May we interest you in our lord and savior Jack Chick? That’s right, on this episode, we’re taking a tour of the spooky underbelly of evangelism - Chick Tracts. From “A Demon’s Nightmare” to “Holy Joe,” this is going to be one hell of a ride. We read over 250 of these bad boys so you don't have to. You're welcome.
Jey: Tracts are really sneaky. Like, I found one in a movie theater when I was younger, and I distinctly remember being very annoyed because it looked like either a $20 bill or $100 bill wadded up on the ground. And when you open it, it's like, “Here's how to be rich in your life.” And it's ,”Accept Jesus.” Also, to all of the Christians who think that it's acceptable to give you a tract instead of tipping at coffee shops or anywhere else, fuck you.
Clint: The fake money tracts you’re talking about are particularly popular with the Sunday-after-church-crowd. I saw those left on tables in lieu of a tip all the time when I was a kid. And aside from those people just being cheap scum-bags, I really don’t understand the thought process. There is a 0% that a service worker is going to accept your god if you make it abundantly clear you don’t respect their work or give a shit about their earthly well-being.
Jey: Yeah, it's like, “We don't need to tip you, we'll just give you eternal life.” And that's like, that's so rude. Why are you assuming that the person you're talking to isn't Christian? Why do you think that's okay? Like, I still have to pay my rent. Your tract, your little Christian comic book, is not going to pay for my groceries.
Clint: You won’t need groceries in heaven, Jey. And if you can’t afford to eat, that just means you’ll get to meet Jesus even sooner, OK? This world is but a blink of the eye.
Jey: I get it. But it's rude and annoying.
Clint: Absolutely. And this doesn’t excuse not tipping whatsoever - if you go out to eat, you have an obligation to tip. It’s part of the cost of eating out. But it’s one thing to see people leaving tracts instead of tips when they live in an impoverished area like where I grew up, but megachurch preachers do the same shit. Like, Joel Osteen is probably a terrible tipper.
Jey: Joel Osteen. Can we just talk about that man for a moment? Because the way that it is reported that he found money, like, okay, so -
Clint: We told this story already.
Jey: Oh, never mind.
Clint: About the plumber finding money in the wall and all that?
Jey: I have no original thoughts. I'll be listening to the podcast. And then I'm like, “Oh, my God, It's like this thing.” And then and then I say it right after that and I'm just like, “Whoaaaaaa!”
Clint: Hello, everyone, and welcome to How Gay Thou Art, a comedy podcast about growing up queer, Christian and hella confused. My name is Clint keller, he/him.
Jey: I'm Jey Austen, they/them.
Clint: And on today's show we are talking about my favorite nugget of evangelical pop-culture - Chick Tracts.
Jey: We're going to get you saved.
Clint: Whether you want it or not.
Jey: Chick tracts are wild. They are those little comic book things that you find like everywhere from movie theaters to your ass crack.
Clint: They just pop up where you least expect them.
Jey: They pop up.
Clint: So a tract, if you don't know, is just a short form piece of religious or political propaganda. Chick tracts happen to be both. They were created by American publisher and cartoonist Jack Chick in the 1960s, and these little pocket sized comic books rail against everything Jack Chick believed to be sinful from homosexuality to science to RPGs to the Roman Catholic Church - especially the Catholic Church. They’re behind it all, really.
Jey: Before we get super far in, we should list our sources.
Clint: Right right right. We have some real world book sources this time. Jack Chick has been the topic of more scholarly writing than most of our topics so far. First, we have The Imp #2: The Holy Book of Jack Chick by Daniel K Rayburn, who is a professor at the University of Chicago. It looks like a chick track itself, which was pretty cool. We’ll be referencing “20-Sided Sins: How Jack Chick Was Drawn Into the RPG War” by Paul Corupe and also revisiting, Religion of Fear of Jason C. Bivins, which you might remember from the Hell House episode. We also watched Light of the World which is a feature film written and produced by Chick and illustrated by Fred Carter, who illustrated over half of Chick’s tracts as well.
So here's what's wild about Jack Chick - this really blew my mind. Jack Chick is considered to be the most widely read theologian of all time.
Jey: Widely read theologian because there's pictures and you don't have to read as much. It's not as dry.
Clint: Jack Chick has sold nearly a billion tracts at this point. Just to put that into perspective, Pilgrim's Progress, written by John Bunyan, which is the most famous piece of Christian literature outside of the Bible, was written in 1678, and has only sold 250 million copies in all that time.
Jey: Okay, can you give a more relevant example, like 50 Shades of Grey or some shit? Because I do not- Pilgrim's Progress that is not going to resonate.
Clint: The entire trilogy sold 35 million print and e-books between 2011 and 2019, making them some of the best selling books of the decade.
Jey: Thank you.
Clint: So, E.L. James ain’t got nothing on Jack Chick. This might be a better comparison. The Bible sells 20 million copies per year, so that’s 1 billion Bibles every 50 years. Chick’s work has been in print for 61 years now so the Bible has barely outpaced him.
Jey: Wow. Passing out tracts is easier than passing out Bibles to people, I think.
Clint: Easier to distribute and easier to understand. If someone sits down to read the Bible, it isn’t immediately clear what needs to be done to get “saved” in the way evangelicals mean it. Chick Tracts tell a simple, 24-page story and provide a prayer for readers to recite at the end. Easy peasy. Soul won. They’re also one of the cheapest forms of evangelism. The price has fluctuated through the years but they were originally like a nickel. Even today, they’re only 11 cents if you buy in bulk. There are currently 274 different tracts available on the Chick website covering almost any topic imaginable. There is also a collector’s market for Chick Tracts. It’s similar to regular comic books. There are misprints, short runs, signed tracts. Some of them go for hundreds of dollars at auction.
Jey: So how many hundreds of dollars have you spent on Chick Tracts?
Clint: I've only spent like $100 on Chick Tracts.
Jey: Oh, you didn't buy the $500 one that you really wanted?
Clint: I did not. So recently, there was a copy of an OG Chick Tract on eBay. It was a first run printing of A Demon’s Nightmare from 1962, which was Chick’s breakout work. Those tracts were bigger in size than modern Chick Tracts and are very rare these days. But unfortunately, I was outbid. I also found one on eBay that was signed by Clint Eastwood.
