God have mercy on the soul of Jack Chick, the father of countless garish mini comics that litter laundromats and bus stations around the globe. Chick’s infamous cartoon tracts have been translated into hundreds of languages and are meant to terrify unbelievers into a godly way of life.
Chick was 92 when he died yesterday. He had been pumping out his comics for decades and decades, warning people away from such dangers as Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, C.S. Lewis, evolution, Pat Robertson, Halloween, and of course Catholicism. The Catholic Church was a favorite target, and his tracts advance a version of Church history that can only be described as ultrabonkers.
He says, for instance, that the Vatican keeps a “big computer” on which is listed your (yes, your) name, to streamline future persecutions; that the Church created both Islam and the Holocaust to help it oppress the Jews; and that the secret commie John Paul II engineered his own fake assassination attempt. Also, it was the Jesuits who killed Abraham Lincoln.
Even if you do believe that Catholicism is a false, non-Biblical religion that leads Christians astray . . . seriously, Abraham stinkin’ Lincoln.
The comics are flashy and grotesque, full of fat, grinning demons, smarmy tempters, spittle-flecked evildoers with pouchy cheeks and wickedly curling eyebrows, and hapless victims with sweet, vulnerable eyes and gently curling hair. Angels drag astonished souls through the heavens like bundles of laundry; sweaty Arabs wield evil, eastern daggers; the dead pop up through the soil of their graves like jack-in-the-boxes, scratching their heads in astonishment as they come face to face with immortality, of all things.
Chick’s materials openly scream “I AM EXTREMELY CRAZY AND SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED WITH THE CARE OF A HOUSE PLANT, MUCH LESS YOUR SOUL.” So why did he have such a huge following, and why was his business so robust? What is it that makes functioning adults trust, believe, and even champion a cause led by an obvious lunatic, and what makes them not even care whether he’s telling the truth?
Along with his prowess for crude emotional manipulation, Chick masterfully wielded two powerful weapons: fear and self-righteousness. They work together. You persuade your mark that he is in terrible, imminent danger of something that cannot be reversed (and what kind of fool would not listen to a warning like that?), and then you persuade him that he can find himself securely on the right side of everything simply by checking the right box
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(and what kind of idiot wouldn’t want to be on the right side?).
Combine the fear that is too risky to ignore with a prize that is too delightful to reject, and you can say any ridiculous thing, any lie that two seconds of research will refute in a twinkling, and no one will care. Think you’re too smart to fall for an appeal as crude as Chick’s? Think again, 2016 America. Fear and self-righteousness Trump reason every time.