Friday

Religious Comics 3

With the 17th -- and apparently final -- issue of The Crusaders (copyright 1988), the notorious Jack T. Chick concludes his six-part “Alberto” story arc with a blistering kamikaze attack on the religion of Islam. Entitled “The Prophet,” this 32-page full-color standard-format comic book reunites our heroes, Tim Clark and Jim Carter, with the sectarian whistleblower Dr. Alberto Rivera, who reveals more mind-blowing secrets from the deepest recesses of the Vatican vaults. Based on the testimony of the real-life Alberto Rivera, then head of the Antichrist Information Center in Los Angeles, Jack Chick presents a tale of centuries-spanning conspiracy, dramatically illustrated by the same artist who brought us the fire-and-brimstone mini-tracts The Contract, Titanic, The Letter, and The Greatest Story Ever Told, probably Chick’s longtime associate Fred Carter. Tempting the wrath of Islamic extremists the world over, Chick here features numerous illustrations of the prophet Muhammad as he makes his case that the founder of Islam was merely a dupe of the Roman Catholic Church in its sinister scheme for world domination.

The story opens in “Bierut,” Lebanon in 1983, as we meet a Ted Koppelesque television reporter named Rosco Baker. On his last day in the Middle East, Rosco has a pants-wetting close call with an angry Muslim soldier who accuses the reporter of being pro-Zionist and threatens to shoot him dead. However, when the soldier pulls the trigger on his rifle, there is only a hollow “click!” Rosco, shaking so badly that his shirttails come untucked, realizes the soldier was just blowing off steam. Meanwhile, the soldier erupts in cruel, mocking laughter -- “HAW HAW HAW!” -- which, as all Chick fans know, indicates that he is evil. On his way back to the office, Rosco is then chided by a Christian missionary who asks him why the media does not explain to the public that the Roman Catholic government of Lebanon is not really Christian at all. Fed up with the whole mess, Rosco spends the flight back to America contemplating a career change.

Eventually landing at Los Angeles International Airport, Rosco decides to relax in the coffee shop, where, as fate would have it, he bumps into Tim Clark, an old buddy from the Vietnam War. Tim introduces Rosco to Jim and Dr. Rivera, who are having a meal during what appears to be a really long layover. Recognizing Rosco from the television news, Dr. Rivera wastes no time steering the conversation into a discussion of the history of the Muslim faith -- or more specifically, the hidden history of Islam which Rivera learned in top-secret briefings in the Vatican during his former life as a Jesuit secret agent. The story began at the end of the third century A.D., he reveals, when the Roman Catholic Church, desperate to get their hands on the city of Jerusalem due to its religious history and strategic location, hatched a convoluted scheme by which the Children of Ishmael, commonly known as the Arabs, would be tricked into conquering Jerusalem for the pope.

First, however, Dr. Rivera provides Rosco -- and the readers -- with a “brief historical background.” This begins with a quick recap of the Passion of the Christ and the subsequent spreading of the gospel to what looks a lot like Polynesia. Then, we see a frightening image of Satan, surrounded by flames, looming over a line of naked men being led by slave chains. The text reads, “Ever since the crucifixion, the prince of darkness has launched constant attacks against the minds of men to kill [Christ’s] message of hope. We’ll now expose Satan’s cunning tactics that have been so successful in turning men into slaves.”

Here, Rivera returns to familiar territory, explaining the Satanic origins of the Roman Catholic Church as a counterfeit religion based on Babylonian goddess-worship, and its gradual development over several hundred years. As he explains it, “The statue of Jupiter in Rome was eventually changed to St. Peter, and the statue of Venus was changed to the Virgin Mary. The site chosen for its headquarters was on one of the 7 hills, called “Vaticanus,” the place of divination and the place where the Satanic temple of Janus stood.” Of course, he does not miss the chance to identify the Catholic Church as the Great Whore of Revelation 17, whose mission is to “make the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

Next, Rivera turns our attention to the story of Isaac and Ishmael. Back in the Book of Genesis, he reminds us, when Abraham, “the father of nations,” could not get his wife Sarah pregnant, they resorted to a back-up plan in which her servant Hagar subbed for her. Hagar soon bore Abraham a son, named Ishmael. However, Sarah eventually did become pregnant and bore a son of her own, Isaac. Wanting her son to be the unchallenged heir to Abraham’s legacy, Sarah had Hagar and young Ishmael driven off into the desert. Once there, with the help of a friendly angel, Ishmael grew into a muscular bowman and eventually produced almost one billion offspring -- the Arabs.