Jey: What? You got to get that. You're like, It would be double Clint.
Clint: It's like $2,400.
Clint: What’s hilarious is that I imagine someone must have ran into Clint Eastwood unexpectedly but all they had on them was this Chick Tract.
Jey: And instead of handing him that tract to save his eternal soul, they had him sign it.
Clint: Exactly. On the back, there's a blank space for churches to stamp their information, right? So Clint Eastwood signed in that blank space. Physically speaking, these tracks are about 3”x5”, a small rectangle.
Jey: And there was something else that long - and it's my clit.
Clint: Hey-o! They're 24-pages long and usually have two comic panels per page. The front has the title of the track with a little picture on it and the final page features a sinner's prayer that can be recited for salvation. There's also a little dated yes or no check mark there. Like, “Did you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior today? Yes or no?” I love the idea that someone would read through the tract then check “no” and date it.
Jey: Do you send them in? Like, what's the point of checking it?
Clint: Well it’s your one-way ticket into heaven. It’s proof, an official document in case security tries to hassle you.
Jey: This idea that if you check a box at some point in your life, you still get into heaven regardless of the rest of the life that you led is so insane.
Clint: Exactly. And this is a theology shared among pretty much all strains of evangelicalism, but nowhere is it made as explicit as within Chick Tracts. Salvation through faith, not works. Your behavior is irrelevant as long as you believe in Jesus Christ. And I think you could argue that this theology is central to everything wrong with evangelicalism today.
Jey: So does that mean that you and I are going to hell or not? Because even though we say we're not a Christian, at some point we prayed the sinner's prayer like 80 times.
Clint: According to Chick Tract theology, we should be cleared for Heaven. Although, I never found any examples in Chick Tracts where someone accepted Jesus then later abandoned the faith. They pretty much always end at the getting saved part. You mentioned this before, but Chick Tracts have a reputation of showing up in unexpected places. I've found them in all kinds of weird places through the years. I've also left them in weird places myself. I mentioned this last season but my mom used to hand Chick Tracts out on Halloween. The IFB church I went to also kept a few titles stocked for anyone who wanted to take them. So I’ve been part of the distribution chain both earnestly and ironically through the years. But this is the Chick strategy. The idea is to evangelize without ever having to actually approach anyone. They’re not really intended to be handed directly to someone. They’re meant to be left in public places. A few ideas they provide: in returned library books, inside rented bowling shoes. So when you take your shoes back up to the counter as you’re leaving, drop a tract in there. If you get pulled over, cheerfully hand one to the police officer.
Jey: Is this like how some people have a sticker on the car saying that they support the Sheriffs association so they don't get a ticket? They're just like “Here officer, you thought you were going to give me a ticket, but let me send You to heaven.”
Clint: I guess it depends on how much of a religious zealot you think this police officer is but it could work. Enclose tracts with bill payments - so when you send in your check to the gas company, put a check track in there. Place money inside of a track and give it to a cash cashier at a fast food drive thru. They are very explicit on their website that you should tip and you should not just leave a track. So I did appreciate that.
Jey: That didn't happen when I worked at Starbucks. Everyone would just give me tracts and then drive away because I was the only one in Waco with a pixie cut so I looked like a lesbian.
Clint: As if someone who lives in Waco, TX has never heard about Jesus.
Jey: This reminds me just a little quick segway here before we keep listing places where people can send out their Chick Tracts. All of these places that you can send out Chick Tracts, I would like you to buy stickers on our website and put them there.
Clint: Yes, put a sticker inside of your rented bowling shoes when you return them.
Jey: Yes. Thank you.
Clint: That's genius. I’m just going to start using the Chick Strategy.
Jey: Anyway, where should we put Chick Tracts?
Clint: Inside of pants at clothing stores, toss them in open car windows.
Jey: What the fuck? Could you imagine? Like, first of all, you're driving down the road like your air conditioner is broken and someone just throws fucking paper your way.
Clint: I imagine they were thinking of parked cars, but who leaves their windows down anymore? My first mental image was definitely people driving by while youth group kids are just slinging Chick Tracts into windows.
Jey: You need a t-shirt gun but it's just Chick Tracts.
Clint: Finally, you should have tracts available for guests on your coffee table at home, which I actually do that one. I mean, what else am I going to do with these 250 Chick Tracts I have stacked in my office?
Jey: Did you find all of the ones that you have? Did you go out and like, Pokemon Go this shit? But like with Chick Tracts?
Clint: Some of them, yes, I found through the years, but in preparation for this episode, I bought a private collection on eBay just so I would have them. But the randomness of finding Chick Tracts in the wild is definitely part of the appeal for some people. In fact, some collectors refuse to pay for Chick Tracts altogether. They will only take tracts they find or are given for free.
Jey: Make sense.
Clint: Who's that Pokemon? Oh, Goddammit, I got the Pope again.
Jey: I need to know more about this man. Who is Jack Chick? Did he run his own printing press? Where did he get the money to do this? Like I have so many questions.
Clint: He did run his own printing press and he was completely self-published. His first few comics were printed by an outside publisher, but after Chick found a little bit of success, he opened his own press for the tracts and eventually started printing full size comics and publishing regular books by other authors as well. As far as the seed money goes, he was an artist for a company called Astro Science, Inc. in 1960s California.
Jey: Astro Science Inc.
Clint: They did aerospace stuff. I don't know exactly, but a guy named George Otis bought the company and Jack Chick heard that he was a Christian, so he gave him a copy of his very first proto-tract called Why No Revival.
Jey: Wait, that sounds like a meme.
Clint: Why you no revival?
Jey: Why no revival?
Clint: But this George Otis guy fucking loved it. He said that Chick was a “Man of God” and offered to help him finance his first real tract, which was called A Demon's Nightmare. It became Chick’s first big hit. That’s the one I wanted to buy on eBay.
Jey: A Demon's Nightmare. It sounds like very fire and brimstone.
Clint: Jack Chick is the embodiment of fire and brimstone. And he loved horror in general. Secular horror is where a lot of his inspiration came from. People who visited his office through the years said there would be shelves of slashers like Friday the 13th. Ironically, Chick Tracts constantly rail against anything Halloween related.
