Propaganda 101: Which square is darker? (Living Waters Tract)

living-waters-which-square-is-darker This propaganda tract outlines several optical illusions like the one seen on the cover. Both squares, A and B, happen to be the same color; but the human eye registers them as different shades because of comparison processing in the optic-nerve used to provide contrast between different shades. The pamphlet includes mirages, the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, and finally this:

3. Then there’s the illusion that the sky is blue, when it actually has no color.

This statement is false; it’s an example of the equivocation fallacy. The “sky” that we refer to as being blue is in fact the visible blueness of the canopy of atmosphere overhead. To refer to the blue sky in the same manner that we refer to the “sky filled with stars” or the sky being the region of air that clouds and aircraft travel through is to conflate different conceptions incorrectly. The sky’s azure hue is no more an illusion than a reflection in a mirror is an illusion.

These sort of sensory perceptions don’t really matter, because they don’t have any serious repercussions. However, there is one that is a very serious deception. It’s the mistake when they think that they get into Heaven on the basis of their own goodness or by their own good works.

That’s not an illusion…it’s mythology.

Illusions at least come from a reasonable superficial model of sensory perception—mirages look like water because the heated air ripples and refracts light; the sun appears to move across the sky because the Earth rotates in relation to it; and the sky is blue because of something called Rayleigh scattering. Each of the above so-called illusions relies on a reliable set of accessible evidence—air rippling visibly, the sun crossing the sky, the sky being blue—but religious mythology about Heaven has no such foundation, it exists only as an ad hoc assertion and a just-so story.

If you were mistaken, wouldn’t you like to be told, or would you prefer to stay deceived when it comes to such an incredibly important matter.

Here the pamphlet author goes back to the original statement that these other illusions “don’t really matter” and indicates that this is because they don’t have any serious repercussions. We can set aside that this ignores the potential plight of desert nomads whose knowledge of the mirage illusion would save lives. The rest of the sentence asks if you’d rather be told about a thing or be wrong about a potential illusion—in this case the ad hoc Heaven mythology.

How exactly do we know about the other illusions? We’ve tested them. The mechanics behind mirages, why the sun appears to be in motion, and why the sky is blue teach us more about the reality we live in. They are real manifestations that anyone can encounter and verify the effect of. The Christian mythology referred to in the pamphlet, however, has absolutely no method of external validation, it is not manifest, and therefore cannot tell us anything about the reality we live in.

The Bible warns that if you are guilty on that [Judgment] Day you will justly end up in Hell.

Of course, for any good propaganda, what is a reference to Heaven without it acting as a stalking horse for its ideological cousin the Threat of Hell. This is just an appeal to another ad hoc mythology to enforce obedience or evoke fear in the reader.

The artwork inside of the pamphlet is actually quite beautiful. Most of them are portrait illusions involving skulls that appear from the intersection of detail and overarching design. Sadly, none of the images are appropriately sourced.

What do Mill Ave’s Creationists and Avatar: The Last Airbender have in common?

Turtle_ducks Turtle-ducks.

Almost six-months ago, Al, one of the street preachers who dispenses his wares on Mill Ave arrived with an odd replica animal that appears to be a mythological hybrid between modern ducks and modern turtles. It’s difficult to tell if it has a turtle shell instead of wings, but it definitely has turtle-flippers instead of webbed duck feet. And, I should point out, two of the limbs grow out of what would be mid-ribcage on humans, a skeletal location that neither avian nor reptile skeletons support.

We see hybrid animals from a lot of ancient mythology: the gryphon (lion and eagle), the chimera (lion, snake, and goat), harpies (human and bird), etc. The origin of the turtle-duck, however, is not from modern Creationist folklore—although, it would be very amusing if this subculture would generate its own mythological creatures—but instead from a contemporary Japanese animé Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Al uses the turtle-duck from this cartoon as part of his ignorance about a strawman form of biology. It’s the sort of sideshow freak-animal that might have convinced backwoods yokels during the 19th century as a circus traveled around rural areas—and, when it comes to Avatar, it’s an adorable fictional animal imagined by an artist to up the cute factor. Al, however, vacillates between claiming it’s “faked evidence” or at least an expected organism according to his strawman biology. If Al had actually done any observing of modern biology, he wouldn’t be professing such an obviously inaccurate assertion. He has been overheard claiming that people believe it’s a “transitional form,” but when pressed for the names of actual biologists who have made this claim he deflects.