Getting back to the fourth century A.D., Rivera notes how the ingenious Catholic writer Augustine wrote two famous works, The City of God and Confessions, both of which would play an important part in the Church’s scheme to use the Arabs to further their own ends. Many of the Arab tribes were converted to Catholicism by Augustine’s writings, but too many rejected the pope and refused to convert. Something had to be done about them, and so spies were sent throughout the land to tell the Arabs that one day a great leader would appear to unite them. But the Catholic Church is nothing if not patient, and two hundred years went by before they finally had their man, a young native of the city of Mecca named Muhammad, whom Rivera freely admits was “an amazing man.” However, he promises Rosco that he is about to reveal “the most incredible story of intrigue you will ever hear” -- the true origins of the religion of Islam.

Before getting into all that, though, Dr. Rivera finds it prudent to spend six pages giving his version of the official history of Islam, for comparative purposes. By Rivera’s account -- which is based primarily on the well-known biography of the prophet by Martin Lings -- the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia was established on the site of the well which enabled Hagar and Ishmael to survive in the desert, and it was there that Abraham helped Ishmael to build the “House of God.” Eventually, the original structure was replaced by a larger stone cube called the Kaaba, and it is in the direction of this site that faithful Muslims pray five times a day. The Kaaba serves as a focal point of the Muslims’ religion, much as Catholics have the Vatican in Rome and the Jews have their Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In the early days, Rivera continues, the Kaaba was considered a place of veneration by Arabs and Jews alike, until the structure eventually became filled with idols deposited there by pilgrims and thus evolved into a center of blasphemous idolatry. Over time, Mecca and the Kaaba were controlled by a succession of tribes, each with their own political and religious agendas, and eventually the well was filled in and its exact location forgotten. It was later rediscovered by one Adb Al-Muttalib, the grandfather of Muhammad, an accomplishment that made him famous.

Adb Al-Muttalib produced a son, Abd Allah, who narrowly escaped being sacrificed to his father’s god. Abd Allah then grew up to father Muhammad, though he died just before his son was born. Though orphaned at the age of six, Muhammad nevertheless was raised as a member of an important family. He also had one very remarkable experience in particular. Two mysterious men in white appeared one day and magically removed his beating heart from his chest. They cleansed it of a black clot, washed it with snow, and then put it back where it belonged, leaving the boy unharmed. Thus was he purified of the touch of Satan. A few years later, Muhammad ran into a Roman Catholic monk, who discovered an oval birthmark on his back and exclaimed that it was “the seal of prophethood.” The monk told Muhammad’s family to protect him from the Jews, who would surely try to kill him if they recognized his great destiny. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic Arabs continued to preach of a great prophet who would soon come to unite the Children of Ishmael.

When Muhammad reached adulthood, he married a much-older woman, a wealthy widow named Khadijah. She bore him several children, including a girl named Fatimah. Then, one fateful day, Muhammad had a vision of the angel Gabriel, who started him on his career as the prophet of Allah. With the help of his wife’s cousin, a Roman Catholic named Waraquah, he began to interpret the many visions he received and to write numerous texts, many of which were collected in the Koran. Soon facing persecution from the rulers of Mecca, Muhammad sent many of his followers to Abyssinia, where they were welcomed by the king, himself a Roman Catholic. Then, Muhammad had another vision, in which the angel Gabriel led him to heaven upon a magical flying beast. Unfortunately, a sort of mist obscures all but the wings of this fantastical creature in the accompanying illustration. Anyway, after meeting Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and God himself, Muhammad received the creed of Islam. Then, having founded this new religion, Muhammad raised a mighty army, and within fifteen years had conquered Mecca, cleared the Kaaba of idols, and made most of the Arab tribes into Muslims. When he died, his body was entombed at the mosque of Medina, where it remains to this day.

At this point, Dr. Rivera finally gets down to the nitty-gritty and lays bare the secrets of the “cloak and dagger world of religion.” He reiterates the Vatican’s desire to gain control of Jerusalem, and the problems posed by both the Jews and the true Christians spreading the gospel in North Africa. Both groups had to be destroyed, and the Church “saw the multitudes of Arabs as a source of manpower to do their dirty work.” Thus, they hatched a plan to create a messiah for the Arabs, a great charismatic leader whom they could train to do their bidding, and have him raise a mighty army to rout the Jews and seize Jerusalem. Augustine was instrumental to the plan. His band of followers, based out of monasteries in the region, were notorious for destroying Bible manuscripts which they had stolen from the true Christians. These manuscripts were then replaced by Augustine’s own, specifically tailored to further the Vatican’s designs on the Arabs. For his service to the cause, Rivera notes, Augustine was eventually made a “saint.”

