Friday, August 26, 2016

Note on Chick Tracts

In 2013 I did an E-Block series on Chick tracts. It won't transfer here well because I had to use a lot of pictures, but a supplemental article I did later contains a lot of valuable info (without pics) that I thought ought to be preserved in another place.


We had a series on Chick tracts a while back, but there was one subject left that I wanted to append to that series, but couldn’t, because the article I needed was no longer available. That article, by Brian Onken, was titled, “Alberto: The Truth About Alberto,” and it appeared in vol. 4, #2 of Forward magazine. If that name seems unfamiliar, it’s because that was the title of the Christian Research Journal in its first few years of publication, back when Walter Martin was at the helm of CRI. But now, thanks to Elliot Miller, the editor of the Journal, I was able to look at a copy of this article and make some notes (as an aside, it may well be the only copy left in the country!).

Onken’s article was about two Chick comics, “Alberto” and “Double Cross,” that supposedly relate the history of Alberto Rivera, who is Jack Chick’s chief source for anti-Catholic material. In pursuing the claims of these comics, Onken at first tried to contact Rivera, without success. He then tried to contact Chick, but was told that "Jack Chick would make no reply whatsoever and that he was not answerable to any man, and that the comic books could stand on their own." I think that response stands on its own, though not the way Chick thinks it does.
Onken then made phone contact with Rivera, who said "he would not waste time in what he termed 'personal carnal justification'." Rivera then said that CRI was in apostasy, that Walter Martin was an "undercover agent for the Vatican," and that if CRI wanted answers, they could get them "in a court of law." It’s rather interesting that anyone who seeks to question Chick ends up being a Vatican employee. Needless to say, this is merely the same sort of psychological ploy used by all conspiracy theorists – such as the Zeitgeist movie, or 9-11 truthers, who take informed dissent as further proof of a cover-up.

Next, Onken did some checking with the Catholic Church, to see if Rivera had indeed been part of it. No record was found of Rivera as a bishop or as a Jesuit. More recent Chick comic editions provide a photo of Rivera allegedly at work as a Catholic priest, but why not play their own game and say that’s part of their cover-up? But it need not be – see below.

The recent comics also provide alleged testimonies from two former Catholics. One, named Clark Butterfield, is reputedly an ex-priest. His alleged biography, Night Journey from Rome to the New Jerusalem, was published by Chick, who is alleged to have been called out of Catholicism in 1978 and died in 1981 – or, some say, murdered in 1981, though Chick itself doesn’t say this.

Onken then offered a listing of errors in the two comics:
  • False claims about Catholic teachings include that students studying for the priesthood cannot read the Bible, and that Mary is co-equal with the Father.
  • There are some historical errors as well, such as that Jesuits were behind the Inquisition (which is not possible, since the Jesuits were not established until the 1540s, and the Inquisition started in 1198). It is also claimed that Constantine secretly worshipped the sun god until death.
  • It is claimed that the acronym INRI stands for Iustum Necar Reges Impios, or, “it is just to exterminate the impious”, rather than Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudearoum. Of course this is mere paranoid fantasy.
  • Any one, it seems, can be a secret agent for Rome. Kathryn Kuhlman was one. Jim Jones was secretly a Jesuit deacon (though the sources Rivera cites actually say Jones was a dupe for the CIA!). It is claimed that Jones’ "key people were Roman Catholics," but actually, only 3 of 11 were.
  • Alberto claims that he attended seminary in Costa Rica, and refers to a scandal in the girls dorm, and a hunger strike he masterminded. He also says the seminary is ecumenical, and now "working with the Roman Catholic Church."

  • Onken contacted the seminary and a former classmate of Rivera’s, who apparently did attend the school. To that extent, Rivera does seem to have told a partial truth; he may well have been a priest, but notably, the photos provided by Chick do nothing to prove he was a bishop or a Jesuit. The classmate, in any event, said that "Rivera's account of the events at the seminary was nothing more than a fraud." There was a hunger strike, but Rivera had nothing to do with it, and it had never made the papers as Rivera claimed and was also not related to any Jesuit conspiracy.

    The seminary, too, affirmed the hunger strike, but said it was and is still Reformed, not a part of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Onken also contacted the pastor of the Protestant church Rivera attended (apparently undercover) in Spain. Rivera claimed to have turned it in to authorities, but the church was not meeting clandestinely as claimed, and had a government permit.

    As a response to all of this, Onken further noted that on May 29, 1981, Rivera went on KBRT in Los Angeles, where he said that Walter Martin was "working for the Vatican." He later was met personally by Martin and Onken and when confronted by them, he said he no longer thought Martin was working for the Vatican. However, the same evening at a speaking engagement, he reiterated the earlier claim and added that Martin’s name “was on a secret Jesuit list." He then published a booklet, “A Call for Total Separation,” allegedly addressing points made by Onken, but all the booklet did was use reprinted material from the Alberto comics, plus provide a supposed Jesuit oath. As a final humorous note, Rivera repeatedly referred to CRI as the "Christian Research Center" in his statements.

