Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jesus meets Lisa Simpson

In response to last weekend’s outrageous claim by the Vatican newspaper that Homer and Bart Simpson are Catholic, I wanted to post two replies.lisa-homer-pi(e) First, a few days ago, I tried to write a persuasive post showing that Homer Simpson is not Catholic nor Anglican, but he just might be an average American Christian. And, secondly, picking up on something the Vatican newspaper missed, I wanted to share the following transcript of a conversation with Lisa Simpson, who is, on the show, a genuine spiritual seeker. I happened upon this script during a Google search and it totally captivated me. The whole while reading it, I was like “Wow! This is amazing!” — how come I don’t remember seeing this episode of The Simpsons? Well, surprisingly, it’s not an actual episode, but that is an indication of the quality of work that Ellen has achieved in writing it. So with her permission, here it is.
Guest Blogger:
Ellen from

Conversations with Jesus: In this episode Jesus Meets Lisa Simpson at Springfield Elementary to talk over church politics, world faiths and what it’s like to meet Richard Gere.

Jesus Christ: Hi Lisa, good to meet you ‘in person’ as it were…
Lisa Simpson: And you, wow, I never thought I’d actually get to meet you.
Jesus: Why’s that Lisa?
Lisa: Well, I have the greatest respect for you but…

There is an awkward silence, finally Jesus decides to speak
Jesus: You ‘have the greatest respect for me but’…you didn’t think you’d ever meet me because in season 13 episode 6 (She of Little Faith) you stopped believing in me and became a Buddhist?
Lisa: I wouldn’t say I ‘became a Buddhist’, I mean, I still believe in you Jesus! It was more that I felt let down by the church — you could say I lost my faith in the church.
Jesus: You and so many others…
Lisa: But, I don’t think I have ever stopped believing in you.
Jesus: I know Lisa, that’s why I thought you’d appreciate the chat.Lisa-Simpson
Lisa: So, what shall we talk about?
Jesus: What ever is on your mind…

There’s another pause, then Lisa gets out a list of things that she has wanted to talk to Jesus about…

Lisa: (Reading) Is it possible to be a Christian and not go to church? How does prayer work? What happens if you can’t forgive (Bart does my head in and I struggle with this)? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where were you for the 3 days between your death and resurrection? Do miracles still happen? How do dinosaurs fit into the Biblical story of Creation? What’s theology all about? Do pets go to heaven when they die? How do I find faith?
Jesus: Goodness me Lisa you really do have a lot of questions don’t you…
Lisa: I am not done yet… (Lisa starts to read again but Jesus interrupts)
Jesus: …I wonder if we might start with some basic principles and see how we get on.
Lisa: I don’t want basic principles I want you to tell me the answers.
Jesus: Well Lisa that is not going to happen.
Lisa: Why not?
Jesus: Because I am not in the business of telling people how they should go about finding their faith and you are more than capable of working out most of the answers to these questions yourself.*  However, I am concerned that you should carry on developing your faith so I am going to give you some hints and hit you with some advice.

There’s a pause as Lisa thinks…teen_Lisa_Simpson_by_toongrowner
Lisa: Go for it.
Jesus: Well…you have been asking a lot of questions, which is a really important step toward faith, but you might like to consider some spiritual guidance.
Lisa: I am aren’t I? I am speaking to you…
Jesus: Yes, indeed. But, as I pointed out to Nicodemus “you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God. Don’t be surprised when I say that you must be born from above. Only God’s Spirit gives new life.” (John 3:3-8) (see re:jesus for further info)
Lisa: Jesus, what does that mean?
Jesus: Lisa, I know that this answer is going to provoke a whole load more questions but I am going to give it a go anyway…
Lisa: OK
Jesus: Faith isn’t a moment, it is a journey and you are definitely travelling in the right direction. If you want to have a companion to guide you then the Holy Spirit is there for you. She is the perfect guide for any spiritual journey. Those questions you asked (and all those you have ready to ask, plus loads more you haven’t even thought up yet) WILL get answered — but all in good time. Each step toward faith will help you find the answers and you will enjoy discovering them all the more because you have found them out as part of a relationship and not because someone else has told you what to think.
Lisa: But, what if I’m not ready?
Jesus: I am here whenever you are ready.
Lisa: Really?
Jesus: Really.