Jey: How do we know that he wasn't demon possessed?
Clint: We don't. By the standards of Chick Tracts, he probably was. But here’s the thing - we don’t really know much about Jack Chick’s personal life. He was very reclusive. He hadn’t given an interview since 1975 and it was said that he chose to witness through comics because he was too shy to do it any other way.
Jey: Oh, little introvert.
Clint: Just a shy little guy. He died a few years ago but Chick Publications is alive and well. They continue to print tracts, including previously unpublished works by Jack Chick and tracts written by new authors as well.
Jey: So another parachurch organization? What's their tax info? Let me look it up right now.
Clint: You're never going to believe this, but Chick Publications is not a parachurch and it is a for-profit publishing company.
Jey: There's a for-profit- They pay taxes? This is the first- I'm so proud. You know, they can tell everyone that they're burning. It's really just kind of innocent.
Clint: Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves but I will say that I have more respect for Jack Chick than most people we discuss on this show. He paid taxes, he didn’t want to be famous, he wasn’t scamming people, his work actually has artistic value. We’re going to be getting into the very valid criticisms of ol’ Jack here in just a minute but what does it say about how fucked up the stuff we cover is when Chick Tracts are a breath of fresh air?
Jey: That's wild. No, I'm so happy. Okay, continue.
Clint: So a lot of Chick’s work expresses viewpoints that are generally accepted within mainstream evangelicalism, but several of his comics have been highly controversial, even among Christians.
Jey: Jack Chick might pay his taxes, but the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Chick Publications as an active hate group. “The group was listed due to its strong anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-homosexual rhetoric.” So I'm proud of them for paying their taxes. I really am. But they are a hate group. Focus on the Family isn't even considered a hate group.
Clint: Well they should be. But yeah, a lot of Chick Tracts are objectively hate literature. I don't think there's any way around that. But another thing I find interesting about Jack Chick compared to something like Focus on the Family is that while his comics are often political, he was never involved in politics per se. He never campaigned against abortion or lobbied against gay marriage.
Jey: Gay people should burn in hell. Why do we care if they get married?
Clint: I think he’s had an indirect political impact in ways we’ll explore later but I really don’t think political action was ever his goal. It feels like he had long given up on all that because in his view, Satan controls the government anyway. But something else that makes Chick stand out is how often he has been criticized by fellow Christians. It’s one thing to be designated a hate group by the SPLC, that doesn’t make you very unique in the evangelical world, but Christians have a tendency to close ranks rather than engage in internal criticism. But Jack Chick found ways to piss off damn near everybody through the years. He was kicked out of the Christian Booksellers Association. He was run out of his own church. He's been banned by the governments of South Africa, Singapore, and even Canada. You gotta be really bad to get banned by Canada.
Jey: How bad do your marketing materials have to be that not one but two, no, three governments refute your claims? Like what?
Clint: It’s clear from reading his work that he has a major authority problem. Every type of authority, be it government or religion, is actively controlled by Satan in Chick’s world. And he thrived on the hate. He said, “I routinely ask my secretary if we're getting any hate mail. If she says no, I get upset because I think I'm doing something wrong.”
Jey: This is why we have a hate mail section on our podcast site.
Clint: You'll never guess where Chick got his inspiration for these tracts.
Jey: Where was he inspired?
Clint: They are a cross between Tijuana Bibles and Chinese communist propaganda.
Jey: Oh, God. Oh, God. Tijuana Bibles were those palm sized pornographic comic books back in the day?
Clint: Exactly. Little porn comics and they were pretty much identical to Chick Tracts in terms of size and format. And they were very popular during his lifetime so it’s almost certain he would have seen them.
Jey: So he would have had to sin to even get the idea for Chick Tracts.
Clint: Apparently, Jack was pretty wild as a younger man, at least that’s what he says. He was in the military and had a whole conversion experience after he returned from World War Two. But Chick himself says his inspiration came from Chinese Communist propaganda comic books.
Jey: I thought you were joking. How did he even know what Chinese communist propaganda was?
Clint: He read a news article about how communist comic books were being used to indoctrinate kids in China and thought, “great idea, I’ll do the same thing for Jesus.”
Clint: But some argue that Chick owes more than the format of his comics to Tijuana Bibles. Their pornographics nature also made their way into Chick’s work. I’ve seen it called spiritual pornography, revenge porn, torture porn. In The Imp #2, Daniel Raeburn says, “his comics are a propagandistic conflation of American opposites, that I can only term hardcore Protestant pornography- … pure sadomasochistic fantasy, with an emphasis on the rhetorical foreplay leading up to the inevitable seduction - that submission to Christ. The money shot, when it comes, is a close up of the humiliated but grateful sinner, gasping, sobbing and quaking with passion as the salty body fluid of tears coats his or her smooth round cheeks.”
Jey: Wow, you had to say smooth and round. Yeah. No. You know what? I'm going to agree. That's a hard agree because the few that I looked at were very gratuitous. The documentary that we watched was just tracts strung together with a voiceover.
Clint: Light of the World. It’s Jack Chick and Fred Carter’s magnum opus feature film. Not really a documentary though.
Jey: It's like a cartoon, but they didn't want to animate it. So it's just a storyboard, It's a narrated storyboard.
Clint: Yeah, it’s just a series of oil paintings with narration that tells the story of Jesus, very loosely.
Jey: And it was like, well, this is kind of right, but it's also really wrong. Like, Satan was behind the crucifixion.
Clint: And that Judas was literally possessed by Satan himself.
Jey: Yeah, there was like so much more of this creating Satan as a big bad character. Every good hero's journey needs a good villain and I think they were trying to do that. But Satan doesn't play nearly as much of a role in the Bible. In fact, Jesus doesn't really talk about him much.
Clint: Yeah, Satan and his demons play a much bigger role in the Chick universe than they do in the Bible.
Jey: The whole Story of the Bible that they did when they spent like probably a good third of that just on the torture of the crucifixion, but didn't spend any time on Jesus's teachings. The amount of BDSM that starts with being raised Christian is directly linked to Chick Tracts. I'm just, that's a fact.
Clint: I think next time I go to a kink party, I'm going to take some Chick Tracts.
