Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Jack Chick failed

One of the influences on my views of faith - especially on Catholicism - was via Chick tracts. He really worked hard on propaganda to bash Catholic beliefs.

The trouble is, while he did get some facts right, he got many others wrong - especially regarding what Catholics actually believe. Now I am not a Catholic and have no plans to convert to the Catholic Church, but what I learned as an adult who had become neutral to the Baptist teachings of my youth was that Chick was horribly wrong regarding a number of Catholic beliefs. His presentation of the faith as polytheism, comes immediately to mind - his confusion of worship, which is for God alone, with veneration, which can be given to anyone worthy of respect. He basically read it all as worship, and proceeded to publish his rabid tracts presenting it the way he saw it.

The method works fine for people who accept it. They believe wholesale what they are told - and then they go around thinking they know what Catholics believe. Only they don't. They never take the trouble to ask the Roman Catholic Church what it believes and listen to the explanations and respond to objections - it's much easier to swallow propaganda that happens to support what you yourself believe. But their is one inevitable failure, and that is if you discover that you were lied to. The backlash effect is strong when something sold as truth is revealed to be a lie, when a fact turns out to be not a fact. What it reinforces is the skepticism of the proven liar or falsehood-spreader. That's what happened to me regarding Jack Chick.

The obvious lesson is to get your info from the horse's mouth. To ask a Catholic, for example, better an educated Catholic with a good knowledge of Catholic teaching, better still a priest or trained source that knows history and theology better. If I want to know what Mennonites believe, I'll ask my Mom. I won't go to a Baptist, Catholic or even Orthodox source as my prime informer on what a Jehovah's Witness believes if I can ask a JW or find out from a JW source, or Messianic Jews, or whoever.

There's a second thing, and that's having the patience to listen through and then hear responses to our objections. Maybe we'll still reject the thing - as I do the Catholic Church, but at least I will actually be rejecting Catholicism, and not a version existing only in my own head invented by some nutty (fill in denominational ID here).

I can easily imagine that people have accepted non-Orthodox sources about Orthodox teaching, and I'm sure nobody would want their own beliefs to be similarly misrepresented. What I can say about my own faith is that it is decidedly Biblical, and we very much believe the Bible. Only no one inquires as to how Orthodox (or Catholic) beliefs could be Biblical. Maybe because the influence of Jack Chick lives on...?

We often condemn believing without questioning. But for some reason, we don't similarly condemn judging without questioning, which is exactly what Jack Chick did, and the result is that I am now Orthodox and have a great respect for Catholics. I don't guess he intended that, but that's what his method of uninformed condemnation does for anyone who learns that it is uninformed.

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