Richard-Gere-Lisa-SimpsonLisa gives Jesus a big hug and Jesus hugs her back. 
Jesus: Now, I have a question for you…
Lisa: Yes, what is it?
Jesus: What was it like to meet Richard Gere?
Lisa: He’s not as tall in real life as he is in the films.
Jesus: Oh!

With that revelation Jesus hugged Lisa again and urged her to keep in touch. They carried on chatting as Lisa showed Jesus round her school and introduced him to Principle Skinner. After recess Lisa waved goodbye to Jesus at the school gates. 

*Despite being only 8 years old Lisa is a member of MENSA with an IQ of 159!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homer Simpson is not Catholic nor Anglican, but he just might be an average American Christian

simpsons-16x21-bart-in-catholic-school-00031 “Few people know it, and he does everything to hide it. But it's true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic,” declares the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in an article titled “Homer and Bart are Catholics.” The article praises the show for including Catholic content like prayer before meals and belief in the afterlife. The newspaper cited a study by a Jesuit priest of a 2005 episode of the show called "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star" (Season 16, Episode 21). His study concludes that "The Simpsons" is "among the few TV programs for kids in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes." (Source material for this and the next two paragraphs taken from the many newspapers running this story right now, including The Toronto Star, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail Online and Entertainment Weekly.)

simpsons-16x21-bart-in-catholic-school-00032 The episode starts with Bart being expelled from Springfield Elementary School and being enrolled in a Catholic school where he meets a sympathetic priest, voiced by the actor Liam Neeson, who draws him into Roman Catholicism with his kindness. Then, Homer—wooed in part by the twin powers of pancake suppers and absolution of his sins—decides to convert to Catholicism, to the horror of his wife Marge, the Rev Lovejoy and Ned Flanders.

Liam Neeson as a priest, hearing confession with HomerIf you’re thinking that the crew who produces The Simpsons might respond swiftly to a Vatican newspaper declaring Homer and Bart to be Catholic, you’d be right! “My first reaction is shock and awe,” said Executive Producer Al Jean. “We've pretty clearly shown that Homer is not Catholic.” Jean explains, 'I really don't think he could go without eating meat on Fridays—for even an hour.” The executive producer pointed out that the Simpson family attends the First Church of Springfield ‘which is decidedly Presbylutheran.’ Regarding the episode in question, Jean pointed out that Homer and Bart only considered converting.

With the media running wild on this story, I guess no one bothered to actually read the whole article in L'Osservatore Romano which admits that Homer and Bart flirt with the idea of converting to Catholicism, and Homer makes an outrageous confession to Liam Neeson, but ultimately Homer decides against converting to Catholicism, uttering “a cathartic D'oh!”

Archbishop-Rowan-Williams-and-Homer-SimpsonPerhaps the Catholic newspaper was attempting to gain for the Roman Catholic Church some of the attention their rival, the Anglican Church, received three years ago when it endorsed The Simpsons. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke of his admiration for The Simpsons and even compared himself to Homer Simpson—the resemblance is striking! In 2004, Williams was reported to have been approached to appear on the show. The Archbishop said that the show was “generally on the side of the angels and on the side of sense. It punctures lots of pompous fictions about how the world works.” The Church of England sent out a book called Mixing it up with The Simpsons to youth advisers in every diocese in the country. It urged youth workers to set up screens in their churches to show episodes of the world's most popular cartoon that deal with key Christian themes such as punishment,Homer-Simpson-donut love and the Second Coming.  (The book also suggested activities to challenge teenagers, like putting out an open box of donuts with a sign saying “Do not touch” to test whether they can resist temptation!) This is all quite interesting, but it’s also clear that Homer is no more an Anglican than he was a Catholic. (For more on this Anglican story, see The Daily Mail Online.)