Jey: They would love it.
Clint: I think you'll love this. Jack Chick was a pioneer of webcomics. I got on the Wayback Machine, which I know you love, but Wayback Machine only goes back to 1996, and in 1996, chick.com was already there and full of content. And for reference, the internet itself was created in 1991.
Jey: The Wayback Machine doesn't even have a record of-
Clint: Yeah, Jack Chick's been around longer than the Wayback Machine can go.
Jey: Wow, that is impressive.
Clint: And they still have the domain name chick.com, which is not nearly as sexy as you think it's going to be. I wonder how many people have accidentally stumbled onto chick.com.
Jey: It’s just like, “You’re gonna burn in hell,” but just a bunch of strapped up torture porn and you’re like, “well, whip it out anyway.”
Clint: Not exactly what I was expecting, but I'm here so...
Jey: The bondage of sin. You know what I'm saying?
Clint: Now that we've established what Chick Tracts are, let's dive into the actual content of these little comic books. What kind of crazy shit does Jack Chick talk about and believe? Let’s start with a few tropes that apply to the Chick universe as a whole. First off, most adult citizens in modern day USA have never heard about Jesus before, and they're always surprised when people tell them about him.
Jey: You haven't heard about Jesus Christ, the thing you're most likely to say when you hate yourself with a hammer?
Clint: And by the off chance they have heard about Jesus, they either barely know anything about him or actively hate him.
Jey: That's just the people with religious trauma like you and me. I don't hate Jesus. I want to be very clear. I think he's an okay historical figure.
Clint: Another common trope is that Jesus is a badass. And this version of Jesus is somewhat common among contemporary evangelicalism. Jesus and John Wayne is an excellent exploration of muscular Christianity. But Chick takes it to another level.
Jey: I think he's not wrong, though, because Jesus is like the ultimate superhero. Instead of one power, he can raise you from the dead. I cannot wait for the Jesus video game that's coming out this spring because you get to play as Jesus and perform at least 30 miracles.
Clint: The demo is out now on Steam actually. But Chick takes Super Jesus to another level. From his Kings of the East comic book, “Jesus cut them to shreds. The blood in this 130 mile valley is four feet deep to the bridle of horses, the greatest slaughter in human history. One third of the world's population is gone.”
Jey: What is this, Revelation?
Clint: I have to imagine so. Additionally, Homosexuals, Freemasons, Communists, Wiccans, tabletop gamers, and more are all actively possessed by demons. Some atheists don't just worship demons, but they actually are demons. And the same goes for music producers, specifically rock music, even Christian rock, which is actually worse than regular rock.
Jey: Oh, so you're telling me the CCM boys are going to hell?
Clint: Absolutely. Or they may just be demons themselves. They're tricking people into thinking their rock is OK when it’s actually just satanic music in disguise. At least Ozzy Osbourne is up front about it.
Jey: Yeah, bite the head of a bat. Meanwhile, the Newsboys over here,
Clint: The only thing that’s going to burn is the Newsboys. Chick is a King James version only guy, no surprise, although interestingly, he does have exceptions to this that we're going to talk about in just a second.
Jey: There were definitely things in that Light of the World movie that were extra biblical or not biblical.
Clint: He’s not super consistent.
Clint: Another big recurring theme in Chick Tracts are the twist endings. These things put M. Night Shyamalan to shame. They’re very similar to the old Feldstein and Gaines EC horror comics. They always had a twist ending. But in Chick Tracts what we often see is traditionally “good” characters going to hell and “bad” characters going to heaven, reinforcing this idea that your behavior on earth is totally irrelevant.
Jey: I know it's just checking the Jesus terms and conditions. Like, this is such a stupid loophole and then everyone's like, “be a Christian for morality.” There is no morality bitches.
Clint: They often say that morality couldn’t exist without god then turn right around and say what behavior doesn’t really even matter if you just believe. And morality is certainly absent from the world of Jack Chick. A tract called Holy Joe is the perfect example of this. It's military themed and probably the closest that Chick ever came to writing something autobiographical. He was in the Battle of Okinawa, which was a conflict where almost no one survived. Of course, this had a huge impact on him in terms of the violence we see in his comics.
Jey: From the PTSD?
Clint: 100%. But Holy Joe, is a Christian in the army and everyone in his unit gives him shit for it, particularly this one sergeant. There is only one person in the entire comic that is nice to Joe and they become friends. But at the end, we see the nice guy being sent to hell because he never prayed the sinner’s prayer, while the asshole sergeant goes to heaven because he repented at the last minute before dying. The end. A lot of these stories follow a similar arc. And all of this is best understood through what Jack called the Ancient Conspiracy TM.
Clint: He believed in a worldwide conspiracy. All of the most powerful scientific, religious, political organizations are all fronts for it; Satan is in charge of it all. And the central player in this worldwide satanic conspiracy is the Roman Catholic Church, which we will be getting into.
Jey: I want to become a priest so I can learn Vatican secrets so bad. But I could not be celibate.
Clint: Yeah, well, turns out I don't think that's really a requirement.
Clint: Chick wrote tracts about damn near everything through the years but some topics were addressed more than others. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised that homosexuality was a very hot topic. In Chick’s view, god hates homosexuality, believes it’s a choice (but also caused by the influence of demons), and that it’s best understood through the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which he frequently references.
Jey: So demons are in the bedroom with you egging you on. So either way, you're having spiritual threesomes regularly.
Clint: And according to Dr. Julie, Jesus is in the room with straight married couples so there’s no escape. I'd rather have a spiritual threesome of the demon, I think. Although Jesus does have a lot of holes.
Jey: We're not going to that. That feels too wrong. That feels too heretical. I can’t-
Clint: Both hands, both feet. The side!
Jey: I'm not going to put my dick - not that I have a dick - but you know.
Clint: Why not? Thomas put his finger in there!
Jey: What? Oh, God, that gives a whole new meaning to rearrange your guts right there. Oh, I'm going to go to hell.
Clint: By Jack Chick rules, we're good. I don’t know. Maybe not. He gets really hung up on the gay thing.
Jey: Yeah, it's a super sin.