    In an ironic twist, the article closes with a remark made by Rivera at First Baptist Winter Springs, Florida – a town not far from me – on September 13, 1981. Rivera said that Martin “is dealing with the same accusations, slander, spreading them all over. The president of the so-called, you can imagine the title of this organization, the Christian Research Center. Well, I don't see nothing of Christianity there, much less of research."

    I’d say that such a statement actually better fits Rivera more accurately than CRI.

    Friday, August 12, 2016

    The Jewish Flag Conspiracy

    This weekend Nick Peters and I are supposed to record a podcast where I talk about conspiracy theories. So I decided to use this week to illustrate one with a selection from one of my ebooks on conspiracy theories.

    Real Jews opposed this design fiercely and suggested that their flag should instead depict a menorah, pointing out that the hexagram was not even a Jewish symbol. It has come to be known as the Star of David but is not mentioned in the Bible at all and was in fact only adopted in the Enlightenment based on occult ideas from the Kabbalah. Despite the protests, the Rothschilds were in control of the operation and the hexagram stayed.

    We mentioned earlier in this book that we wondered what Fairley would have to say about this, and now we know. Too bad he’s got the history partly wrong. Let's see what the some reputable sources have to say about this subject.

    One of the first Jewish uses of the Star of David was as part of a colophon, the special emblem printed on the title page of a book. Sometimes the printer included his family name in the colophon; or chose an illustration that alluded to his name, ancestry, or the local prince, or a symbol of success and blessing. The idea was to differentiate this printer's books from those of his competitors and to embellish the title page. Colophons are as old as the printing press itself.

    According to Sholem, the motive for the widespread use of the Star of David was a wish to imitate Christianity. During the Emancipation, Jews needed a symbol of Judaism parallel to the cross, the universal symbol of Christianity. In particular, they wanted something to adorn the walls of the modern Jewish house of worship that would be symbolic like the cross. This is why the Star of David became prominent in the nineteenth century and why it was later used on ritual objects and in synagogues and eventually reached Poland and Russia. The pursuit of imitation, in Sholem's opinion, led to the dissemination of an emblem that was not really Jewish and conveyed no Jewish message. In his opinion, it was also the reason why the Star of David satisfied Zionism: it was a symbol which had already attained wide circulation among the Jewish communities but at the same time evoked no clear-cut religious associations. The Star of David became the emblem of Zionist Jews everywhere. Non-Jews regarded it as representing not only the Zionist current in Judaism, but Jewry as a whole.

    Now it is true that the Star of David was used in medieval mysticism, and it may even have been in use as early as early as the 3rd century. In the end, the origins of the symbol are uncertain, but this can be seen as a Jewish instance of triumphant reclamation, as one of the articles we've consulted says:

    The Star of David is an outstanding example of the variable significance of symbols. The power of the message they convey stems less from the original use in history. At first the Star of David had no religious, political, or social connotations whatsoever. It gained a very powerful connotation precisely as a result of its terrible abuse by the Nazis.

    There’s also nothing to suggest the Rothschilds had anything to do with the symbol being kept, or that “real Jews” (whatever that means) opposed it. The same article says:

    …Moshe Sharett decided to inquire into Diaspora Jewry's thoughts about the flag of the State of Israel. On July 20, 1948, he sent cables to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was in Switzerland at the time; to Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, in New York; to Prof. Zelig Brodetsky, in London; and to the Zionist General Council, in Johannesburg. Rabbi Silver replied that "we would prefer to leave the Zionist flag as the national flag of Israel, with a minimum of changes. We feel that the fear of complications as a result of use of the flag at Zionist gatherings overseas has been somewhat exaggerated." The other Zionist leaders responded similarly. After the fears of "dual loyalty" had been alleviated, the Provisional Council of State voted unanimously on October 28, 1948 to adopt the Zionist flag as that of the State of Israel. The resolution came into effect two weeks later, after publication in the Official Gazette.

    More details are provided in the essay “Shaping Time: The Choice of the National Emblem of Israel” by Don Handelman and Lea Shamgar-Handelman, in Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. Far from being dictated by the Rothschilds or anyone else, the flag design was decided based on a contest. The announcement actually “requested that a seven-branched menorah and seven stars, each with six gold points, appear in the design, but stated that any proposal would be given consideration.”

    Over 450 designs were submitted. There were apparently some proposals that included a menorah. Others proposed a hexagram.

    The Israeli cabinet chose a couple of flag designs, which it turned over to Israel’s state council. They chose a menorah design for the emblem and the Star of David for the flag.

    Was there protest over the design? Yes, but not for the reasons Fairley claims. The original flag design had seven golden six pointed stars, and it was the seven stars that were the problem. It was dismissed by critics as an “artificial creation” which showed ignorance of Jewish symbols. At a meeting on the matter, an archaeologist objected to the use of the Star of David on the emblem – not the flag -- on the grounds that it wasn’t an ancient Jewish symbol.

    As for the flag itself, Israel’s foreign minister checked with Zionist groups around the world because he wanted to distinguish the flag from their flag. In the end, they accepted the same basic design we see today, but changed the thematic color to dark blue.

    Beyond this issue, it is nice to see Fairley show disdain for anti-Semitism. But he unwittingly caters to it with statements like, “These so-called Jews are not Jews at all.” That's falling into the same trap of anti-Semitism he so roundly condemns.