Given that The Simpsons spans 22 seasons of episodes, it was a little unfair for the Jesuit study and Vatican newspaper to make observations based on only one episode! Looking at the show as a whole, what can we say about Homer Simpson’s take on Christianity? To answer that question, I’ll be draw extensively from an article by the sociologist (and dynamic evangelical speaker) Tony Campolo (his words will appear in italics).

homer-simpson-looking-up Campolo says that Homer is a great example what sociologists call folk religion. He is the kind of religious person who goes to church regularly, but is in reality more into a religio-magic belief system than into anything that resembles biblical Christianity. For Homer, God is like a parachute he hopes he never has to use, but he wants God to be there, just in case. When Homer is in deep trouble he turns to God and begs for miracles, but when miracles do happen, they do not make him into a man of faith or deep moral convictions. Once a crisis is passed, Homer’s thinking about God is over. God, for him, is somebody you bargain with in times of trouble, making all kinds of promises to change (which are never lived out), if God will just deliver on a needed miracle.

Many Christians find The Simpsons to be offensive and rude, insulting to their beliefs as Christians. I think they’ve misunderstood the nature of this show—it is a compelling satire of the culture in which we live—everything and anything can be a target of the scrutiny of humour. If we can properly understand the show as satire, the question becomes, What are we to make of Homer’s “faith”?

Here, Tony Campolo cautions us, do not go too hard on Homer Simpson because more people in our churches are where he is than any of us in the mainline denominations want to acknowledge.simpsons-in-church If you ask probing questions, you quickly will learn that most church members are into some form of religio-magic Christianity. For instance, I remember my Sunday School teacher telling me when I was a boy that, if I wanted my prayers to be answered, I had to make sure that I ended them with the right words—“In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Without that “magic” formula I was told I would be unlikely to get the desired results. My teacher led me to believe in a petty God who could look down on people who were begging for help and say, “I really would love to meet your needs, but you didn’t give your prayers the proper ending.”

  • God, for Homer, is a great big Santa Claus in the sky who gives people what they want if they just remember to state things with the right incantation.
  • Prayer, for Homer is not a time of intimate communion with God. Instead, it is something you do when you can’t get what you want on your own…
  • Church, for Homer, has nothing to do with the worship. Its value lies in the fact that it teaches moral lessons to his children. Homer wants his children in church every Sunday, not so much to express gratitude to God for the blessings of life, but to receive lectures about what is right and wrong. He believes, as do most people who are into the folk religion of our society, that those who learn from these moral lectures and do what is right will go to heaven, and that those others who on Judgment Day discover that the bad they have done outweighs the good, will go to hell (a fear that most people have).

President George Bush Sr., in 1992, made the surprising campaign pledge: “We’re going to keep trying to strengthen the American family, to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.” Bush was not re-elected. Instead, Americans chose Bill Clinton, a man much closer in spirit to Homer Simpson than John Walton! We may laugh at Homer and we may think he’s getting dumber all the time, but I think most of us can identify with Homer Simpson, perhaps Tony Campolo more so than others. Tony-Campolo After all, Tony has two kids, named Lisa and Bart (I’m not kidding!) and he’s married to Margaret (no blue hair, so far as I know), not to mention that Tony did at one time have a striking resemblance to Homer! As an evangelical Christian, I find that The Simpsons provides me with a mirror that reflects my own religious life. When I make judgments about the inadequacies of their religiosity, I am sorry to say that they are often judgments of the ways in which I live out my own faith. Contrary to what some critics say, the Simpsons are basically a decent American family with good values. They go to church on Sunday. Homer and company triumphantly conquer the serious temptations of life, like adultery, and they even conquer some of the lesser sins, such as taking advantage of an illegal cable television hookup… This cartoon sitcom is supposed to be about an outrageous dysfunctional family in Middle America, but all too often I realize that it’s about me—and about my religious convictions and lifestyle. In one way or another, I find in the beliefs and behaviors of the Simpson characters, those same beliefs and behaviors that at one time or another have been evident in my own life. Both the hypocrisies and the virtues of the Simpson family and the other characters on the show are too often my own.

The-Gospel-According-to-The-Simpsons For more on Tony Campolo’s understanding of The Simpsons, see the Foreword he wrote for the book The Gospel According to The Simpsons by Mark Pinksy—which is also very good.

For a presentation of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis which I illustrated with pictures of Homer Simpson, please visit my Mere C.S. Lewis blog.