Clint: His approach to it is definitely unique among the “sins” he tackles. Gay people are rarely redeemed. A lot of Chick’s comics would show something like a high schooler being convinced to learn magic by a witch/demon but eventually casting it all aside and coming to Jesus. But gay characters are usually cast in the role of the demon. The main character who finds redemption is a kid who was molested by a parent’s friend or a pastor who made the mistake of being affirming. Chick goes to extreme lengths to show that anyone can be redeemed, no matter how terrible they are. Murderers, rapists, you name it, find salvation in Chick’s comics, but not gay people.
And there is some rough stuff in here. There is going to be some very offensive anti-LGBTQ stuff here so either buckle in or fast-forward. A couple quick quotes: We're going to find us some fags to play baseball with and bust they're [blank] heads. Homo heads. In your face fags.
Jey: He's not allowed to use that word. He's not gay. And also, that's not the most problematic thing there.
Clint: No, that's really not even the worst of it.
There is a lot of violence towards gay people throughout the comics and it’s never condemned in the way other behaviors are. Violence against gay people in Chick’s work always feels implicitly justified.
Jey: Why does he think that that's okay? Why does he think it's okay to torture gay people? Like they're already going to hell. You want to play baseball with our heads? Oh, my God, this boils my blood.
Clint: The first tract Jack wrote about homosexuality was called The Gay Blade, published in 1972.
Jey: The Gay Blade.
Clint: Interestingly, when this comic was first released, it was a lot milder. Chick said it was one of his biggest regrets so he rewrote it a couple of years later to be much harsher. He wrote six anti-LGBTQ tracts altogether, 3 of which are still in print. Doom Town, which proposes a conspiracy that HIV-positive gay men plan to contaminate our nation’s blood supply.
Jey: Is that why gay people can't give blood? Is it directly linked to this Chick Tract?
Clint: God, can you imagine? No, that policy pre-dated this tract I’m pretty sure. In another tract titled Sin City, Chick portrays gay men attacking a pastor who's protesting a pride parade and beating him up so badly he's hospitalized, which is literally turning reality upside down.
Jey: Yeah straight-bashing is not a thing.
Clint: The final tract that’s still in print is called Home Alone. This one was particularly rough because it's geared towards younger people and pushes the groomer narrative that is still being fought today. It says that gay men recruit otherwise straight men into homosexuality, that gay people are inherently promiscuous, that gay men are all pedophiles and their orientation is a result of being sexually abused as a child. Woof.
Jey: That was what they preached in church. And it's like, first of all, the evangelicals shouldn’t be accusing anyone else of this shit after all we’ve learned the past couple years. They’ve turned churches into abuse factories. Second, being abused or not abused as a kid has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation. Jesus Christ, sorry, I didn't expect to get angry, but I'm very pissed off at Chick Tracts right now. Every episode we do something on homosexuality because they all hate the gays, but, man, this is next level. Just hitting us in the head with baseball bats? And do you think that's okay to pass out to people?
Clint: What was really interesting about this Home Alone tract though is that despite his ongoing crusade against all Bible translations except the King James version, he references the 1984 NIV Bible here because it's one of the few Bibles at the time that actually used the word homosexual.
Jey: Wow. So that gets an exception.
Clint: The three other tracts, which are out of print but can be special ordered if you buy at least 10,000, are The Gay Blade, which was the original one, Uninvited, which is set at an AIDS clinic, and The Birds and the Bees which is written for young children, like elementary school kids. It’s wild and was promoting the “don’t say gay” paranoia before Ron DeSantis was old enough to even run for office. We posted some panels from that one on Instagram. If anyone wants to see it, just check our highlights.
Jey: No wonder they're classified as a hate group. And also, what's this description for Uninvited? “AIDS - it's a death sentence.” The reason it was a death sentence was because the religious right actively fought against funding AIDS research. And this tract is supposed to be about how Jesus can give gay people hope? You know what? Jesus can't. But you know what can? Prep.
Clint: Very true.
Jey: Put condoms on a strap. I found that out the hard way. I literally went so long avoiding COVID, but I forgot to put condoms on a strap and I had to go get treated for chlamydia.
Clint: I’ve somehow never had an STI. I guess god's just looking out for me.
Jey: Put condoms on your strap!
Clint: And as offensive as this shit is, I think it should also be taken with a grain of salt. I found a great quote from Huw Lemmey, who’s a pretty well known queer author, that said, “As a teenager, Jack Chick made me feel better about myself than a thousand “it gets better” videos ever could.”
Jey: How? Is this sarcasm? Like, what?
Clint: Well I think this gets to the core of why so many non-Christians love Jack Chick's work even if it’s directed at them - it's just so fucking ridiculous. It’s so over-the-top that it’s almost validating. And that defangs it, at least a little bit. And frankly, they can be hilarious.
Jey: But it's not funny because the people passing them out are dead serious.
Clint: That's irrelevant, though. In most cases, Chick Tracts live in a vacuum. They’re found in a bathroom or photo booth. People just pick them up and read them and it is just the craziest 24 pages they've ever read in their fucking life.
Jey: That's fair. That's fair.
Clint: Let's talk for a second about Jack Chick's public enemy #1 - the Roman Catholic Church.
Jey: The biggest satanic cabal.
Clint: Are you ready for a few fun facts about Catholicism? According to Jack Chick, the Catholic Church keeps the name of every Protestant church member in the world on a big computer in the Vatican to use in future persecutions.
Jey: How do they even have that data?
Clint: Because they're the fucking Illuminati, I don't know. In the sixth century, Catholic leaders manipulated the Arabian tribesman, Muhammad, in creating the religion of Islam to use as a weapon against the Jews to conquer Jerusalem for the Pope
Jey: No, this is so- just keep going.
Clint: The Jesuits instigated the American Civil War.
Jey: The Jesuits are peaceful!
Clint: The Jesuits supported the Confederate cause to undermine the Union. And when that failed, they arranged for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They also formed the KKK.
Clint: Jesuits worked closely with Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin to create communism and the Nazi Holocaust was a Vatican controlled attempt to exterminate Jews and heretics.
Jey: Jesus fucking Christ.
