Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona/Monday, January 13th 2020
The fear that Jack Chick builds on this story is one of the oldest and most universal fears: can external forces force us to do what we don′t want? Paradoxically, the first forms of this fear are found in pagan rituals of the Middle East, Africa or finally Europe, where it takes the form of folk tales such as ′The Pied Piper.′ Jack Chick provides as always an extraordinarily effective visual element compared to those that preceded it. Comic expert Daniel Raeburn confirms this when he says that if you have a Chick treat in your hands you don′t need to know how to read to understand what you have to stop doing.
Your typical easy and simple sinner′s prayer guide at the end is just the tip of the iceberg. Jack Chick always looked for and with real obsession the easiest way to achieve his main objective: an ever greater number of prayers of the sinner! Many religious writers had made detailed and encyclopedic lists of evidence demonstrating the diabolical influence of rock. The lists were not Jack′s style! That′s why when after the famous preacher David Wilkerson describes the well-known vision he had during a rock concert, what he really describes in great detail is the simple Jack Chick vignette.
Many people are unable to appreciate music. Modern medicine identifies this disorder with the name of amusia and depending on the degree, the affected can even suffer, literally, during the hearing of a melody. Historically, symptoms of amusia have been identified in the written records of celebrities such as Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin or Che Guevara but a recent study by the Harvard University medical school says that currently 10% of the population is suffering from this disorder to a greater or lesser extent. Some of our neighbors suffer more silently than others. And of course, depending on their social, political or religious positions, the implications for others have been minor or greater.
We do not have a medical report by Alfonso XIII, Joseph Stalin or Jack Chick, but if we talk in particular about the hostility that many Protestants or evangelicals have shown for music, then we must first talk about the French theologian and reformer Juan Calvino . It was especially following the teachings of Calvin that hordes of fans stormed European churches not only Catholic. The churches of other reformed confessions such as Lutherans or Anabaptists were also sacked. According to Paul Nettl in his book ′From Luther to Bach′ the organs that were still used in the liturgy of these congregations were literally destroyed in axes, starring in what has been called beeldenstorm or the iconoclast fury.
Musical instruments are, still today, an expression of evil when used in the liturgy of many Calvinist churches. Many times he doubts how much his founder really contributes to a church and how much his followers finally contribute because it is definitely a team work. History teaches us for our humility also through Jack Chick. What happens after a possible accident in the mind of a particular person, can easily become part of the daily lives of thousands of people for ever and ever.
When Jack Chick first enters an evangelical church, he does so in the mid-1950s. Believers are no longer worried about the evil that can come from the organs. Let′s say you were worried just the opposite. Believers could barely give credit to their eyes and watched as religious music lost all the attention that black musicians gained in the streets, radio and of course the record industry. The first actions of opposition to rock are precisely marked by this economic concern.
You can find on the Internet dozens of variations of these warnings based on the economic factor: ′Blacks are now the chiefs of the city, could it be worse?′. ′Warning! Do not buy discs of blacks!′ said the menacing signs of the Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans. ′Call the advertisers of the radio stations and put your claim!′ The most sophisticated poster of that decade clearly identifies how much this time had influenced the mentality of Jack Chick The design included a skull pierced by a bloody sword, a car full of young people driving at full speed and the alarming text of: “Rock and roll is the music of the Devil, BE CAREFUL !, its voodoo rhythm is hypnotic and its reckless dance leads young people to the fiery depths of hell! ”
Much of the white population was afraid, envious and very hateful but their racist conscience had diversified and applied equally to blacks, Chinese, Mexicans or Spaniards. The particularity of the danger of rock was, first of all, the possibilities it offered as another step in the true economic independence of the black population. Blacks knew it and whites too; although for many years, whites wanted to disguise their intentions behind racial, moral or political arguments.
Teasing is key in the exercise of power as Jack Chick knew. The authorities of the United States of America had favored since the 19th century all kinds of initiatives to foster contempt, ridicule and ridicule against blacks. The bullets in the newspaper had done it regularly with artists like Frederick Burr Opper. The famous Jim Crow by Thomas D. Rice was probably the most popular show of music, humor and varieties since 1828. During the show the white actors paint their faces black, speak with a strong accent and stagger awkwardly. Jim Crow, not in vain, is a name of derogatory etymology, which will be subsequently re-used to give a title to a series of laws that significantly delayed the end of segregation in this country.