The reason is obvious: no credible biologists have ever made this claim. Turtle-ducks are not used as evidence for biology; they’re part of a children’s Japanese animation fantasy cartoon.

The meat of one of his claims is that the Avatar animé turtle-duck represents a transitional form between turtles and ducks as it contains components of both modern turtles and modern ducks. Actual students of biology would probably immediately object at this point based on the fact that it contains fully-formed structures from two modern animals belonging to genera separated by millions of years. No known transitional fossils ever do, and anyone with even one class in modern biology under their belt would be able to explain why one will never emerge.

Let me introduce everyone to an actual transitional fossil: Tiktaalik roseae. It’s species lived during the late Devonian period, approximately 375 million years ago, and it represents a transition between fish and tetrapods. As you can see, it has almost no highly complex, fully formed features represented in modern species—but it does have similar basic structures that modern species build their complex structures on. Like all species, Tiktaalik is fully formed in of itself, but differs both from ancient fish from which its species descended and ancient tetrapods into which its species branched and evolved.

For those of you who don’t study comparative anatomy, you’ll also see that unlike Al’s turtle-duck, even Tiktaalik doesn’t have its upper limbs growing out of the middle of its ribcage.

There’s a problem here and it’s not an issue of just sheer ignorance; it’s that Al is deliberately ill educated and he wants you to be just as ignorant as he is. Look at him, he’s walking around with a cartoon animal, claiming that biologists would find it as credible evidence for a transitional form, failing to support that statement with any actual biologists, and when pressed he retreats into himself.

He’s a fool, proud of his ignorance, and he wants you to accept his "real science", taken from theologians rather than reality, so that you will be just as ignorant and misinformed as he is.

Someone should let Al know that Avatar: The Last Airbender also has turtle-seals, wasp-vultures, pig-sheep, ad nauseam…the list goes on. Maybe he’d like to bouquet his ignorance with some other hybrid cartoon animal from the series in the future.

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever looked at another person, who is not your spouse, with lust?”

True to form, the Good Person Test goes back to thought-crime because it cannot address actual moral behavior directly. A problem which persists likely because the script itself has no moral sense and operates out of a sadistic, fake, and uncorroborated “moral authority.” It generates its guilt complex by redefining otherwise normal thoughts as being equivalent to the acts they represent. Just like the people who cannot distinguish between thought and act, this test is sociopathic.

The script here asks, “Have you ever looked at another person and lusted after them?”

From here the script waits for a, “Yes,” answer, people who hear a, “No,” look at the respondent funny like they can’t believe what they’re hearing. There’s a reason for this! Perhaps it’s because anyone of sexual maturity who answers this question in the negative is unhealthy? Perhaps that should inform us as to exactly what kind of a question this one is.

“Then you have already committed adultery in your heart.”

I’d simply call this part of the script juvenile, if it wasn’t so transparently obvious this is another con game using emotional blackmail. It would be simply immature, except the people who wrote this script know exactly what they’re doing and they’re trying to claim guilt atop a facet of human nature. They cannot readily hook people on their actions because social mores actually inform and restrain actions, so the script falls back on trying to get into a person’s head. This is another example of thought-crime.

“Feel bad because you find other people attractive,” it yells, “because I said so!” Just ask them to demonstrate why attraction is immoral…

The obvious answer to this one is just like the “anger” question, “So what?” Ideally what makes morality and makes our world tick is how people behave, it’s not what their lizard-brain jumps out and informs them; the fact that we can lead sane, efficient lives in spite of all this adultery going on in our hearts tells us that weirdly, “committing adultery in one’s heart” has absolutely no moral effect on the world.

The logical end of this particular statement that you are already condemned for adultery if you simply look at someone else with lust. Yes? You might as well have gone and drawn them away into the bushes and actually gotten some bang for your punishment—after all, according to The Good Person Test there is no moral difference between the impulse and acting it out. With that moral equivalence in place there’s no reason to suppress the behavior. Another example of how sociopathic this test becomes when addressed with reasonable scrutiny.

