Jack Chick & the Salem Witch Trials

“Satan Comes To Salem” by Jack Chick

You’re familiar with the creationist comics of Jack Chick, which you can read online from the links in this post: Creationist Comic Books. If you haven’t yet seen them, you really should. They’re classics — especially Big Daddy?

The hot news today is that Chick is offering two new comics. One doesn’t interest us — it’s typical Chick stuff about a kid who gets saved. You can see it here: Born Wild! The other is noteworthy because it’s so strange — even for Jack Chick. That one is Satan Comes To Salem, and that’s where we got the cheerful graphic atop this post. It’s not directly about creationism, but it concerns a related subject we’ve written about — the separation of church and state.

More than three years ago, in Salem and Philadelphia: A Tale of Two Cities we discussed the contrast between the insanity of the Salem witch trials and the genius of the American Revolution. The difference between Cotton Mather’s Salem and Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia was largely due to the Enlightenment’s influence, but it’s also likely that the memory of Salem helped to inform the attitude of the Founders. We said:

The advocates of mandatory creationism in government schools have much more in common with Cotton Mather than they do with Ben Franklin. They have pre-Enlightenment intellects, and would fit right in if they were living in Salem during the 1690s. It’s their great misfortune to be born in a far better age than the one for which they are suited.

Now it’s Jack Chick’s turn. What does he say about those abominable events in old Salem? Well, he doesn’t even mention the problem of commingling church and state. Apparently Chick sees nothing wrong with religious nut-cases wielding political power. Nor is it mentioned that the Puritans were totally whacked. Chick thinks they were fine folks. He tells his own version of the witchcraft trials in a painfully chaotic manner, and he informs us that the true villain was — the devil!

This is your chance to learn some American history from Jack Chick’s viewpoint. Go ahead, take a look. That’s how creationists think.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Jack Chick & the Salem Witch Trials

  1. You have to look at this from Chic’s point of view. There aren’t really that many people who he thinks are not going to hell (I don’t have a complete list, but he insists that Catholics are as damned as the Wiccans), and that goes double for the period in which the Salem witch trials took place. Since, according to him, the Puritans at Salem were about the only people on the planet at that point in time who were not guaranteed a dunking in the ye olde merry Pit o’ Flames he has to look at them from a kinder perspective than most sane people would be inclined.

  2. I disagree that the Puritans were totally whacked. A lot of their reputation is caricature. They were not a unified movement and there was a great variety of practice among them. They “unified church and state” a good deal less than the society they left, which has a unified church and state to this day. And they were far from the only Christians persecuting “witches”–the moral panic dynamic is not limited to religious populations. We saw something very similar in the 1980s in our own, much more secular, society. (Only two years ago Martha Coakley, one of the perpetrators of that witch hunt, was still defending it.)

    Puritans were well ahead of their time in regard to free trade and equality before the law. They were not prudes, and they drank alcoholic beverages almost exclusively. Almost everything everyone thinks they know about them is wrong.

  3. The thing about Cotton Mather is that he is also the person who introduced inoculation against small pox to America. And the result of this was that people who said that inoculation was against God’s will tried to burn down his house. Even Cotton Mather was more scientifically advanced than the Creationists.

  4. Gabriel Hanna says: “I disagree that the Puritans were totally whacked. A lot of their reputation is caricature. … Almost everything everyone thinks they know about them is wrong.”

    You know how it is — “The evil men do lives after them.” I admit that I have a bias against almost all pre-Enlightenment societies — and that extends to those in our own time that go around killing heretics and such. You may recall the almost universal ridicule (around here anyway) when Ireland recently passed their blasphemy law. So it’s tough for me to find anything good to say about the inhabitants of Salem.

  5. Gabriel Hanna summarises his excellent post with the observation:

    Almost everything everyone thinks they know about them [the Puritans] is wrong.

    I certainly agree with that — though much the same could be said of virtually any history taught in grade school, particularly if the topic is one which has been woven into a national narrative in more recent times (not just the ‘Pilgrims’ in the American national narrative, but consider how the French Revolution is taught in French schools, etc.).

    And Hanna is spot on in noting that Puritans were not a “unified movement”, so generalising about them is fraught with peril. And it is very difficult to define where the ‘Puritan’ wing of the Protestant movement begins, as indeed are most arcane distinctions in party politics.

    But overall, I think one would have to argue their overall contribution to the development of the theory of government was deeply detrimental, as evidenced in Calvin’s Geneva or the English Civil War and Cromwell’s Commonwealth. All of which are vast and wonderful topics far, far beyond the scope of discussion here!

    But very interesting to note Jack Chick’s ‘revisionist’ line on Salem, I’m a little surprised he doesn’t claim there really were witches present, and that the witch-hunters have just been badly treated by the ‘MSM’, or some such nonsense.

    Though I am a tad puzzled that Satan himself had to stir it up personally, and was only able to do so when a slot opened up in his diary (as Chick insists, because ‘Catholics’ were behaving Satanically enough on their own to allow Lucifer himself a transatlantic visit)…

  6. J.T.C. (an initial signature that Chick actually uses. I suspect it’s no coincidence that it bears similarity to a certain other historical figure) is barking mad, of course. Although he’s often dismissed as laughably harmless, I’m not so sure. He gives cartoonists a bad name, for one thing, (not that he’s in danger of ever being mentioned in the same breath as Walt Kelly or Winsor McCay). His work has been characterized as hate speech, and his clear animosity toward gays and Catholics is particularly glaring. (Although I also must confess a certain guilty fondness for BIG DADDY?, which is more ridiculous than hateful.) But even overlooking his worst excesses, if possible — even temporarily granting him every benefit of the doubt, I still agree with S.C. that this one crosses a line. His laying of the blame for Salem on the shoulders of Satan actually validates the witch trials. The best we could say about him is, had he lived at the time, he would have been an enabler, if not an active participant. He’s clearly even loonier (and perhaps more dangerous) than I thought.