Be sure to return on Friday when a guest blogger will be presenting a Conversation between Jesus and Lisa Simpson.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Preaching according to the Waltons

I wanted to call this post The Gospel According to The Waltons, but I realized as powerful as this snippet is from that TV show, there’s so much more that could said about the way the good news is presented according to the Walton family. So maybe we’ll consider this to be a first installment of a book I may never get around to writing. What could I find so compelling about such an old TV show as to blog about it today? If you listen, you’ll hear John Walton dealing with one of the most persistent complaints we hear to this day: preachers / priests / church leaders are hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach.

“How’s my sermon?” asks the young preacher.

Jim Bob answers, “Scary.”

Moments later, John Walton gives the preacher a little advice, “Well far be it for me to tell you what to say, Reverend, but about the way you say it.  You see most folks around here aren’t used to being shouted at. And, um, a lot of us won’t understand some of the fancy language you’re using. I was just going to suggest that you say what you’re going to say, but a little simpler and easier, that’s all.” The preacher’s response is arrogant and condescending. Indeed, in both his reaction to Jim Bob’s “scary” assessment and to John Walton, the young preacher shows that he just doesn’t get it—he’s not connecting to real people.

bible-study The message must live in the preacher before it can be proclaimed. If our hope is that people will hear God speak to them through the preacher, then the preacher must have a Word-centered spirituality. Others may develop a spirituality which revolves around acts of compassion or service or worship or discernment, but preachers must have a Word-centred spirituality if they are to preach the Word with power. The Apostle Paul recounts how the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thess 1:9-10, TNIV).  This happened, Paul explains, because “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13, TNIV). Through the preaching of the apostle, they heard God speak to them. The instructor of preaching instructors, Haddon Robinson, gives this working definition of preaching. Note how the Word must first be applied to the preacher:

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers. (Biblical Preaching 2nd ed., 21)

being steeped in the Word like tea Yes, the Word must be experienced before it is proclaimed. If not, it will probably just be words without power. C.S. Lewis compares our use of the Bible as if it were an encyclopedia giving us references to preach versus being steeped in the Word like tea, allowing it to gradually flavour us until we know it so well that we are able to speak its message. Shouting cannot make up for the lack of passion which comes from transformation.

This episode of Walton’s Mountain is not titled, “The Preacher,” it is in fact titled “The Sinner.” It’s definitely worth watching the rest, but in short, the preacher visits the Baldwin sisters which ultimately leads to a public display of drunkenness. His credibility is shot before he even preaches his first sermon. He later confesses to John and John Boy, “I recognize how hollow and righteous all my words were.” But it doesn’t end there. John helps him to discover that you preach from what God is doing in you. You preach authentically sharing from the Word as you’ve experienced it. That’s how preaching becomes solid, rather than hollow and self-righteous. Thanks to John, the young preacher does preach a powerful sermon at the end of the episode, but it sounds nothing like the practised message which Jim Bob said was “scary.”

acrylic lectern When I think of all the sermons I’ve heard in my life, there’s only been a few that changed me—just a few messages in which I heard God speaking to me in power, the Spirit enlightening me and Christ coming alongside me. Many times I’ve heard the preacher affirm the truth of God’s Word and I have responded to the Spirit’s prompting, but I long for those sermons in which the passion of the preacher is ignited and the powerful Word burns through the preacher like wildfire and I am transformed. What’s your experience been like in listening to preaching? Why not leave a comment and maybe tell us about the most powerful message you ever heard. How did you encounter God in that preaching and what happened to you as a result?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jack Chick tracts: Are they an appropriate way for schoolchildren to share their Christian faith?

If you’ve read the previous post, you’ll know how this Grade 3 boy who has been eagerly sharing his Christian faith at his school in Halifax, Nova Scotia has been told to stop handing out Jack Chick tracts. The boy’s father, Sean Bonitto, is an evangelist who heads up International Deliverance Ministries and he commented on that previous post. He was concerned that I’m misrepresenting the message of the Jack Chick tracts. So I’ve proposed a short debate so that everyone can see and evaluate the arguments for and against the use of these Jack Chick tracts at schools. After viewing this updated report from Atlantic CTV News (Monday, Oct 4), Sean will give his Yes answer and then I will give my No answer to the question “Is passing out Jack T. Chick tracts an appropriate way for children to share their faith?”

So what do you think? (Leave a comment.)

Are Jack Chick tracts an appropriate way for schoolchildren to share their Christian faith?

