholic

    I have my Knights of Columbus decoder ring out and am ready at any minute to receive and carry out orders from the Vatican to cut the throats of good Protestants as they sleep . . . If anyone's interested, here's some thoughts which I had back last year on the ministry of Brother Jack Chick:

  • Quanah

    Concerning those who distribute Chick tracts, they may be sincere, but what they do is in no way charitable. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I do agree that the "soft" anti-catholicism of evangelicals is more dangerous though. Hearing about protestant missionaries in Central and South America always gets my blood boiling.

  • kkollwitz

    When I used to teach RCIA we'd spend a whole class on a Jack Chick tract (I think it was the Death Cookie…a classic), and page by page examine his claims and learn useful Catholic responses.By the time we were done, the class couldn't wait for someone to hand them a Chick tract.

  • Ryan Schutt

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Ryan Schutt

    "I have my Knights of Columbus decoder ring out and am ready at any minute to receive and carry out orders from the Vatican to cut the throats of good Protestants as they sleep"So you want to just get rid of every possible candidate for your Tiber Swim Team? Makes me want to get in confirmation line right away…riiight.I know you jest, but statements like that have a tendency to speak volumes.

  • Whimsy

    The reason Catholics make "orders from the Pope" jokes is because Catholics are such an unruly, disobedient lot. On the one hand, we are frustrated with how many of our fellow Catholics are dismissive of any authority — and outsiders say "there are so many bad Catholics that the Catholic Church must be wrong", while on the other hand we are baffled that the SAME outsiders have this notion that Catholics are mindless drones of a foreign sovereign.It's "Gotcha!" one way or t'other.

  • Ryan Schutt

    I wasn't referring to the authority issue, I was referring to the attitude towards Protestants.

  • Estase

    Rednecks left Chick tracts on our windshield wiper during Mass, and this wasn't Tennesee, this was Urbana, Illinois.

  • Babs

    When I moved to Virginia and lived amongst my Evangelical in-laws for the first time, I was immediately invited to a non-denominational church several times by my sister-in-law. I finally had to tell her that I wasn't leaving the Catholic Church. These particular in-laws didn't seem uncomfortable at all telling about the missionaries from their church prosletizing in Mexico and Italy. Like it was said, it is like Catholics are fair game for anyone.

  • kkollwitz

    The problem isn't Jack Chick and other Protestants, it's Catholics who can't defend their faith.

  • Dave

    As an Orthodox Christian, I have the same problem with Evangelical missionaries to Eastern Europe and the Middle East who are there to "convert" the Orthodox.My father pastors a non-denom church in my hometown in South Texas and my folks are always glad with they get someone out of the Catholic church, even though they are pretty much convinced that the local priest had met their criteria for being born again.

  • Robert H

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Robert H

    Thanks for the post. I often run into this, even more so now that I live in a more evangelical area (SC from VT, MA and CA). Just last night I was at Denny's with a couple who started telling me how they could not pray to Mary. I tried to explain the idea of the Communion of Saints, but it is a subtle concept to explain in a non confrontational way. Unfortunately I forgot to mention that the bible they venerate (worship?) is a product of the catholic faith.I have always been a little uncomfortable challenging people on the idea of evangelizing in catholic countries, but your piece gives me some strength. Maybe we should suggest they go to Africa and Asia where the stakes are particularly high.As to the Orthodox countries, being there I can see that in many ways they need some reform to resist the assault, they are ripe for evangelization. In Ukraine and Russia it is very reminiscent of the medieval era, mistresses, lavish life styles, etc., and in Russia they are thoroughly corrupted after the Soviet experience and are now in league with the mafia there. I hope not to offend, just point out.

  • chimakuni

    When I come across a tract such as this, I contact the person who has their phone number on it, make a date for coffee with them and discuss their misconceptions about the Church.I have done this twice now and thanks be to God, those two people know more about what the Church actually teaches versus what they thought. Our exchange was very pleasant and respectful.

  • Ben Vallejo

    The worse Chick tract I ever read was that with Mother Teresa's image on it. I think no decent Evangelical can stomach that!

  • Joe

    A large part of the problem is that, in so many parts of the world, Catholics don't make a serious effort to live up to their Faith. This makes them an easy target for Protestant missionaries.I had a discussion with a Protestant friend about Evangelical missions in Mexico. He posed the question: "What do you want? A Catholic who sins without remorse and has no thought of God, or a Protestant trying to live his faith, with a personal relationship with Christ?"The answer, of course, is neither. But, without proper catechesis and a serious effort to live our Faith, we set ourselves up for such questions.