The world of the typical white at the beginning of the 20th century was frankly predictable, boring and sad. As in the story of ′The Pied Piper of Hamelin,′ everything that white youth sought in music, dance and vitalism, was found exclusively in the world of blacks. “Through rock and roll” - said Asa Carter - “the white man is lowered to the lower level of the black man. Rock and roll is an integral part of a plot to undermine the morale of our country′s youth. It is sexual, immoral, and is the best way to merge both races. ”
The President of the Alabama White Citizen Council declared before the cameras, while posing proudly next to one of those typical posters of ′We serve only white clients′: ′We have created a committee of twenty members to end that wild dance of Black people called rock and roll. ” The Executive Secretary of the same committee added: ′The obscenity and vulgarity of rock and roll is obviously the means by which the white man and his children can lower themselves to the level of blacks.′ The racist discourse of these religious writers endured until the arrival of David A. Noebel.
The argument about the dangers of rock due to its imagined communist background is the main theme of David A. Noebel′s first book ′Communism, Hypnotism and The Beatles′ (1965). The famous statements of John Lennon, about the alleged loss of popularity of Jesus, went unnoticed in England but months later it seemed a threatening matter of state in the United States of America. Noebel was tremendously influential in many American preachers like Jimmy Swaggart, David Wilkerson or Billy James Hargis - who called The Beatles ′camouflaged communists.′ Johnny Marr of the British group The Smiths says in his small studio that Noebel was the first in its category to add references at the bottom of the page. Of course, putting references at the bottom of the page of books printed on paper does not guarantee too much. A multitude of references can be found to support any kind of nonsense also in Jack Chick, which also warns at the foot of the page about the danger of groups like The Beatles, KISS or Black Sabbath.
The most reliable historical records suggest that Joseph Stalin, in fact, had imposed on the U.S.S.R. an isolationist regime that made the creative tasks of musicians impossible and had prohibited the entire population from accessing any form of western entertainment including of course rock. Few regimes in the world, therefore, aroused less interest in the youth of Liverpool and it is believed that the ridiculousness of the accusation inspired his song entitled ′Back In The U.S.S.R.′ (1968). The cartoonists Vic Lockman and Jack Chick influenced each other and during the 1960s they used the same printing press in California called Rustoi. The Life Messenger organization also used the same format in ′Hooked for Good′ (1973), a pocket comic based on the true story of rock musician Samy Hall, where after a disappointing life of excess he gives his life to Christ. Despite all the coincidences, including that of the guitarist on the deck, the history of the interior was perhaps too beautiful for someone like Jack Chick. Dan & Steve Peters, Jacob Aranza, Gary Greenwald, Phil Phillips or Carmín Ramos filled the bookcases of many bookstores with exaggerated fantasies for more than thirty years.
Drugs, sex and Eastern philosophies would play a lot during the 1970s in the minds of authors like Bob Larson, because they had not yet discovered all the possibilities offered by panic to Satanism. It′s hard to imagine a more ridiculous way of treating Christianity, but the truth is that writing a book has never been so easy in the past. There were always Christians who wrote with common sense about culture. John Gresham Machen, Hans Rookmaaker or Francis Schaeffer had done it at the beginning of the 20th century. Books like ′Man in Black′ by Johnny Cash, ′Hungry for Heaven′ by Steve Turner or ′Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs′ by Donald Thiessen are just a few later examples. Collectives of Christians who were behind Greenbelt Festival, Cornerstone Publishing of JPUSA Chicago or Stephen Lawhead from Intervarsity Press, rigorously addressed the most controversial issues since the early 1970s and their opinion was systematically ignored by the majority of the audience.
The infectious economic crisis that the Christian book industry is suffering today becomes even more evident with the closure of large chains such as Family Christian Stores or LifeWay Christian Stores but you can imagine that it was not always the case. Jack Chick had climbed the wave at the right time and took advantage of it until the end. The CBA was founded at the end of World War II and in December 1983 The New York Times itself echoed the impressive sales volume that this industry had reached. ′If you work for me, you′ll never be short of money,′ Jack Chick assured one of his future employees. Billy Graham was then the only one of the six best-selling authors who was not from California and had also written a book about the invisible supernatural activity that was curiously called ′Angels′ (1975). Billy Graham made clear an emphasis on the guidance, support and provision of angels in the midst of suffering, which was really far from the emphasis on demonic activity in the comic ′Angels?′ of Jack Chick.