Sean Bonitto, Evangelist 
(International Deliverance Ministries)

evangelist_sean_bonitto_the_reality_of_hell_part_2The Bible teaches us to, "...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the true born again Christian to preach the gospel to every man woman and child, so that they can be saved from the damnation of an eternal hell (Matthew 25:41), by repenting of their sin, and believing and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone for their salvation (John 3:16). 

As a result we must obey the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, by demonstrating the love of God for lost souls on their way to hell, through preaching the truth of the gospel to them, so that they can repent and be saved only through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).hellfire The Bible says, love, "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth" (1Corinthians 13:6). We do not in any way shape or form preach hatred to any one, but we do preach the truth in love against false teachings, ideologies, and philosophies that are used by Satan to damn precious souls to hell (1 Peter 5:8). The Bible commands us to, "... have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them " (Ephesians 5:11). The word “reprove” means to expose the darkness, sin and lies of Satan in order for mankind to see the light of the gospel, repent of their sin and be saved through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 13:3; John 14:6).

As a result of the aformentioned commands from Holy Scripture and many other verses that I have mentioned (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 4:1-8), we must evangelize and preach against the false teachings of Islam, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, Homosexuality, Adultery, Fornication, Apostate lukewarm churches, etc, and all mankind that have not repented of their sin and warn them "to flee from the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:8) in hell, and how God has "commendeth his love"(Romans 5:8) to us by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross to save all mankind from their sins, if we repent and trust Him by faith alone for our salvation (Luke 13:3; John 14:6). 

Reading-a-Jack-Chick-tractThe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 2, and 15 give everyone the right to freedom of religion and expression and we are only demonstrating our Canadian rights by handing out gospel tracts and witnessing our Christian faith at a public school. The Chick tracts that are used are not so called "hate literature" at all, because they do not express hatred to anyone, but speak honestly against any teaching that violates and contradicts the Bible that has the potential of damning souls to hell, if one believes that false teaching, and dies in their sin without true repentance and faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Also for one to claim that they are "scaring" people to salvation or using "scare tactics" means that they either question the serious doctrine of eternal hell fire as recorded in the Bible (Mark 9:43-50), or they do not believe in a literal hell, and have aligned themselves with the false prophets of today who are proclaiming a false gospel (2 Timothy 4:1-4; Jude 3-4). 

Ken you have said, "Jack Chick hates Catholics, Jews and Muslims." This statement is absolutely not true and defamatory. Can you produce a Chick tract where he says this? He only speaks against the false doctrine or theology that these individuals adhere to that contradicts the teachings of the Bible, and that the Holy Scriptures teach that these false doctrines will send them to hell if they die rejecting the truth of the gospel (John 3:16; John 8:24; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).  How about this one, Sean? Jack says Jesus HATES this false religious system, ie. Roman Catholicism, "The Mother of Abominations" and "all those with her" -- sounds like HATE to me (tract: Are Roman Catholics Christians?) My Friend you also have made the comment that "Some of these Chick tracts have even been banned from distribution in Canada because they violate Canada's hate crime legislation" before doing proper research that this statement is not only misleading, but completely false due to the fact that Chick tracts have never been banned in Canada at any point in time. There was an RCMP investigation on some Chick comic books concerning Roman Catholicism in the 1980s where they concluded that it was not hate literature, and none of the tracts have every been banned. I hope you will clarify this fact with your readers To clarify, I clicked on Sean's link and it actually says, "Two of the books were banned from entry into Canada on instructions by a Director of Canada Customs and Excise on the grounds of 'immorality and indecency.' We challenged that... in Court and the order was rescinded."(see They can also call the Canadian distributor for Chick tracts in Canada (1-866-567-2700).

Ken Symes, Samaritan XP blogger

children-boarding-school-bus Jesus loves children. In the gospels, Jesus welcomes children, blesses them and rebukes adults who fail to see their importance (Matt 18:1-6; 19:13-15; Mark 9:33-36), but no where are we told that he scares the little children by telling them all about hell (n/a). And for that matter, does Jesus ever attempt to scare someone with the threat of hell so that they will chose to believe in him instead?