Clint: And the Vatican conspiracy is so extensive that through the Jesuits, Rome controls the Illuminati, the Council of Foreign Relations, International Bankers, the Mafia, the Club of Rome, the Masons and the New Age Movement. They also created Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science and pretty much all other religious groups.
Jey: Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness - these are all separate movements.
Clint: Totally unrelated. Chick wrote no fewer than 20 tracts about Catholicism.
Jey: They're worse than the gays.
Clint: Far worse. One of his most notable tracts on the subject is titled, Are Roman Catholics Christians? Spoiler, they’re not.
Jey: They believe in the same Jesus.
Clint: According to Chick, they worship Mary, who is actually a stand-in for an ancient Babylonian god.
Jey: Mary intercedes for you but Jesus is the one that they- okay, whatever. And he was Independent, Fundamental Baptist?
Clint: At some point, yes, but he hadn't been to church in like 40 years when he died. No one would have him.
Jey: Oh, but he thinks he has the right way to God.
Clint: Duh. In Mary's Kids, he tackled the issue of Catholic priests being sex offenders, although he never got around to critiquing all the sexual abuse that happens within evangelicalism.
Jey: Over 700 church staff. SBC is terrible. Always has been.
Clint: Always will be. You'll never believe it, but Jack Chick, he also hated evolution.
Jey: You don’t say…
Clint: He wrote several anti-evolution tracts, but one stands far above the rest. In fact, it’s the most widely distributed piece of anti-evolution literature of all time. Starting to notice a theme here? It’s called Big Daddy?
Jey: Is it about Daddy Ham?
Clint: Sadly, no. Jack’s circle was too crazy even for Ken Ham. The tract is basically just a big misrepresentation of basic evolutionary theory. And of course it is because all of the information came from Kent Hovind, who’s like store-brand Ken Ham.
Jey: He's a tax protester.
Clint: Indeed he is. In 2007, he went to prison for ten years for failure to pay taxes, obstructing federal agents and structuring cash transactions. And then in 2021, he went back to prison for domestic violence against his estranged wife. We don’t have time to go all-in on Kent Hovind right now but we will definitely do an episode one day. He is a total nutjob.
I did find one fun anecdote about this tract. Someone online was talking about Chick Tracts and he said that he used to hand the anti-evolution ones out in his public school science class when he was a kid.
Jey: That's not even a joke. I took all of the Answers in Genesis pamphlets about why it's not real and would take them to school and be like, “No, no, see, Because in my little booklet it says that Dragons came from dinosaurs.” That was back when I was in public school.
Clint: We could talk all day about the problematic shit in Chick’s comics, but before we move on, I want to touch on what Jack is most well known for which is his contributions to Satanic Panic.
Jey: This man started the Satanic Panic back in the sixties with these tracks.
Clint: He was definitely ahead of his time and he is largely responsible for Dungeons and Dragons being dragged into the Satanic Panic. He wrote a little comic tract called Dark Dungeons. It's about Dungeons and Dragons and how it's evil. It was the most widely read piece of religious propaganda related to the Satanic Panic. A few years ago, a short film adaptation of this tract was made with Chick’s blessing. It’s very faithful to the comic and is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen.
Jey: They do allude to other tracks in it, but it is a four part series on YouTube and it is so funny. I can see if you don't believe why you would think that Chick Tracts are just funny little things. They're like, “Oh man, they're the coolest kids in school. It's the RPG’ers, and then you just have a bunch of cool kids walking in leather jackets. And I'm like, “I mean, even my D&D group, they're like the cool, the punk kids, and we're still just a bunch of fucking nerds.
Clint: That's just the way it is. The D&D crowd will never be the coolest kids on campus.
Jey: After watching Dark Dungeons, I went online and found there are so many different Christian versions of D&D.
Clint: Most notably Dragon Raid.
Jey: Dragon Raid was made back in the day. And then there's one that's like Poets and Prophets or something.
Clint: We should definitely play one of them as an episode. That would be super fun.
Jey: I'm so ready.
Clint: Basically Dark Dungeons alleges that fantasy RPGs were designed to get players ready to be in the occult so they could be drafted into a satanic cabal. In the “20 Sided Sins” essay by Paul Corupe, he said, “Without Chick and his original tragic tale of Black Leaf and Elf Star, it's hard to know whether the movement against fantasy and role playing games would have gained as much traction as it did throughout the 1980s. As the figure behind an established outlet for fundamentalist Christian thought, Chick was able to elevate and disseminate these viewpoints to a mass audience that other Christian authors and personalities only dreamed of.” And, you know, people made fun of it. It was just as ridiculous then as it is now to anyone who’s played a tabletop RPG. But it was also effective. This belief was still alive and well when I was a kid in the 90’s and 2000’s. Everyone said D&D was witchcraft.
Jey: My mom took me to this weird prophetic “pray against all your generational curses” thing at someone's house. And at one point we had to read through this whole document that was like breaking off these generational curses of Freemasonry and all this stuff. And you had to apologize to god if you, or anyone in your past had ever played Dungeons and Dragons or you would in the future.
Clint: Another interesting tidbit is that the original version of the Dark Dungeons comic told readers to burn books by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis because they were evil too but that has since been removed.
Jey: Are they like, for J.R.R. Tolkien now that she's a TERF?
Clint: You're thinking of J.K. Rowling.
Jey: Yeah, right, right, right, right. Got it. Got it, got it. My bad, my bad. We're talking about the Oxford people. Sorry, I just had J.K. Rowling on the brain.
Clint: It’s honestly offensive that you would confuse those two.
Jey: There's a lot of J words, man! Jesus…
Clint: Are you ready for a dramatic reading of Dark Dungeons?
Jey: I am so ready for this.
Clint: Let's have you play Debby. She’s the main character. I’ll pull LK in here to help me with the rest.
NARRATOR: A group of college students sit around a large table playing Dungeons & Dragons.
DM: Okay, Wizard, cast your spell!
DEBBIE: Okay, Dungeon Master. My spell of light blinds the monster.
DM: You hit! Black Leaf, you come across a poison trap. Roll to evade.
DM: The thief, Black Leaf, did not find the poison trap, and I declare her dead.
MARCIE: No, not Black Leaf! Not me! No! No! I’m going to die! Don’t make me quit the game! Please don’t. Somebody save me! You can’t do this!
