Monday, October 24, 2016

Jack Chick In Memoriam

I play role-playing games. Dungeons and Dragons is, as the young people say, my joint.

I'm also a Christian. Never made a secret of that. I own a number of bibles and display them shamelessly on my bookshelves (right above the collected works of Lovecraft.)

I don't now or have ever seen a conflict of interest in being a gamer and a Christian. I'm not alone. One of my weekly gaming groups plays at a church as part of a church ministry. Not everyone shares my opinion.

Being both a gamer and a Christian and the kind of person who spends a lot of time on the internet, it was inevitable that I would encounter Jack Chick and his Chick Tracts. I remember the first time I read Dark Dungeons and how it made me laugh. I recognise, though, that I have been fortunate. I've never been a part of a church or Christian community that saw role playing games as works of evil or short cuts to hell. Others were not so lucky. Other gamers have suffered varying abuses at the hands of Christians, convinced they must hate role-playing games and actively work to rid the world of their corruption. This was and is a real thing. Jack Chick must share some of the blame for that.

Jack Chick's work was, largely, a work of fear and hate. His comics are inflammatory and paranoid and bigoted. They're also camp as a row of tents. They're the Leave It To Beaver of fire and brim stone sermons. It can be hard to believe they're not parody or satire.

Jack Chick is dead.

It started coming up over my Facebook news feed this morning and as the day goes on, the news articles are multiplying.

This filled me with concern.

Many of my friends are gamers. Hell, at this stage of my life, the majority of people I know well and in passing are gamers. Some of those have had genuinely bad experiences with Christians who fear role-playing games. Some have absorbed, through our sub-culture, a second hand trauma and have turned that into a resentment towards Christianity at large. Jack Chick makes a convenient target for that resentment. From the moment I saw the first article on his death, I had no doubt in my mind that soon the cheers and celebrations would be coming. "Jack Chick is dead? Huzzah!" they'd say. "I hope he's in hell!" they'll cry. "It's about time. Let him rot!" Yes, sir. The cheers would be coming.

And they did.

But not in the volume I expected.

Instead, something else happened.

People started sharing their favourite Chick Tracts. People started celebrating his work as the unintentionally hilarious insane ravings that they are. Nobody had much to say about Jack Chick himself, but they had a lot of good memories of reading Chick Tracts and laughing and sharing it with their friends so they could laugh. Their celebrations began to send others to Jack Chick's website and collections of his work, wondering what all the fuss was about and those new comers began to laugh.

And I can't tell you how happy this has made me.

No matter what Jack Chick said, no matter how crazy his comics, no matter how hurtful his words, Jack Chick was a man with friends and family and a life. His death will create real grief for real people. We should respect that. We should not celebrate a man's death.

But after witnessing the response to his death, I'm beginning to think that perhaps there is something to celebrate about Jack Chick's life. No matter how hard Jack Chick tried to spread fear and intolerance but no matter how many cultures and beliefs he painted as evil, as literally demonic, no matter how hard he tried to make us as bigoted as he was, Jack Chick ultimately did something wonderful.

Jack Chick made us laugh. More than that, he made us laugh together. And laughter and fellowship is great at stripping hate of all its power.

So I encourage everybody to laugh at Chick Tracts. Laugh at them because they are absurd and camp and insane.

If Jack Chick's work can bring joy to our lives and bring people together to share that joy, then he leaves behind a better legacy than he ever could have hoped.

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