It’s probably apparent by now that this moral blindness is rampant in this test to determine the goodness of a person. The test itself isn’t just amoral: it’s immoral—it goes out of its way to conflate morally divorced concepts just to make its sale; when it does this it goes the further step which is to attempt to convict the person of the worse guilt on the basis of the weak or nonexistent one. And in cases like this one, it uses a natural, healthy, human reaction in order to do it.

Treating healthy human beings as if what they feel is just as bad as if they acted upon it does harm to the positive outlook of a psyche on the world. This sort of abuse is nearly irreconcilable. People who use the Good Person Test are deliberately inflicting injury on credulous and social individuals who stop to listen to them.

This part of the test in particular is designed to do harm.

People who use the Good Person Test and make it to this part have already gone through numerous morally blind statements and they’ve made gross, false accusations veiled in the “admission” of the audience before they reach this one. With this one they play on the psychosexual social mores that have insinuated this sort of behavior into our society already—poking and prodding for a weakness—and they’ve found one of the best ones: making people feel immoral because of healthy behavior.

When a person makes something healthy into something to feel guilty over they themselves are guilty of poisoning our social experience. And not one of us should hold them blameless.

Previous: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

This particular question is sometimes denied by the audience (seems that people don’t often steal things) but when it is answered, “Yes.” The next part of the script is to get them to answer what people who steal are called, and the answer is, “A thief.” To which the interviewer then claims that the audience has admitted to being a thief.

Sometimes if the interviewer cannot get a satisfactory answer out of the audience they attempt to conflate theft with goofing off at work or downloading music from the Internet. (Never let someone attempt to suggest that copyright infringement is theft: they’re wrong about the law and should educate themselves.) This behavior is common to the script of The Good Person Test, when it feels like it cannot stick someone with one of its pins it starts to play linguistic and semantic games.

Does taking a quarter from your sibling when you were six really make you a thief? This is a deliberate distortion that insinuates that a singleton act can condemn a person to a label that as a group we wouldn’t put on any individual unless they showed a pattern of theft. It then sociopathically conflates the entire spectrum of harm caused by theft from the most petty to the most damaging into the same moral exactitude. This is the same black and white thinking failure seen throughout the script.

Perhaps people just haven’t gotten it yet, but a person is not a thief if they take something once and then end up making recompense for it. Theft does actually cause damage. It’s illegal because it removes property from another person, it causes harm; the extent of that harm varies—and it varies widely. The moral nature of the theft is tied directly to the harm caused by the theft.

To ask someone: “have you ever stolen something, even something insignificant?” and then say, “If you have, you’re a thief!” is flippantly disrespectful of everyone listening because the script is going out of its way to ignore harm and then act like all theft is equal.

This is just another pale, transparent attempt to denigrate the audience without actual substance. It has little bearing on actual moral behavior and serves only to buttress the black and white, non-sequitur conclusions advocated by the script.

Next: “Have you ever looked at another person, who is not your spouse, with lust?”

Previous: “Have you ever told a lie, no matter how trivial?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever told a lie? No matter how trivial.”

According to the script at this point if the person says, “Yes,” which they invariably shall, the interviewer then tells them that they are therefore a liar. This can be played any number of ways, generally the interviewer will try to get them to “admit” that they’re a liar by asking them, “What do we call people who tell lies?” “Well, liars.” If the person for some reason says that they’ve never told a lie the interviewer either dismisses or laughs at them.

There are number of grossly disrespectful assumptions being made here. One, wrapped up in their definition of “lie”, seems to be that any misrepresentation, no matter how minor or trivial, makes you a liar. Except that this is only the case for grade school children—and even they quickly forget the slight of being told something that was untrue. Why? Because the social animals that we are carefully shape our speech in order to communicate our boundaries.

Only a person who is consistently dishonest (pathological), inflicts injury with dishonesty, or commits fraud gets to wear the label “liar.” This is because everyone knows full well that the thresholds of what each of us consider to be honesty vary greatly between different people, different situations, and even differing levels of veracity. Furthermore, back to the boundaries issue, to be social animals we cannot always be fully honest with one another; there are social situations which exist where we are forced by protocol to dance around honest answers.