The shocking revelations come thick and fast as Dr. Rivera recounts what he learned in the top-secret briefings at the Vatican. The widow Khadijah, he asserts, was a devout Catholic who had given all her wealth to the Church and retired to a convent. There, she was recruited to serve the pope’s master plan. Her wealth was returned to her, and she was sent out into the world to choose a suitable candidate to be the Arab messiah. She selected young Muhammad, seduced him, and became his wife. Her cousin Waraquah, also an agent of the pope, was made Muhammad’s principal advisor, and indoctrinated him with the writings of Augustine. He was told that the Jews were his mortal enemies, and that the true Christians (the non-Catholics) were wicked impostors doing the work of the devil. As Rivera says ruefully, “This satanic teaching is believed today in the minds of Muslims worldwide, and it destroys the efforts of reaching them for Christ in every Muslim nation.”

Waraquah was also deeply involved in the interpretation of Muhammad’s visions, upon which the book of the Koran was based. However, there remain other, unpublished writings of Muhammad’s, which are now in the hands of high-ranking Ayatollahs. These documents, Rivera contends, are the “smoking gun” that links the Vatican to the creation of Islam, a fact that, if it were revealed to the world at large, would prove disastrous for both religions. After Muhammad’s death, the pope positioned himself as another “holy man” in the eyes of Muslims, and then gave the Arab armies permission to conquer North Africa, and even financed their campaigns. In the name of Allah, the Muslim war machine slaughtered Jews and true Christians alike, calling them “infidels,” and finally conquered Jerusalem. The prize the Vatican had sought for centuries was now within its grasp.

Unfortunately, Rivera gloats, the great master plan then began to backfire, and when the pope demanded the Arab generals surrender Jerusalem to him, they refused. The problem was, the Vatican had outsmarted itself. Under Waraquah’s direction, Muhammad had revised the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his beloved son, inserting Ishmael in place of Isaac. This led the Muslims to build a mosque in Jerusalem on the site of the Jewish temple that had been destroyed by the Romans back in the first century. Dedicated to Ishmael, this mosque, called the Dome of the Rock, was the second-most-holy place in Islam, and the Arab generals knew they could not turn it over to the pope without causing a riot. Furthermore, intoxicated with the thrill of victory, the Arab generals were determined to conquer the entire world for their god, Allah. They now asked the pope for permission to invade Europe. He was, of course, outraged, for the doctrine of temporal power gave control of the world exclusively to him. Realizing that its creation was out of control, the Vatican raised its own army of Catholic Europeans and attacked the Muslims. Thus began the Crusades, which raged for many blood-drenched centuries.

Eventually, the Arabs realized their forces were overextended and offered to negotiate a peace with the Vatican. One of the negotiators sent to meet the Arab representatives, Rivera notes, was Francis of Assisi. Finally, a concordat was signed between the two mighty religions, with three basic provisions: First, each would occupy a country in the other’s sphere of influence, with the Muslims retaining Turkey while Lebanon went to the Catholics. Second, the Muslims would be permitted to build mosques in Roman Catholic countries so long as Roman Catholicism was allowed to flourish in the Arab world. And finally, each side would work to undermine the efforts of their common enemy -- “Bible-believing Christian missionaries.” Rivera also claims that the Vatican engineered a campaign of hatred between the Arabs and the Jews, before which they had peacefully co-existed. Furthermore, through the machinations of the Church, Satan all but guaranteed the spiritual destruction of the Arabs by convincing them that “the Bible believing missionary [is] a devil who brings poison to destroy the children of Allah.” Thus, Rivera laments, for centuries the efforts of missionaries to win souls for Jesus in the Middle East have come to naught.

With a lasting peace achieved, Dr. Rivera claims, the Vatican merely changed its tactics and sought to gain control over the Muslims through the Jesuits’ bag of dirty tricks. For example, a socialist uprising in Portugal in the early twentieth century offered an ideal opportunity to put one of their nefarious schemes into action. Taking advantage of the fact that the country’s Arab conquerors had named a village Fatima in honor of Muhammad’s daughter, the Jesuits staged an appearance of the Virgin Mary at the remote site and invented special prayers for the occasion. These “Novenas to Fatima” were then spread throughout North Africa, fooling the Arabs into thinking the Catholics were honoring the daughter of their great prophet. Apparently, this was only one part of a much grander design. Dr. Rivera continues to connect the dots as he proclaims, “As a direct result of the vision of Fatima, Pope Pius XII ordered his Nazi army to crush Russia and the Orthodox religion, and make Russia Roman Catholic…. A few years after he lost World War II, Pope Pius XII startled the world with his phoney [sic] dancing sun vision to keep Fatima in the newspapers. It was great religious show biz, and the whole world swallowed it.”