Seriously, does Jesus preach “turn or burn” as Jack Chick does? Do you remember the rich young ruler? Jesus said he would have to give away his money in order to receive eternal life and that’s not something the ruler could do so he walked away. How the story would’ve been different if only Jesus had thought to threaten the man with eternal hellfire, then maybe he would’ve changed his mind! That’s what Jack Chick would’ve done! Instead Mark 10:21 tells us that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus tells three stories in Luke 15 to explain why he was welcoming sinners (instead of judging them like the Pharisees) and the answer is that they were lost and Jesus loved them. Jesus goes out at great risk to rescue, he searches diligently and he waits patiently, but no where does the chapter say that Jesus goes about telling people they’re going to hell unless they repent and believe. How about the despised tax collectors or the divorced Samaritan woman? Does Jesus warn them about hell in order to get them to repent and believe? Nope (Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-9; John 4:1-42). Jesus (as portrayed by Jim Caviezel) - pencil drawing by K Hinson

You see, Sean, as evangelists, as those called by God to share the good news, I believe we have a responsibility to learn from Jesus himself and to go about sharing the good news as Jesus shared it. Jack’s “turn or burn” approach to evangelism is not really based on the example of Jesus. And if I were to choose between following Jack or following Jesus, I will definitely choose Jesus. Of course, if we follow Jesus’ example, we might get the same reputation he had of being “a friend of ‘sinners’” (Matt 11:19) — I can’t imagine Jack Chick having that kind of reputation! Personally, I’m tired of too many of us in the church having a reputation of being self-righteous hypocrites. It’s time we tried to follow Jesus’ example.

Before you accuse me of rejecting the doctrine of hell, let me assure you that I believe in hell. Jesus teaches about it extensively, but my point is that unlike Jack Chick, Jesus never directly says to someone “Believe in me or you’ll go to hell.” His threats of hell seem to be reserved mostly for the self-righteous and to that end when you referred to Mark 9:43-50, you missed the first verse of that passage (42) which is the most relevant to our discussion: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” We need to be extra careful about the way we approach children with the good news. Jesus is pretty serious about this point and about the consequences of mistreating children.

In the Chick tract "Happy Halloween," Timmy is hit by a car while trick or treating. Don't you think this has the potential to give a child nightmares? I see no reason why we should be literally scaring the hell out of little children by showing them frightful depictions of hell, demons and Satan. I have no problem at all with children talking to children about their faith, but I would have a problem with someone giving my child one of these Jack Chick tracts. Page 1 of the Oops! tract shows a man dying from a speed overdose. I would not let my kids watch a TV show that started with a scene like that. It’s not that we’re sheltered; in fact, I’m involved in ministry to crack and drug addicts, but I see no reason why my children need to be exposed to such things at their age. More to the point, I think many children would be scared of Chick’s drawings of hell (pages 17-20 of Oops!). Read the comments to the previous post on this blog—you’ll see other parents agree with me. Don’t you care what they think?

Park-West-School I just don’t see how the issue at Park West School is about religious freedom. A parent complained about the violent nature of these tracts. Thus, the issue is whether it is appropriate to use Jack Chick tracts to scare the hell out of children so that they will accept Jesus. I wouldn’t want this to happen to my children and I am a Christian. As I demonstrated above, there is no indication in the gospels that Jesus ever scared children (or anyone else for that matter) with hellfire in order to get them to believe. Plus what other parents think matters to me. I, therefore, conclude that it is inappropriate to attempt to frighten children with the threat of going to hell and oppose the distribution of Jack Chick tracts to children.

In fairness to Sean, when i invited him to this debate, I told him he could have the last word. I have published his "rebuttal" or "last response" in the Comments section because we've already run quite long on this post and so much of his last submission seemed to demand a response from me so I thought I could handle this easier in the comments. I trust that he will accept this as the editorial discretion of the blogger.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The boy who is telling his friends about Jesus and how Jack Chick has made a mess of it

This really ought to be a good news story. There’s a young boy in Nova Scotia excited about his faith in Christ. He’s been eager to tell his friends at school about his faith, but now the school is telling him to stop. Want to know why? It’s a big story, big enough to lead off the evening Atlantic CTV News last Friday!