For this type of emotional blackmail to work for the Good Person Test must assert that nearly every use of deliberate misrepresentation must be the worst kind.

Some of the people who use the Good Person Test appear to know this well enough that they try to make a loophole for it, stating that discretion isn’t lying. Which means pretty much most people aren’t in fact “liars” because they’ve therefore never really told a “lie.” But they cannot hold to this definition because it makes this entire part of the script moot. And everyone who listens to it should know this.

Is lying always immoral? Let’s take the case of Anne Frank. We have a case where a reigning authority is searching for particular people whom you have every reason to believe are innocent and the direct result of their capture will be their horrible torture and deaths. Do you lie in order to protect them from a horrific fate? Does telling the truth therefore make you culpable for their horrible torture and murder? In this case it would appear that lying is extremely moral; but also telling the truth would be distinctly immoral.

Perhaps moral acts aren’t as simple as singleton script stanzas without nuance.

The Good Person Test is once again attempting to put a hook into natural social behavior. It makes the assertion that “all lying is bad/immoral” and therefore people should be eternally condemned for it—but then it fails to explain why. Like every other step of the Good Person Test it attempts to leverage guilt over telling lies as a reason of calling someone guilty of breaking an asserted “law.”

The worst part about this portion of the Good Person Test is that it’s then leveraged as a pathetic attempt to weaken the resolve of the person answering questions. Specifically I am going to call out a very singular abuse of social and extroverted individuals. If the interviewer is capable of getting them to admit that they’re a “liar” through manipulative semantics they then pull this line out of the script on the next question:

“But how can I believe you? You admitted you’re a liar.”

This is abusive. It is an uncalled for disrespect of the person who has taken their time to answer these questions, it is set up for emotional blackmail, and a deliberate denigration of a peer—no amount of jocularity or false irony added to this line make it any less inexcusable. This specific line mocks the good faith that anyone answering these questions—it is beyond the pale in its contempt of the audience.

Finally, this question does damage to the very fabric and core of what it is to be social and loving creatures. It deliberately ignores and dismisses all the truth that a person may have told in their life; and instead places an unlikely and unexplained weight only to lying while all actual honesty feather-light in comparison.

In our interactions with other people do we want to dismantle, damage, and disrespect them because they can and have told lies in their lives? What kind of test for a “good person” fails to weight based on good done and instead gives even minor wrongs a greater strength. This is sociopathic.

This is a test immoral in its own right. It is trying only to puncture the self-esteem of an otherwise good, honest individual by baldly exploiting the weaknesses of every social animal; and then uses that puncture in order to get unsupported and knowable false claims of guilt accepted.

Next: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

Previous: “Have you ever been angry at someone?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever been angry at another person?”

Depending on the script being used, the interviewer will warm up the audience in a variety of ways. Primarily by asking them if they think they’re a good person. “Do you believe you’re a good person? Well, if you think that you shouldn’t have any trouble taking this test.” The next line varies also, but there’s only a set few so I’m going to pick the script used the last time someone tried this on me.

“Have you ever gotten so mad at someone you wanted to kill them? Or, how about if you were cut off in traffic and you shook your fist and shouted at the person in the next car. Ever done that? If so, you’re a murderer. ‘He so ever who has hatred in his heart for his fellow man has committed murder in his heart.’”

This line is often presented by asking either if a person has “ever hated someone else” but more often than not the interviewer will water it down by asking if they’d ever simply been “angry at someone else.” Such as getting angry at someone who cut you off in traffic, stolen from you, or caused you harm. The common stripe between these acts is that they’re all things that would raise the hackles of average, well-adjusted people.

Of course, the reply to the “Yes…” is “If you get angry at someone you have committed murder in your heart and that makes you a murderer.” No, a non-sequitur judgment based on a thought-crime doesn’t really convince me. We don’t live in a society where getting angry is murder—it’s childish to presume that anger, a lizard-brain reaction, is equivalent to unlawfully ending the life of a peer. By morally conflating these two things—anger and murder—the script deliberately confuses extremely disparate concepts.