DEBBIE: Marcie, get out of here. YOU’RE DEAD! You don’t exist anymore.
DM: I’m sorry Marcie, but your time with us is over. But Debbie, your cleric has been raised to the 8th level. I think it’s time that you learn how to really cast spells.
DEBBIE: You mean you’re going to teach me how to have the real power?
DM: Yes, you have the personality for it now.
NARRATOR: The intense occult training through D&D prepares Debbie to accept the invitation to enter a witches’ coven.
DM: I’ve brought Elfstar to become a priestess and witch!
CULTIST: Welcome, Elfstar. Now you will become a priestess of the craft and of the Temple of Diana!
NARRATOR: The following morning…
DEBBIE: Dungeon Master, this is fantastic. This makes the game real! It’s not just a fantasy anymore. Last night I cast my first spell. This is real power!
DM: I knew you were ready by the way you played the game, but this is just the beginning. There is so much more. Which spell did you cast, Debbie?
DEBBIE: I used the mind bondage spell on my father. He was trying to stop me from playing D&D!
DM: What was the result?
DEBBIE: He just bought me $200 worth of new D&D figures and manuals. It was great!
DM: Dungeon Master speaking.
(Garbled vocal sounds)
DM: Hey, Debbie! Marcie’s on the phone. She wants to talk to you. She’s really upset.
DEBBIE: I can’t. I’m fighting the Zombie. Tell her I’ll see her tonight.
DEBBIE: Hi, Mrs. Anderson. Marcie wanted me to see her tonight.
MRS. ANDERSON: I’m glad you’re here, Debbie. Marcie has shut herself in her room and won’t come out. She hasn’t been herself for weeks. I’ve been very worried. Ever since her character in the game got killed, it’s as though a part of her died. Maybe you can talk some sense into her.
*Foot steps ascending stairs. Door creaks open*
DEBBIE: NOOOOO! No, Marcie! You didn’t have to do that!
NARRATOR: Marice’s lifeless body hangs from the end of a noose.
DEBBIE: Dungeon Master, I can’t get Marcie out of my mind. How could she do something like this? If I’d left the game, she'd be alive today.
DM: Get your priorities straight, Debbie. Your spiritual growth through the game is more important than some lousy loser’s life. It would have happened sooner or later. Her spirit was too weak.
DEBBIE: But the law of our faith is that we can do anything we want as long as we harm no one. But now we may have harmed Marcie. What have I gotten myself into?
DM: Don’t be stupid, Debbie. I think you’d better let Elfstar take care of things. You’re getting out of control.
DEBBIE: I don’t want to be Elfstar anymore. I want to be Debbie.
MIKE: Hey, Debbie, what’s wrong? Can I help?
DEBBIE: I thought I had all the answers, Mike, but now everything is falling apart! *Sob*
MIKE: Debbie, I told you before Jesus is the only answer. I’ve been praying and fasting for you.
DEBBIE: Why would you do that for me?
MIKE: Because I know what you’re involved in. It’s a spiritual warfare that you can’t win without the Lord Jesus. Come with me to a meeting this afternoon. The speaker came out of witchcraft and he knows what you’re up against.
SPEAKER: You, who are involved with the occult, think you have achieved power, but you have been trapped in a dungeon of bondage. The limited power you have been given is only bait to lure you into destruction. But Jesus came that you might have life and that more abundantly. Jesus sets us free from the bondage of witchcraft and gives us victory over all the power of Satan. God’s Word declares that you must repent. Turn to Jesus Christ and trust Him alone as your Savior. Then according to Acts 19:19 you should gather up all your occult paraphernalia like your rock music, occult books, charms, Dark Dungeons material. Don’t throw them away. Burn them! We’ll do that here tonight. We will also be praying for the deliverance of those who have allowed occult forces to control them. If you want the Lord Jesus as your Savior, come forward now!
DEBBIE: Oh, God! I need help. My life’s a mess. Help me!
SPEAKER: In the name of Jesus, I order you spirits of the occult to leave Debbie.
DEBBIE: Lord Jesus, I repent. I trust that You died for me. Please be my Savior. You guide me through Life. I want You to be in charge of everything, not that lousy D&D manual.
NARRATOR: Debbie burned all of her occult material that night.
DEBBIE: Thank you, Lord, for setting me free.
NARRATOR: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
Clint: So what did that do for you? Are you going to ever play D&D again?
Jey: Well, I quit my D&D group so that I could have more time to spend on How Gay Thou Art. So I don't know. (Miss you guys!!)
Clint: I guess it worked then. Well, this has been a fun journey, Jey, but I think it's time for us to bring it all home. Chick Tracts claim to present a “basic gospel.” The website says, “Once hooked by the cartoons and drawn in by the dramatic stories, readers soon learn that woven into each story is the basic gospel message presented in a way that anyone can understand. No deep theological concepts” - no shit - “no confusion, just a simple gospel message showing that everyone must be born again through faith in Jesus Christ.” This is complete bullshit.
Jey: Well it is getting you to pray the sinner’s prayer…
Clint: But it’s the furthest thing from a “basic gospel” message. These tracts are highly political. They concern themselves with social issues. They rely heavily on pop-culture. If you go to their website, you can browse tracts by category, right? Just listen to these: Abortion (2 comics), communism (2 comics), Drugs & Alcohol (14), Evolution (5), Global Warming (1), Halloween (14), Homosexuality (6), Israel (6), Masonry (3), Military (3). What does any of that have to do with the basic gospel?
Jey: Ironically, Satanism isn't on here.
Clint: That’s too broad. Everything is satanism on Planet Chick. So what are your final thoughts about these things?
Jey: Just this shit that they put in the gay ones? Oh, my God. It made me so mad. It's absurd. Some of it's silly. It's Christian horror and comic books that they think will send you to Christ. But I don't know what their actual conversion rates through Chick Tracts actually are.
Clint: And it's impossible to know. Anecdotally, Chick claims to have gotten tens of thousands of letters through the years from people saying that they got saved because of Chick Tracts. In The Imp #2, Daniel Raeburn wrote a bit I found interesting - “You name any authority, Chick has slammed it. Moms, dads, teachers, cops, psychiatrists, professors, kings, queens, Pharisees, emperors, Caesars, and of course, popes. I think that's the reason Chick Tracts are hate literature. Deep down, Chick hates authority figures, not flesh and blood people.”