VIDEO currently not available

    So what do you think? Should the boy continue telling his friends about Jesus or obey the principal and stop? Post a comment, let us know what you think. Let’s have a discussion.
    This is a big mess and an unfortunate thing to happen to this young boy. Keep in mind that Jesus warned, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42 TNIV). The problem as I see it is not really about the boy’s freedom to share his Christian faith with his friends. The particular issue the principal has raised seems to be regarding the violence in an anti-Hallowe’en tract by Jack T. Chick. And the parents are arguing for their son’s “right” to be able to hand out these Jack Chick tracts. I wish the issue was about whether young Isaac can talk about his faith and tell his friends about Jesus, but, instead, the issue is about whether he can hand out these Jack Chick tracts.
Boo-cover    This publisher has a few Hallowe’en-themed tracts, but they all follow the same scheme of trying to scare people out of hell and get them to accept Jesus so they can go to heaven—a rather warped and truncated way of presenting the good news of new life in Christ. I don’t understand why some Christians feel so strongly that scaring people into putting their faith in Jesus is such a good idea. Tell me would you feel comfortable with your seven-year-old child handing out this kind of pamphlet at school? (Not sure of Isaac’s age: 7?)
You can read the whole tract by clicking here, but basically these high school kids are going to rent a cabin for a Hallowe’en party.Boo-1 Already, I’m alarmed, but it gets far worse. The boys plan to sacrifice a cat to Satan, but worse still the tract shows how Satan himself is planning on crashing the party (that’s him with the pumpkin on his head).
Remember this is a good news tract, a way for Christians to present their faith to others! The story gets very violent at this point which is ironic given that the newscast indicated the boy was passing out a tract opposed to the violence of Hallowe’en! I’ll skip the gory details and give you part of the conclusion.
boo-3Lots of misinformation here. But here’s the point, let’s terrify you into choosing heaven over hell.
boo-4No child of mine will be passing out tracts like this at his school. I believe as Christians we have good news to tell people. I have never tried to scare someone into believing in Jesus and see no reason why I would do so. I have found hope, strength and a sense of purpose in Christ which I never had before.oops-cover I don’t recall Jesus himself or the apostles trying to scare people out of hell and into heaven. I think fear-based evangelism is seriously flawed. Jack Chick has sold over 800 million of these tracts.  They use fear, suspicion and hatred to convince people they are going to hell unless they accept Jesus to be their Saviour. In the “Oops” tract shown in the news clip, on page one, a teenage boy dies from a drug overdose. Two friends accompany his body to the morgue where the coroner (morgue staffer?) begins to tell them about the “good news.”
oops-1The younger man is very interested in what he has to say and is just about to take a tract (a Jack Chick tract?) from the coroner, when suddenly his older friend goes from mocking to becoming violent.
oops-2It doesn’t take long for the mocker to get his young friend to forgot all about this offer of salvation in Christ.oops-3 Thanks to the older friend, the two of them soon die in a horrific car crash into a train. I’m sure you can guess where they find themselves after they die.
oops-4I think that was the “oops” moment for which the tract was named, but that’s not all! It turns out his cool older friend was really Satan in disguise! As he pulled off the face mask, I was horrified! Seriously, parents, can you see purchasing this tract for your child to handout to kids at school?
oops-5Turn or burn! Yeah, ok, Jack, we got it. Same message over and over again in hundreds and hundreds of these comic book tracts. Some of them at times have even been banned from distribution in Canada due to their incitement of hatred toward Jews, Muslims or Jack’s favourite target group, the Roman Catholics. These little booklets may look like comics, but they are clearly not suitable for children and I would argue not suitable for presenting the Christian message about God’s love and the hope and life we find through faith in Christ.
    I hope young Isaac learns that telling his friends about Jesus does not have to include giving them Jack Chick tracts. His parents and maybe his church were wrong to think that this material was appropriate for children and that it was suitable way to present the Christian message. The school should be disallowing the distribution of this scary material, even if it’s on the basis of some of these booklets by this publisher having been found to be in violation of Canada’s hate crime protections. The school should not be suggesting that a student does not have the freedom to talk about their religious views, or in this case, the Christian faith. My son has learned about Judaism and Islam at his school and I see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to talk about his belief in Jesus Christ. And I’m fairly confident he can do so without scaring his friends or giving these children nightmares from horrible portrayals of evil and Satan.


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