As a community it is unhealthy to react to anger in the same way we would murder. Anger is an emotional reaction to frustrating situations; murder is a criminal act, bound from us by law and culminates in the end of a life. One is temporary, fleeting, an emotion and a natural part of our own dialogue with ourselves and each other. Murder is forever—an ending, a socially damaging act.

Think for a moment how repugnant it is for anyone to combine these two things into one.

How can we have a sane discussion about why we find murder immoral if at the same time we have to also resolve how really it’s exactly the same as if the murder didn’t happen: one person got mad at the other.

This part of the Good Person Test is sociopathic: murder and anger are not morally equivalent.

When this part of the Good Person Test is used, the interviewer must somehow divorce the human condition (their own condition) from reality. They are deliberately abusing the credulity of the person they’re talking to, attempting to turn normal, human emotional reactions—the very underpinnings of why we behave the way we do—into criminal acts, which no sane criminal code has ever done.

This is a form of emotional blackmail, a disingenuous attempt to flog the listener with human nature. To treat them as if they are not rationally responsible for their own behavior simply because of their emotions—especially if all evidence shows that they’ve been angry before but never committed murder. Manipulating people by emotionally blackmailing them is a reprehensible behavior; this is not the act of a compassionate, caring person.

Next: “Have you ever told a lie?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: A Critique

The Dishonest and Immoral Good Person Test

Over recent years we’ve seen the rise of a particularly pernicious form of propaganda among evangelical preachers. The so-called “Good Person Test” which has received little visible criticism. With a little bit of rational thinking and actual empathy for other human beings we can quickly see why this religious sales pitch is immoral.

“The Good Person Test” is an immoral psychological device designed by Ray Comfort and employed by Way of the Master evangelicals as a tool of conversion. It is a poorly constructed syllogism that uses emotional blackmail, disrespectful treatment, moral conflation, and outright condescension in order to abuse the credulous and social.

I am going to approach it in segments because this is the way it is presented.

Anger is murder

One lie, always a liar, aka lying cannot be moral

One theft, always a thief

Attraction is sex, aka attraction is cheating, aka sex is bad

• The vanity of a name, aka do you have a point? (I am not doing this one because it has no relation with reality)

• All roads lead to eternal torture

The script itself is a better litmus test for the so-called “goodness”, or at least moral intelligence, of the interviewer than it is for the audience. By far the worst aspect of this script happens to be the unspoken dialogue steeped in Christian mythology that whosever breaks a single of the unsubstantiated rules will suffer a horrible punishment. This is especially repulsive when the script starts to use thought crime as a reason to lay blame rather than personal integrity, character, or action.

I find this particular form of evangelism to be repellent. These people manipulate the good graces of their audience, beat them with emotional blackmail, false entitlement, false intimacy, and use other con game tactics that are all frauds of social human interaction. The double-standard that is portrayed by this test has never been above-board. I hope that if only those who use it would examine the technique, they would choose to abandon this unhealthy, disgusting behavior.

Perhaps if they do, they can become more like the good people the so-called “Good Person Test” claims to detect.

Propaganda 101: God Loves You (Fellowship Tract League Tract #110)

Please do not resent us for giving you this tract. We love your soul, and we want to tell you that if you have never been born again, you are on your journey to a place where you will burn forever and ever.

By now all of my dear readers know exactly how I’m doing to dissect this line, so let me get this list out of the way: appeal to fear, false altruism, appeal to Hell threat, mere messenger stratagem. First paragraph and already propaganda epic fail. The difference between many of the others here is that the tract is starting out with a lot of jargon that might confuse those who aren’t culturally Christian. For example, what exactly does “never been born again” mean to someone who has never heard this phrase?

Notice especially the high density of personal pronouns present in this paragraph. “your soul,” “to tell you,” “if you have never,” “you are on your journey,” “where you will burn.” This strategy is designed to resonate with the language parsing capability of the human brain, which gives personal pronouns higher priority than other words. Each token usages of the second person pronoun acts as a prod at the reader: you, You, YOU!

