Ben Simpson has an interesting question under “Gospel Tracts a Thing of the Past?”

Is the tract still a viable means by which to communicate the gospel?  Or, has it ever been?  What are your thoughts on tracts?

He also suggests that the Blog may be the modern replacement for the tract. For anyone unfamiliar with tracts, they are generally short cartoon books that evangelize Christianity in the most propagandist terms you can imagine. They’re often focused on raising strong emotions and fear of damnation and Hell. Associating homosexuality, other religions and drug use with demonic influence is a common theme. Chick Publications is a leading producer.

I don’t think blogs have any real relation to tracts. The point of tracts is that they are invasive. They are left places to be found by random people who were not looking for them. Blogs are the opposite. People choose the blogs they go to. They might “come across one” but it’s likely going to be one that they basically agree with. Blogs, almost by design, preach to the converted, or at least to the interested.

I personally doubt that tracts are very successful at really converting people. Their form lends itself to keeping the already converted from straying. They rely on an existing fear of the Christian Hell that is instilled from a young age in most Christian countries. If I wrote a tract today that warned against sin lest Ammit eat your soul, it would likely have little impact. Yet fear of Jahannam is as motivating as that of Hell to those who grow up in its shadow. The fear generated has no relation to the truth of the thing. I discussed this earlier in On Fear.

Tracts are propaganda, and I dislike propoganda even when I agree with its goals. Propaganda is manipulative and thus stands against the search for truth, which must be open-eyed. When we engage fear or anger or other strong emotions, we turn off reason, which is our greatest gift. So no, I don’t like tracts.