Reports of US Soldiers Spreading Jack Chick Tracts in Iraq

In the wake of a story about an American soldier in Iraq handing out coins bearing an evangelistic message, The Public Record notes other Christian material being promoted by members of American forces:

In addition to coins and Bibles, there have been reports of the distribution to Iraqi children of Christian comic books published by companies such as Chick Publications. These inflammatory comic books, published in English and Arabic, not only depict Mohammed, but show both Mohammed and Muslims burning in hell because they did not accept Jesus as their savior before they died.

…Sending more of these materials than would be necessary for an individual’s personal use, but not a large enough quantity to risk being flagged by the postal service, is one way that these materials are making their way into Iraq. Chick Publications advises those wanting to send their literature to military personnel to first find out “just what tracts would be most useful and how many they can effectively use,” and “to find out whether the tracts can be drop shipped from Chick Publications or if they should be sent as personal mail from the soldiers’ families.”

A spokesman for Chick refused to comment for this story about the comics handed out to Iraqis.

For the uninitiated, Jack Chick is the world’s most-published author, with hundreds of millions of comic-strip tracts in circulation. Robert Ito profiled him for the Los Angeles Magazine back in May 2003:

The experience of reading a Chick tract can seem disarmingly familiar. In many ways the stories adhere to the standard rules and visual language of comic books: When people are angry or stressed, huge beads of sweat shoot off their foreheads. Bad men say things like “@#$%!”; exclamation points are everywhere. Characters, with their side parts, bell-bottoms, and stilted language, have the stuck-in-time quality of Archie comics. But behind the reader-friendly style is a disturbing, hateful message: There are demons hiding everywhere. There are devil worshipers in the federal government and gay men plotting to taint the nation’s blood supply with AIDS. The pope is an agent of Satan. So is your next-door neighbor.

…Chick’s most popular book, This Was Your Life!, was published in 1964. At 21 pages, it is a masterpiece of shorthand horror. By the second panel, the Scotch-swilling, ‘Vette-driving protagonist has dropped dead of a heart attack. “Review his life!” the Lord commands, and an angel produces a massive CinemaScope screen in the night sky. The man watches scenes from his wasted life, in which he tells filthy stories, leers at blonds (“ummm nice!” he says to himself), and thinks about a ball game in the middle of church.

Although they express the most virulent Christian fundamentalism and conspiracy-mongering, the tracts enjoy an ironic following among comics fans, and apparently Robert Crumb is an admirer.

The Record notes other proselytism efforts, and quotes Mickey Weinstein:

“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been acutely aware of such astonishing unconstitutional and illicit proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan for over three years now and knows how massively pervasive it really is. These proselytizing transgressions are all blatant violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and MRFF is now demanding that any and all responsible military personnel be immediately prosecuted under Article 92 of the UCMJ: Failure to Obey an Order or Regulation,” Weinstein added.

I looked at Christian enthusiasm for evangelism in Iraq back in the very early days of this blog, and in March 2004 I noted a quote by National Association of Evangelicals official Kyle Fisk:

Iraq will become the center for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Iran, Libya, throughout the Middle East…President Bush said democracy will spread from Iraq to nearby countries. A free Iraq also allows us to spread Jesus Christ’s teachings even in nations where the laws keep us out.

Apparently there has been some growth in evangelicalism in Kurdish territories, but there’s nothing anywhere near the feverish the predictions from the “Mission Accomplished” era, even with illicit assistance from US troops.

Incidentally, in the UK Chick Tracts are imported by B. Mccall Barbour, a cramped bookshop in Edinburgh with an elderly owner (somewhat unexpectedly, a picture of this bookshop was featured on Lindsey Beyerstein’s blog last year). They are also available elsewhere: the CLC (“Christian Literature Crusade”) bookshop in central London sells them in plastic multi-packs.

(Hat tip: Ed Brayton)

One Response

  1. The Chick tracts are so inflammatory that I doubt they will work.

    Plus the tract shown above isn’t in Arabic. This shows the tracts that are: http://www.chick.com/catalog/tractlookuplist.asp?language=Arabic

    Judging from English versions I doubt many will be convinced.

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