Jack Chick died this past week. His name is obscure; his work, however, was not.
Jack Chick was a cartoonist who created a series of fundamentalist Christian pamphlets, in comic book form. The pamphlets were morality plays in miniature. They generally described people who did not believe in Jesus, or who had somehow sinned, and/or had not accepted Jesus as their personal savior, and how they had been condemned to hell.
Since we Jews have now finished our season of confession, I must confess: I always had a grim fascination with those little booklets — which usually appeared on grocery shelves and in other public places.
Jack Chick sold over 750 million of these tracts, and they have been translated into more than one hundred languages.
Jack Chick’s work was hate literature, with a theological overlay.
He had a rather long enemies list. He hated the Roman Catholic Church, Mormons, gays and lesbians, New Age religion, Dungeons and Dragons, Muslims, Freemasons. Any biblical translation that was not the King James Version was a heretical work, allied with the Devil.
Think of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” in printed form, and you get Jack Chick’s work.
And, yes — Jack Chick hated Jews — or, more precisely, Judaism. His booklet “Where’s Rabbi Waxman?” portrays a particularly righteous ultra-Orthodox rabbi who dies, but because he died “in his sin,” he went to hell.
This is raw, unabated, Jew-hatred.
This is about what I think about the afterlife. Normally, I could not care less about what people think happens after you die. Judaism has its share of opinions on this, and certainly its view of olam ha-ba, the world to come, was the source of the Christian belief in heaven. (On hell, Jews are much more circumspect).
Normally, if someone says that I, as a Jew, am going to hell because of what I believe or what I don’t believe, it would not phase me. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but bad theology does not hurt me.
Except when it does. Because here is the tragic truth: those who think that Jews are going to hell, quite often will create living hells for them — right here on earth, in this life.
Ask any Jewish kid who has been tormented about how he or she is going to hell, and that kid will tell you that stones and fists often accompany this theological perspective.
Here is the good news. In my own life, I have rarely encountered people who have been influenced by Mr. Chick’s screed. I guess that I have been lucky. I know that they are out there, but God (or luck) has kept those millions of people away from me.
Quite the contrary. In recent decades, my experience of Christianity, through its practitioners, has been loving, deep, and powerful.
That is the Christianity that I have encountered.
And that is, I daresay, the Christianity that the world needs today. By extension, that is the kind of religion, in general, that the world needs today. I can only wonder how many people picked up one of Jack Chick’s tracts, and concluded: “If that is what Christianity (or religion) is, count me out!”
Let us be clear: bad religion is the religion of nightmares. Bad religion drives out good religion.
Good religion is the religion of dreams.
The only antidote to bad religion is good religion.
So, yes — Jack Chick has died. As I said, I had a quirky fascination with his work.
But as for my saying Kaddish for him….Kaddish is supposed to get you a place in the World to Come.
Jack: you are on your own.