Jack Chick enjoyed putting questions at the end of his titles since before his conversion to Christianity he began drawing his comic strip entitled ′Times have changed?′. Keep in mind that fraudulent books like ′Satanic Bible′ by Anton LaVey, ′Michelle Remembers′ by Michelle Smith, ′Satan′s Underground′ by Lauren Stratford or ′Rock Music and Satanism′ by René Laban were not written in context of the evangelical churches. The phenomenon of panic to Satanism fed on the fears of all American society and these books could be found in any public bookstore more easily than Christian books. The morbid public television programs of Gerardo Rivera were followed from 30 million homes and the New Age movement also developed in parallel his own line of books like ′Music & Your Mind′ by Helen L. Bonny. The Goodreads network today records more than eighty publications on this phenomenon of growing sociological interest. Specifically, ′Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s′ was recently published and identifies the protagonists of this era as examples of the hazmereir′s height. Its four hundred illustrated pages in the form of a magazine cover even the smallest details masterfully.
The skilful Jack Chick used the panic to the satanism of his time to give notoriety to his drawings about music and to document about Satanism he used in particular the opinion of three fraudulent sources of information: Rick Jones, John Todd and of course Jeff Godwin - who had specialized in the hypnotic effects of rock and from whom Jack Chick published, promoted and distributed three titles. John Todd had been his first music informant but in 1986 Jack Chick tries to distance himself from his most exaggerated conspiratorial emphases. John Todd was the informant of the comic ′Spellbound′ (1978), for example, where he warns that rock has been created by Satanism and a devilish curse is included free in each recording. Of course, there is hope, since you can get rid of burning the recording! That was easy for Jack Chick too! There were also many other scams outside Chick Publications that took advantage of the panic of Satanism during the 1980s. Mike Warnke is a good example. It was discovered thanks to a detailed investigation of two believers who worked at JPUSA Chicago called Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott.
Mike Warnke was not a Christian comedian like any other of the many in the United States of America. The governor of Tennessee had come to declare June 29, 1988 as ′The Day of Mike Warnke.′ In 1992 this celebrity was hired for more than two hundred annual performances. In them Mike Warnke told jokes, told frightening stories about a fictional life as a Satanist and raised funds for an organization to help victims of Satanism that did not even exist. Alerted by the report published in Cornerstone magazine in 1992, the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper provided more concrete data on economic fraud and Warnke Ministries had to close that same year. The Skeptical Inquirer newspaper pointed out shortly after that Mike Warnke′s secret to success was first that he gave his audience what they wanted. That reflection is just what makes the study of this phenomenon so terrible: that its protagonists limit themselves to writing what their audience wanted to read.
Televiewer Jimmy Swaggart appeared in nothing more and nothing less than 750 television stations and cable systems when he translated into Spanish a small book entitled ′Music: the new pornography′ (1985). ′World communism can look with real satisfaction at the work that is currently being carried out in this nation that was once great and Christian′ - wrote the telepredicator. ′I strongly believe that the punk rock movement (in addition to other aspects of the rock scene) is inspired by communism, and even by Satan.′ SPIN magazine then published an interview with him where Swaggart claimed that the only thing he regretted was not having attacked rock before, that his family had helped the birth of rock - which is an obvious allusion to his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis - and that Rock could only generate a degradation equivalent to pornography.
SPIN′s illustration shows the preacher dressed as a prostitute but it was not until two years after his recurring hobby of prostitution was proven - he was discovered by a detective hired by telemarketer Marvin Gorman. The audience was not infinite and televiewers like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Marvin Gorman competed for the same limited number of spectators. Many like Swaggart himself paid private detectives to follow other telepredicators and uncover their secrets. That is why so many scandals were made public in such a short time. ′We have the same temptations as other men, and also some added temptations,′ declared Jimmy Swaggart in his treatise ′The Preacher.′
Michael Sweet of the heavy metal group Stryper still says today that he owes his conversion to a preaching by Jimmy Swaggart. The musician had supported him in the media and it is understandable that it was disappointing for him to read in 1985 the ridicule that Jimmy Swaggart himself made of his way of dancing. Michael Sweet, after all, was not a dancer but a musician! Jimmy Swaggart could not see with good eyes the good relationship he had with Stryper his rival Jim Bakker and said that the habit of throwing bibles at the audience was like ′throwing pearls at pigs.′ Ozzy Osbourne considered himself a Christian and refused to return the insult by recording the video of the song ′Miracle man′ in a traditional English church filled with seventy pink pigs.
Stryper musicians had not tanned at Sunday school precisely and certainly did not form a Christian rock group like any of the many others that already existed. To give you an idea at the entrance of the rooms where Stryper acted, groups of fundamentalists demonstrated against the events as they did with Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest or Van Halen. In interviews, Michael Sweet was always skeptical and especially interested in the figure of Jesus. His older brother Robert Sweet, however, did also use panic as a catapult and his group Stryper is one of the main keys to understanding this Jack Chick comic entitled ′Angels?′.