  • Anneg

    We lived in Central America for a long time. It is the spot of choice for a LOT of Protestant mission groups. Once some friends, protestant missionaries, were talking about a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Gospel in that country. I mentioned that I did not think the Franciscans who had walked across some very high mountains in sandals over 500 years ago had done so just for fun. I only got blank looks, but maybe someday they'll get it. If the Church were stronger, we wouldn't have to be concerned with sheep stealers. So, we need to teach and lead our sheep, ourselves included, Anneg in NC

  • Charlotte

    I just went to the Chick Tract website and read that Death Cookies tract. That is PURE EVIL.

  • StevieD

    An American is listened to in many poorer countries merely because he is American, he/she is pleasant and rich and taking time out to worry about my soul and my life and to listen to me. This is often conversion by flattery. The Mormons know this and admit that they play upon it in Central and South America with effect (and at the missionary's own expense!). The Church needs Catholics prepared to work in those countries and show the same interest and eagerness to teach and befriend. We start with an advantage – they are already Catholic.

  • JM

    Good post, so thank you. Joe's comment is right on. Catholics should thank the Lord for Protestant missionaries in Latin America, and send Catholic ones to work beside them. If the Ctholic Church won't reach tthem, let the Evangelicals. Separated Brethren are better than none, right? Besides, who better to correct them by their very presence?

  • Julie

    Why don't each of us start doing something about all the hatred and misinformation? Why not print copies of Marcus Grodi's monthly newsletter from the Coming Home Network web site and mailing them to 5 or 10 or so protestant clergy or ex-catholics that we know? Anonymously or non, your choice. What do you think? I am not thankful for protestant missionaries by the way. They are unwittingly spreading misinformation, bigotry and prejudice and pulling people from the Eucharist.

  • romishgraffiti

    I am not thankful for protestant missionaries by the way.I'm certainly not thankful when they go to predominatley Catholic countries under the idea that they are not Christians. That is, I'm not thankful for sheep stealing.

  • Ryan Schutt

    "I am not thankful for protestant missionaries by the way. They are unwittingly spreading misinformation, bigotry and prejudice and pulling people from the Eucharist."Careful with your generalizations. I'll grant you this, there are a lot of misinformed Protestant missionaries out there. However, I don't think its fair to label 'Protestant Missionaries" as bigots.

  • Julie

    Ryan, You'll understand what I mean if you read about the discrimination Catholics face often in Guatemala by Evangelicals. I don't mean to generalize protestant missionaries. I don't think we need to roll over and say how wonderful they are however when they are working to decimate the Catholic populations. We need to also work in the vineyard. Why are we so complacent?

  • Arnobius of Sicca

    I've always been amazed at how people could actually believe such bizarre claims. I think Msgr Knox once said that it happens because people know nothing of the Church and are willing to believe the worst of it.

  • JP

    Seems to me there are lots of Catholics doing missionary work. They've been doing it for about 2000 years. Mostly religious perhaps, but I do know of lay people who have done this work.Could there be more? Of course! But a married lay-person's first call is to his or her family.And for myself, the Chick-totin' fundies did a great deal to strengthen my Catholic faith. It isn't a road I would necessarily recommend.

  • Rehoboth

    Chick tracts are attractive????? As a former fundamentalist who suffered embarrassment by Chick Tract over and over — attractive to whom? :)My rude awakening concerning fundamentalism is linked to one John Todd who claimed to be a former warlock. He went around to fundamentalist churches warning them against people like J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis among many others whom he claimed were warlocks/witches. He wrote a number of tracts for Jack Chick about the topic.Later, he was discovered to be a fraud – which information the fundamentalist church I attended at the time never passed along to the congregation.

  • Ryan Schutt

    "I don't think we need to roll over and say how wonderful they are however when they are working to decimate the Catholic populations."Well as a Protestant I agree with you. I am often uncomfortable when my mom's friends talk about their mission work in Portugal to Catholics. But at the same time, I recognize that both groups of Christians are to blame, not just misinformed Protestant missionaries. I'm encouraged to see renewal in Catholic parishes, in the Catholic youth, and in overseas work. That's great. I'm sorry for the problems Protestant missionaries have created, however, I'm also not going to write their ministry and work off because of what other people have done or not done.

  • Julie

    Ryan, God bless you. Your words mean a log.

  • Julie

    Ryan,Oops! You know what I mean. A LOT. God bless.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    "Archbishop Fulton Sheen said there are very few people who disagree with what Catholics believe, but there are millions who disagree with what they think Catholics believe."Bad quote. Correct version is as follows:Archbishop Fulton Sheen said there are very few people who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they think is the Catholic Church."

  • Ryan Schutt

    Julie, thank you for your words…don't worry, I knew what you meant :-)

  • Julie

    Ryan, Thanks. Oh, chimakuni, you are brave! What a great thing to do. I could never do that, talk to people face to face. I can't help but think Satan wants us to attack each other. The most vicious hatred I've witnessed is one Christian for another, even worse than when secular people attack us.

  • KMT

    Please don’t send things anonymously. It is creepy and destroys whatever witness you think you are giving to the truth.