Propaganda 101: Is Jesus Christ Your Savior? (Fellowship Tract League Tract #118)

Yes, the following really is the first line.

My friend are you saved? Saved is a Bible word, not a term thought up by man.” There are a cornucopia of errors in this single line. Saved is an English word, from Middle English via Old French sauf, from Latin salvus, safe. The Bible’s early manuscripts are written in Hebrew and Greek with some Aramaic translations. Pay attention class: see English anywhere in there? German? Anglo-Saxon? Or anything in the direct ancestry of English? No.

“Saved” is certainly not a Bible word.

It also seems to want to claim that something that is a “Bible word” is not therefore a term thought up by man. To assess this claim, however, I need an instantiation of a “Bible word” to examine. Since no definition is provided, and the only example is patently bogus, I suspect this phrase has no meaning.

Maybe the author of this tract is referring instead to the specific jargon he’s applying to the word “saved” according to usage in the Bible. If so, he really put his foot in his mouth that time.

I have been a Christian for almost twenty years, and I find that most people still do not have an understanding of God’s message of salvation.” Bad editing here, this sentence isn’t even a separate paragraph, yet it has absolutely no transition or context connection to the previous line. Except maybe that the word “salvation” happens to be a cousin of that Latin word salvus.

Plato, Aristotle, or Einstein could only think as far as their finite minds were able. They could not even solve the problems of this life, such as sickness, disease, pain, hunger, and death, let alone know anything about eternity.

And the author is about to claim that he himself has these answers? No, wait, he is but a mere messenger.

God knew we needed something to go by, so He put everything there is to know in His Bible.

Like Cre recombinase and Tre recombanaise—recently discovered enzymes used to combat HIV. No? No mention of it? Perhaps this isn’t part of “everything there is to know” or maybe it has nothing to do with “sickness, disease, [and] pain.” In the world of propaganda this is known as a glittering generality—it’s also an example of a Big Lie. To effect the Big Lie propagandists spread a particular false belief into the population, “the Bible includes everything there is to know,” repeating it ad nauseam until a large enough portion of the population believes it to be true.

The tract does not go on to clarify what it means by the above statement so we can take it at face value: it’s simply asserting a bald falsehood expecting the reader to swallow it.

So you and I, like our father, Adam, are born sinners. We have not obeyed all of God’s commandments.

This is an appeal to mythology. First time I’ve seen this specific instance! Adam is a figure in Biblical mythology touted as “first man.” Except that Adam wasn’t born a sinner, so this sentence isn’t actually consistent with Biblical mythology after all.

Your guilt as a sinner is shown by the fact that you will eventually die.

And Germans are evil because of the fact that have large noses and speak a different language. As a proud citizen of the USA you should buy war bonds to aid our soldiers in fighting the German scourge! This sort of false assertion attempts to bond two things that have no causal connection. According to this logic: plants and animals are also sinners shown by the fact that they will eventually die.

And, of course, if all else fails end the tract by threatening the reader using an appeal to fear:

Please hear this. People do not go to hell for their sins. They go to hell for rejecting Jesus Christ as their Sin Bearer, their Substitute, and the One who died in their place for their sins.

Propaganda 101: HEAVEN or HELL (Fellowship Tract League Tract #115)

So: HEAVEN or HELL, which do you choose?

Ah, false dichotomy, how long has it been since we last danced? It seems but yesterday I held you in my arms, as you whispered sweet nothings; but I have so many dance partners and you imagine yourself the only one.

Are you going to heaven or to hell?” asks the first line of this tract. “The Bible teaches that many seemingly good people are going to hell, because … Sin has a price. You might be wondering what happens to people when they die in their sins.” And so on. The parts that I’m skipping are lengthy references to the Bible that don’t mean very much to the message that’s being demonstrated here. Except maybe the bit where it mentions people being “cast into a lake of fire.”

Does anyone else find it strange that the word “hell” in these doesn’t have a capital letter? To me this is a weird modification of English grammar; here I thought that Christians considered Hell to be an actual place—or at least a proper noun. Heaven doesn’t get a capital in this tract either, so maybe it’s a style issue.

The tract goes on to say, “The Bible tells us God desires to save everyone. … Do you want to be saved? The Bible teaches that there are several things you must do in order to be saved.

The propagandist here makes several assumptions that haven’t been addressed. The first: the reader may not believe in the concept of sin. Without sin this threat is totally moot. Can’t die in your sin if there is none. It also assumes that Heaven and Hell are meaningful places to the reader. As if they don’t believe in Olympus, Valhalla, Elysium, any other afterlife–or none!

I’ve been looking at a lot of these tracts and this type seems to be directed at other Christians.

The way to be saved is so simple! Yet many refuse to be saved. They will not accept Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin and its penalty. They refuse to believe that Lord Jesus is powerful enough to save them by Himself. Do you?

Or, Mr. False Dichotomy, maybe there isn’t a Jesus.

Parsing this tract gives me a unique segue into something that I’d like to talk about, not just false dichotomies, but the implementation of “conversion by threat.” To instantiate such a piece of propaganda first I must set up a paradigm that includes the elements that I am going to threaten with: in this case Heaven and Hell. Then I set up a balance between them by exploiting the human reaction to threats: explicit focus.

When presented with danger or stress things get really simple: safe and not safe. So, I set up something extremely dangerous, “Eternal torture in Hell!” and on the other side of the proverbial coin, I put something extremely safe, “Eternal bliss in Heaven.” Although, oddly, neither Heaven nor Hell are described in this entire tract, so really it’s not offering Heaven except in the title, only being rescued from the threat of Hell. Saved.

Once I’ve got that threat up, and I have my audience hooked on it, I sell my solution. At this layer of abstraction the human mind sees the two necessary elements of a stress action and, of course, chooses the case that doesn’t involve the serious danger. Threatening people with eternal torture to get them to agree must be one of the most cynical mechanics that I have ever seen in Christian propaganda.

“Do as I say or this bad thing will happen.”

In the parlance of my academic peers this is called an appeal to fear. It works by instilling fear, in this case via threat, in the reader and then feeding on that in order to make the rest of its case. This appeal is particularly fragile in that it has no depth to it. Appeals to fear require that the reader not examine the appeal too deeply, in this tract, not to question the assumptions made in the tract:

If there is no Heaven or Hell then this threat is moot.