You see, the human race began when God created the first man, Adam. Adam was created sinless, yet he was also created with the ability to choose whether he would accept or reject God’s rule. God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in that day that he ate from the tree, he would die.

Another appeal to mythology! The tract goes on to continue to retell the story about Adam…but it neglects to mention Eve. In fact, she seems to have nothing to do with this instantiation of the story, just Adam. After making demanding tones and asserting that all people have been tainted with “sin” it makes another threat of Hell.

Perhaps it’s just me, but maybe this tract is directed towards males. If I recall correctly Eve had a very important role in the Christian Genesis mythology and her absence from this story makes me wonder what the purpose was. Certainly, they have only a particular amount of ink to put onto this page, but they had to deliberately excise portions of their own myth to come up with this lean-mean-Hell-machine version. Perhaps it’s my own bias as a woman to see this as an obvious entendre reflecting the culture of the editors.

Jesus loves you. He loved you even before you were born into this world. […] God’s love for you is greater than all human understanding. By sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to die for sinful man, He prepared the way of salvation to keep you and I from this lake of fire.

Normally I would not include this sort of statement, but one line in particular caught me and I realized that I haven’t yet exposed this propagandist fallacy. “God’s love for you is greater than all human understanding.” This statement is a particularly fragile expression of an appeal to authoritative ignorance—I have seen far better abstractions of this in my studies of World War II propaganda. Ones that aren’t self refuting. If in fact anything is greater than all my understanding, then how exactly are you capable of communicating to me that it exists?

An appeal to authoritative ignorance works something like this: “I have access to information that you don’t, so believe me when I tell you this.” The implementation above is most frangible because it fails to even attempt to present how the writer of the tract came to gain this special knowledge, what extent their special knowledge covers, or why we should even trust in their special knowledge.

The rest of the tract rests its entire foundation on the earlier appeal to mythology, threatens the reader again with Hell, and then goes off into the usual spiel with little differentiation from other tracts.

Propaganda 101: YOU ARE HERE (Living Waters Tract #254)

This photograph causes a cringe to tighten my spine. Reading the tract informs us that they added the…Earth…to this image in order to give a sense of scale…what it doesn’t say is that the distance is totally wrong. In fact, this tract would be ridiculously long in order to actually display the proper distance and scale of Earth vs. Sun. Being the geek that I am, I decided to take a moment and point out exactly how far off “YOU ARE HERE” is.

The diameter of the stellar body on this photograph fudges to about 8 inches (I measured it by matching the curvature to a similar object, in this case a ceramic plate.) The planet Earth has an elliptical orbit around the Sun varying in distance according to its position in that orbit, the mean distance between Earth and the Sun is 14,960,000 10^6 km; the mean diameter of the Sun is 1,392 10^6 km. That means that the Earth should be placed 8,5977 inches away! That’s 2,388.25 yards…for those Americans in my audience, let me lay this one out. To display appropriate scale of Earth to Sun the tract would have to be a length of over 23 football fields.

YOU ARE NOT HERE.

Did you know that the earth could fit into the volume of the sun over a million times? Think of it… what sort of Being could create the sun?

I don’t know if this is a red herring or a testimonial. Whatever it happens to be it’s a bunch of irrelevant hand-waving. The tract author is attempting to assert the presence of a “Being”–which is probably the Christian god–by begging the question with this thinly veiled “think about it” line. Occam’s Razor: Star formation is an observed phenomenon and is sufficiently explained by natural forces. Unless this tract is going to demonstrate a star making Being, there is not sufficient evidence to believe that the Sun was made by one.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever made a god to suit yourself (within your mind)? There is one God, and you have to face Him. Alone. On Judgment Day. That’s a scary thought.

You are making an appeal to fear. Ever done that? At this point the tract descends into the usual appeals to mythology, glitters with generalities, assertions, and more threats.

Go to [our website] and click on ‘Save Yourself Some Pain.’

More pandering.

The hook of this tract is entirely in the false visual on the front of the tract. It then uses the bad visual in order to deliver truthful but irrelevant information. This strategy is used by propagandists to create a false sense of wisdom so that they can set up the question that begs the existence of a Being that created the sun. Also: a photograph is a tangible fact–something that mythology is not. The propagandist is attempting to create a positive bias by correlating the supernatural “Being” with the observable sun. That way the reader is thinking about this Being when they enter into the parts of the tract that appeal to fear and mythology. A critical examination, however, would make it necessary to point out that’s fairly obvious that stars can form without the presence of any beings.