In 1985, Stryper′s music occupied much of the attention in the media not only in Los Angeles but also in Australia and Japan. The same country that Jack Chick had occupied during World War II, now received the Los Angeles group with Oricon awards, contracts with CBS and the best promotions of Masa Itoh, which was then the most important musical capo in Japan. Jack Chick had stopped providing personal information by receiving a bad review on national religious television in the 1970s. He could not bear to be mocked. Stryper musicians, however, calmly endured the continuing criticisms they received in secular and religious media on a national and international scale. Jack Chick should not perceive that as a virtue and in the comic he shows musicians as slaves to recognition, money and fame. When they sing among demons that emerge from the stage, what they sing are variations of Stryper songs like ′Co′Mon Rock′ or ′The Rock that makes me rock′.
Stryper was then unique for its striking yellow garments but especially for being the only group of Christian musicians who sold their heavy metal songs in the secular industry. The album ′To hell with the Devil′ went on sale the same year that Jack Chick drew it and also includes four angels. The four angels of Stryper had been drawn with jeans and long hair on the original deck, tying and pushing the Devil to the flames of hell in a line that evokes the best drawings of Frank Frazetta. The cover is then censored and banned in many establishments in the United States of America but by then the scandal may have inspired the name ′Green Angels′ - the Jack Chick group of four musicians with angelic aspirations and a dominant color.
The green of ′Green Angels′ is also an expression of the street and an explicit reference to marijuana: the devil′s weed, because of the relationship that black jazz musicians had had with it and that in their drug condition It gave an interesting underground category to the comic. Jack Chick is also particularly interested in demons in the comic ′Angels?′ And puts a red note exclusively in the diabolical drawing of the outcome, on page 21. It is not an accident. Jack will make that graphic emphasis again in ′That Old Devil′ (1989).
Jeff Godwin, the third rock expert of Chick Publications, misunderstood the use of the preposition ′with′ in the title ′To hell with the Devil′ because, in his usual line, not contextualized, or paying attention to what I was writing Jack Chick did not have that problem, he paid close attention to details and used one of the oldest variations of the story of ′The Pied Piper′: a huge faun playing his traditional song for the cover of Jeff Godwin′s book ′Dancing with Demons′ Pan flute. According to Greek mythology, the Fauns, half men and half goats, hid behind the trees to play this instrument that made men and women especially receptive while being guided into the forests of those who never returned .
The character in the comic ′Angels?′ who is most effeminate and finally finds out how gay his name is Robert, exactly like Stryper′s drummer. Robert Sweet was the only single musician of Stryper at that time and certainly the most daring choosing the costumes suggested by the dressmaker responsible for Stryper - who was none other than his own mother, Janice Sweet! The biographies of groups like Motley Crue, Poison or Guns N Roses prove that there was no way to dress that was more attractive to a young heterosexual from Los Angeles in 1985; nevertheless Jack Chick knew that many would enjoy those sordid jokes with which he accused the musicians of homosexuality. Jack Chick was so happy with the result in the end, that he used a variation of the scenario also in a new edition of his first comic entitled ′Why no Revival′ (1961).
It is often difficult to distinguish between reality and imagination. It is popularly said that we should only believe what our own eyes see, but the most recent studies on ′selective attention′ ensure that the mind is dominant when deciding what our eyes should or should not see. Jack Chick drew on paper at least two versions of the same scene and planted the streets with hundreds of deliberately abandoned copies. Some copy had to end up in the hands of the famous preacher David Wilkerson. He assured, however, that it was the Spirit of God who showed him that same image in a vision a year later. David Wilkerson was not only the owner of one of the most desired farms in the country. He was also in a previous era a daring evangelist able to enter the marginal areas of the United States of America. The majestic building of his Times Square Church had been a Warner Bros. theater in 1930 but when he occupied it, fifty years later, it had hit bottom. Progress is that capricious. The movie ′Times Square′ (1981) had used the theater as the main meeting point. The whole neighborhood was dominated by the lack of education, drugs and crime of young people like Nicky Cruz, who would later write a best-seller of the stature of ′La Cruz y el Puñal′ - which has sold fifteen million copies in thirty different languages.
The preacher had attacked jazz music for years but felt a certain weakness for folk music and hippies. He showed it in books like ′Stop squeezing my neck.′ He defended those young people of course until folk music began using electric instruments. Like many other more conservative hippies, he began to warn that youth were on the path of destruction and led a fervent fight against rock. The identification with ′heroin, alcohol and sexual promiscuity′ that he had made with jazz, he would do from then on with rock! Mylon Lefevre had been a gospel musician since he was a child and had abused drugs for all those years, but he wanted to leave that past behind when he decided to become a rock musician in the 1980s. The musician called David Wilkerson seven years later and invited him to his own performance. He was convinced that this would change the opinion about the rock of the famous preacher, whom he deeply admired.
