The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

On The Right Tracts
January 21, 2011, 10:40 am
Filed under: General Bitching

When I was only a shift or two out of training at my first job, I received one of these:

Unfortunately, my hopes that it would be an Abbott-and-Costello-style gag confusing the multiple definitions of the term "present," were swiftly dashed.

I recognized it immediately – though at the time I hadn’t a term for them more eloquent than “those weird little Jesus comics”, I had received many a gospel tract in my youth while trick-or-treating. There are many publishers of biblical tracts, but few are as well-known and oft-distributed as those in the immense collection of evangelist comic booklets by Chick Publications.

Now, why a person would hand out comics (comics wordier than friggin’ Subnormality, by the way) on Halloween to convince children (who are just going to bury them under a pile of fun-size Butterfingers) to accept Jesus as their lord and savior is anybody’s guess; I think I was a pretty smart kid, but “abomination,” didn’t make its way onto any of my vocabulary lists in Elementary school.

Nevertheless, I want to inform everyone who is, will be, or knows anyone in retail: distribution of these tracts on private property is considered solicitation, and the vast majority of businesses have strict “no soliciting,” policies. A popular tactic of witnessers and evangelists who distribute this literature is to include it with payment, tips (sometimes in lieu of a tip), or, in my case, to stuff it in the employee’s hand with a “that’s for you!” followed by jogging out of the store before the employee can react appropriately.

Should this happen to you, I recommend the following course of action:

  1. If you are in a customer service situation, politely refuse the tract. If you are able, inform the person distributing the tracts (this includes passive actions, such as placing tracts on cars in the company parking lot) that their actions are solicitation not permitted by the property owner. This is legally considered a form of trespassing, and appropriate charges can be pressed.
  2. If you are unable to respond to the solicitor, many distributable tracts are ordered in bulk by churches and offered to their congregation. For convenience, the back of a CHICK tract has a space in which a church can stamp or print their name and address. Check to see if this information is present.
  3. Discuss the situation with your manager. Be prepared to defend the company policies on solicitation – some managers “don’t see the harm,” in passing out gospel tracts when they would very much oppose, for instance, union solicitation. In fact,  a lack of enforcement on no-solicitation policies has, in the past, been grounds for denial on charges brought against unions petitioning on company property (as one article suggests, “If you want to be able to stop employees from wandering around the shop floor handing out fliers for a union meeting, you must also be willing to prohibit them from handing out fliers for a Tupperware party”). Suggest some manner of correspondence be made with the church, as they are the originators of the distributed material (and have willingly printed their address on it), wherein a discussion with the congregation of the proper protocol regarding such distribution be encouraged.

Or, if you’re like anyone I’ve discussed this with, you could just throw the tract away and move on with your life.

However, over the length of my employment, I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to be the recipient of quite a few of these tracts – should I not be offended that the literature therein insists that I will be eternally tormented in a lake of fire (and I really appreciate the distinction – never is it any body of water but a lake in these tracts, though I suppose “an estuary of combustion” doesn’t have quite the same vigor)? And my offense aside (to paraphrase Ricky Gervais, simply being offended does not put you in the right), these actions are against the law. To take no action when that is the case is allowing a religious group to operate as if they are above the law simply because they have many followers who don’t happen to disagree with them, which is a slippery slope that happens so often already that I really don’t need it happening in my grocery store.

Figure 1a: Kvetchy overhyped internet quote, vaguely related to discussion, used to garner reader interest.

In researching this, I came across a guide for how to proselytize using tracts, which refers to those who aren’t Christian as “the lost.” I prefer Tolkien to The Bible, though: not all who wander are lost.


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