This tract is cute in that it attempts to include some knowledge generated by empirical science. It uses a photograph taken by NASA, which is an excellent empirical data point about our sun. (If you ignore the Photoshopped Earth being in the wrong place.)

Propaganda 101: THE BLOOD (Fellowship Tract League Tract #172)

This tract has a slightly different layout than others. It punctuates pages with center, bold, ALL-CAPS headings, and numbered lists.

MAN’S GREATEST NEED

Sin has separated man from God. To be separated from God at death means to spend eternity in Hell, because God will not excuse sin, and sin must be punished. Man is sinful, but God is holy. The blood of Jesus Christ is God’s way of meeting man’s greatest need.

Wow. The jargon density in this paragraph is amazing. Of course, it doesn’t quite explain what “man’s greatest need” is after all, does it? It just threatens the reader with Hell right up front and center and…that’s it. I open this tract and immediately it’s pointing at gun at me, “You need something! The blood of Jesus Christ fulfills this need!” A person who is at least culturally Christian will fill this void of explanation with their own experience, but anyone else is going to look at this with a bemused stare and put it down again.

So, this tract is about blood. Excuse me, I mean, this tract is about BLOOD. So let’s look at the numbered list in the section that tells about this BLOOD. Specifically the blood of Jesus Christ. (For the sake of clarity, I omit the Bible references from these outtakes; often they are superfluous noise anyway.)

WHAT WILL JESUS’ BLOOD DO?

  1. The blood washes and cleanses you from sin.
  2. The blood pays for your forgiveness.
  3. The blood makes peace with God.
  4. The blood saves you from God’s wrath.
  5. The blood opens the way to Heaven.

Oh ho! Check it out! Is this the very first tract that I’ve read that actually mentions the Christian concept of Heaven? I could be mistaken, but I think that so far most of them have been threatening me with Hell over and over and never mention the reward scenario. So this is a singularly interesting specimen of propaganda for us right here.

To put this tract into context, I’m sure you can see that the cover is a two-tone image of a hand, pierced with a large spike, through the carpal bones (someone needs to study their anatomy!), with blood pooling down to form the color space around the word BLOOD. This is attempting to appeal to empathy—that looks like it hurts! And it ensconces the imagery of blood and bleeding in the mind of the reader before they start parsing the text.

I wanted to talk about the offer of Heaven, but the tract never defines it anywhere. The Bible quote that goes along with that line isn’t even helpful, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19.)” I guess that we’re supposed to take the writer’s word that this is referring to Heaven. Boldness? Holiest? I guess that this tract doesn’t actually go the last mile and offer Heaven as an alternative to Hell except in the barest sheen of cultural Christian reference.

The most foretelling portion of this list, I can see, happens to be that four out of the five list items are all about avoiding the threatened beat-down. Only the very last one is some sort of reward; the rest are mere escape from horrible punishment. Perhaps the Heaven reference just got thrown in there as an afterthought. Oh yeah, and there’s also Heaven, by the by.

This is interesting.

YOUR GREATEST DECISION

Jesus shed His blood, was buried, and rose again the third day. At this moment He stands ready, able, and willing to save you. The choice is yours. A song says, ‘If the blood of Christ is sufficient for God, it is surely sufficient for me.’ It is the blood that satisfies God. Why not put your trust in Christ’s finished work, and call on Him for salvation now?

The tract is quoting a song instead of the Bible here. This is an aberration! To my disappointment, I was unable to determine what song this paragraph refers to. I would like to know if anyone can help guide me to the proper resources, or if they are familiar with the lyric enough to simply fork over the data.

This paragraph is typical of these tracts. The tract spent a while setting up a house of cards series of bald assertions culminating in this: “You’re in trouble; I know the only solution; here’s that solution; take the solution or suffer horribly.” The theme here is just that God is a vampire and the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to slake his bloodlust for you…

God does not drink…wine.