David Wilkerson, meanwhile, tells in his sermon ′Driven to Darkness′ written on August 3, 1987, that after much doubt he went and remained in the last row looking for discretion. He calculated that there were about three thousand people dancing in front of him and that, despite everything, he could easily see how on stage ′the smoke was coming from the generating machines, the jerky rhythm rose to an extreme volume and the musicians looked like ghosts emerging of gloomy swamps. ′ It was for whatever reason David Wilkerson claimed that, immediately afterwards, he had seen real demons that were emerging from the stage and had heard Satan laugh, satisfied that he had blinded all Christianity there. He says that he then ran around shouting expressions in Hebrew like ′Ichabod Ichabod′, lay down on the ground and summoned the organizers, but was finally unable to stop the concert. Ten years later David Wilkerson changed his mind again, admitted his mistake and adopted a much more relaxed position towards rock music. Proof of this were his treatises ′Confessions of a Rock & Roll Hater′ - which means something like ′Confessions of someone who hated Rock n Roll′.
In the 1990s there were new times and even authors like Bob Larson had admitted Christian rock as a lesser evil, facing the stalking of secular rock; even if it had ′many flaws and some inconsistencies are too noticeable,′ said Bob Larson. SPIN magazine wanted to laugh at him also inviting him on a tour with the Slayer group, but Bob Larson stepped out ensuring that if the group had sold his soul to the Devil it had been in a bank and not in a black mass. Chick Publications however continues to publish practically the same message more than forty years later and that makes it a true circus piece. The thesis of Douglas Bevan Dowd and Todd Hignite in ′Strips, Toons, and Bluesies: Essays in Comics and Culture′ is that Jack Chick is still supported today thanks to the nerve to deal with the issues that are taboo in his own time. A shame that he shares, according to them, with the pornographic comics of the early twentieth century called Tijuana Bibles. A cursory look might give the impression that religious writers were on the opposite side but a closer look discovers that they are really using the same language as their enemies.
The interest in supernatural powers is not exclusive to the 1980s. The Jews in the First Century followed the supernatural with great interest before they met Jesus. The gospels also describe how Jesus′ disciples returned to him excited when they saw how they exercised power over demons. According to the record of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus then assured his disciples that there was nothing really important in that supernatural activity, at least not so important in contrast to the word or promise he had made to them of faithfulness and true life: “do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you,” he says literally, “but rejoice that your names are written in the heavens.” Getting excited with the memory of a promise is often difficult, at least in contrast to the emotion of experiencing something really new and supernatural, but the reality is that we spend our lives chasing new experiences that in the best case give us little more than the dissatisfaction of having lived them.
We can easily come to believe that supernatural activity can cover our lack of trust in God. Quentin Tarantino puts this recurring thought in the mouth of George Clooney aka Seth Gecko when he says in ′Open until dawn′: ′If there is a hell and those bastard vampires come from hell, then there must be a sky Jacob, there must be! ′ We all have our experiences and opinions. Talking or writing about them is free, but what value does the truth have for us? Our fidelity to the truth is directly related to our love of neighbor, with our desire to give preference over our own interest. The love of others leads us to be honest, to be transparent, also showing our ignorance. If we really love our neighbor, we owe the truth or, failing that, the benefit of the doubt.
The truth is obviously that we need Christ. That we are incomplete without him. That our hope is not in our burned discs, nor in our simple prayers, but in his promise that our names are written in the heavens. Satanists do not need Christ more than Christians need and the church does not need Christ more than Jack Chick needed. We have seen it. ′Everyone went astray, they became useless′ - the apostle Paul wrote literally- ′There is no one who does good, there is not even one.′ Christ gave his life in sacrifice, nailed to a cross, not for us to keep the law, but precisely because we couldn′t keep it!
Recall that the oldest excuse of humanity is precisely this: ′the devil forced me to do it′. The obsessive interest in putting the spiritual world at bay, to which many of these religious writers pushed us, might perhaps be a distraction from their true responsibilities. What is certain is that today their mistakes arise as a sign of what was their own dissatisfaction with the biblical and true purpose or plan of God. ′He who spared not his own Son′ - the apostle Paul himself continues later - ′but gave him up for all of us, how can he not also give us all things with him?′ “Therefore, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor the present, nor the coming, nor the high, nor the deep, nor any other created thing can separate us of the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”
This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as Ángeles o demonios en la música rock y el pánico al satanismo de Jack Chick