I initially agreed with that and I think broadly, it’s true. But it doesn’t feel true for everyone, especially the LGBTQ community. There is definitely animosity in the way Chick portrays gay men in particular. I think he had a difficult time writing redeeming arcs for people he didn’t personally relate to. Gunslingers, bikers, soldiers, construction workers - Jack seemed to empathize with those characters even if they had committed unthinkable sins. But that empathy is absent when he portrays gay men. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Jack Chick. In fact, it’s depressingly common among evangelicals.
And look, I unironically enjoy Chick Tracts. They’re kitschy and offensive and ridiculous. But it terrifies me to think how much Jack Chick influenced evangelical thought, and perhaps in ways we don’t even fully comprehend. I don’t believe Christians were ever Chick’s target audience, but Christians sure as hell read Chick tracts.
Jey: And I mean, it did influence Christian thought around D&D if nothing else.
Clint: But I think it may be even bigger than that. This is a chicken-and-egg scenario, but as I read through all of these, it was shocking how many of the strange and specific teachings I grew up hearing were echoed in Chick Tracts. And I’m not saying Chick came up with all this bat-shit theology but I think he may have centralized and distributed it all in a way that had never been done before. He brought evangelical Christianity’s most paranoid, conspiratorial tendencies into the mainstream.
Jey: I think the fire and brimstone churches really took to these tracts and everyone that is buying these is reading them before they hand them out. It's definitely going to influence their theology. That's probably why Independent Fundamental Baptists have such a big problem with Catholics. Like, I had not really heard the Catholic stuff growing up, but I remember arguing with people in my Christian school that were like, “Catholics aren't Christian,” and I'm over here like, “One of our friends that's literally in classes with us is Catholic and very much believes in Jesus.” So I think that inadvertently this is probably influencing Christians more than non-Christians. He sold almost as many copies as the Bible. That’s insane to me.
Clint: And his sources of information are nonsense. When you read his comics, they are full of footnotes referencing other books or “research articles,” and occasionally Bible verses. But when you actually look at the sources he’s using for claims he makes like “gay men have an average of 500 sexual partners in their lifetime,” it all comes from other hate groups or books his own company published. He presents it in a very authoritative way but it’s all made up.
Jey: Exactly. Because no one actually cares about the sources in Christianity. Like we've cared more about the sources on this podcast than like preachers do in sermons. I think it's also because he made everything easy to understand. He's doing it with comic books, you know, they're all pictures. Other theologians like fucking Luther, Calvin, like whatever, they bring to tears because they just get in the weeds about free will versus whatever. And meanwhile, Jack Chick’s over here like, “Your D&D is demons and you're going to hell.” And like, everyone can get behind that because it's easy to repeat. He makes everything into a spiritual war. You've got demons everywhere.
Clint: Daniel Clowes, he created Eightball, which is a pretty famous comic series. And he even did a Chick parody himself once upon a time called Devil Doll. He had a great quote that I think sums this all up pretty well, “As far as I'm concerned, Chick deserves a place in the comics pantheon. As a comics aficionado, you don't really think of those as being part of the official canon of effective comics. But one day I sort of changed my mind on that. I thought, ‘These comics are really compelling and interesting and I'd rather read these than pretty much anything else published in 1985.’ So one day I made a long trek out to a Christian bookstore in Queens where they had a rack of them for sale, and I bought every single one. I went home and I read them all in one sitting, and it was maybe the most devastating comics reading experience I've ever had. I really felt he almost won me over by the end. And there's really something to be said for that.’”
Jey: Yeah, I mean, Jack Chick had a mission. Normal comic books are out there to entertain and make you buy the next one.
Clint: Yeah, Jack Chick doesn't want you to ever have to read another one.
Jey: Yeah, he wants you to just start going to church now.
Clint: He didn't even want to go to church. He doesn't care if you go to church.
Jey: Yeah. He just wants you to believe in Jesus.
Clint: He didn't give a shit about church. In fact, he actively disliked it.
Jey: You know what? Honestly? Me too. All right, we got things to plug here.
Clint: Yes, we are going to have a Patreon minisode coming out about Jack Chick’s co-conspirators from his artist Fred Carter to certified insane people John Todd, Alberto Rivera, and Rebecca Brown.
Jey: Join our Patreon so you can listen to that because I can't wait to record it.
Clint: It's going to be great. Honestly, we’ve just scratched the surface of the Chick insanity.
Jey: Follow us on socials. So we're @HowGayThouArt on Twitter, Instagram.
Jey: Oh, yeah, we got a Facebook page. Let's see. Also, we are selling merch now, so go buy it, please. I will beg you if that's what you're into.
Clint: I've bought a lot of it.
Jey: You're the only one, buddy.
Clint: Well, you bought a sticker, but you entered the wrong price, so it ended up costing us $4.
Jey: Thanks for paying for my sticker Clint. Also, some shout outs - other fellow podcasts that y'all might be into. There's one that's an ex-Seventh Day Adventist, it's called Haystacks & Hell.
Clint: That's a great one.
Jey: There's another one - You Can't Get To Heaven In a Mini Skirt. They're pretty cool. They go into purity culture and like other stuff similar to what we do. And then, Oh God, I Forgot About, which does niche topics in evangelicalism. If you have any special knowledge about that topic and you want to write in to the show or.
Clint: Or do a voice recording.
Jey: Do our voice recordings. If you hate us, we got a voice recording for you too. Doesn't matter. We want to just listen to your sweet, beautiful voice.
Clint: If you are out of the world and you find a Chick Tract, snap a picture of it and send it to us because I would love to see where these things are still popping up today.
Jey: Did you find it in a truck stop bathroom in Kentucky? I want to hear about it. All right. Thank you so much for listening. You listeners, you all make this podcast worth it.
Clint: It'd be more worth it if you bought some merch, though.
Jey: Support us monetarily.
Clint: Churches order Chick tracts by the thousands every day.
Jey: Wow, that's depressing.
Clint: They are still out there. But best believe it, buddy.