The bond formed between the Catholics and the Muslims by “Our Lady of Fatima” was put to good use in the Spanish Civil War, which Rivera prefers to call “the new Spanish Inquisition.” When Spain began to rebel against papal authority, going so far as to tax church property and remove priests and nuns from the public schools, the Vatican decided to make an example of the wayward nation. The Jesuits secretly contacted Islamic leaders and reminded them of the debt they owed the pope for refusing to surrender Jerusalem centuries earlier, and also of the concordat they signed pledging to aid the pope in a time of need. Honoring the ancient contract, the Arabs formed an army, financed by the Vatican and under the command of General Franco, and in 1936 initiated a bloodbath. The Vatican claimed to the world at large that it was a holy war against communism. As Rivera tells it, “The Spaniards watched in shock as Cardinal Pedro Segura led the Islamic army in slaughtering unfaithful Roman Catholic men, women, and children without mercy.” In a personal aside, Rivera notes that he remembers his own home being invaded by Muslim troops, though he was only three years old at the time. The inquisition was successful, he states, and nearly four million Muslim troops remained in the country to safeguard the Roman Catholic system. In exchange, the forward-thinking Arabs extracted from the pope a promise never to recognize any state of Israel which might come into existence sometime in the future.

At this point, Rosco’s journalistic skepticism finally kicks in, and he asks, “Dr. Rivera, wasn’t it a Muslim who shot the pope?” But Rivera has a ready answer and doesn’t miss a beat. He contends that the Jesuits planned the 1981 incident in order to pull Islam closer to the Vatican, as well as to give the pope and Ronald Reagan something in common -- and it worked like charm. President Reagan and the pope became “fast friends,” and all the world’s leaders expressed their sympathy for the wounded pontiff, including the Ayatollahs, who even apologized for “one of their own” having shot Jesus’ earthly representative. Moreover, the Jesuits made sure the KGB took the blame, further convincing the world that the communists are the pope’s enemies. “It’s a big game, Rosco,” he says. “[R]emember the assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, is one of Europe’s top hit men, and an expert marksman. He fired his weapon at a distance of only ten feet… Each bullet hit the pope below the navel.” When the pope subsequently visited Agca in prison and publicly forgave him, the Muslim world was abuzz with admiration for “His Holiness.” Furthermore, Rivera complains, since the pope and President Regan had become so friendly, “we ended up with a papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Marines poured into Lebanon to defend a Roman Catholic nation.” Thus, the story comes full circle.

On the final page, Dr. Rivera once again looks forward to the Apocalypse to straighten out this mess once and for all. In the process, he reveals why the popes have been so desperate to gain control of Jerusalem: it is because the last pope (the Antichrist) must flee there to escape the destruction of the Vatican, according to biblical prophecy. But until then, Rivera concludes, Satan has used his treachery and deceit to destroy billions of souls, and just as he put up the Virgin Mary to get the Catholics’ attention away from Jesus, so the Vatican put up a “militant and sophisticated religion” to keep the Children of Ishmael from finding the true Christ. The final image we are left with is a multitude of white-clad Muslims, stretching all the way to the horizon, down on the floor praying, butts in the air.

As always, the inside back cover holds Jack Chick’s personal appeal to his readers, exhorting them to turn away from false religions and accept Jesus. He has a special message for Muslims, set off in a shaded box: “Some Ayatollahs, who are in command of your religion, know from reading the unprinted works of Muhammad that what I’ve told you in this book is true. But in their desperation to hold onto their power as religious leaders, they dare not admit to the betrayal of the children of Islam. Even the Vatican knows this is true.” Naturally, such assertions are impossible to dispute, though it seems unlikely any Muslims would be convinced after reading this comic book. It seems more likely they would simply feel insulted.

One of the enduring mysteries of this comic book is the significance of the giant ice cream sundae. On page five, while Dr. Rivera and Rosco are chatting, a young boy walks past carrying an ice cream sundae in a tall parfait glass. The tow-headed youngster is eyeing his treat hungrily. In the next panel, the sundae is seen in close-up, and it nearly fills the image, with Rivera and Rosco relegated to the background, peeking out from between their wordy speech balloons. We can clearly see the vanilla ice cream, the chocolate syrup, and the cherry on top. The discerning reader notes that Jim is looking over his shoulder, eyeing the sundae as well. This is an important detail, as becomes clear later on. Turn the page, and the boy can be seen chowing down on his frozen dessert in the background as Dr. Rivera begins his “brief historical background.” Apparently, while Dr. Rivera was enlightening Rosco, the temptation became too great for Jim, for twenty pages later, when Rivera is talking about Fatima, we see Jim in the cafeteria line buying the exact same kind of sundae! Jim’s face shows a mixture of relief and anticipation, for his sweet tooth is about to be satisfied. There may be, however, a tinge of guilt as well, for he seems hesitant to return to the table. Perhaps he fears the judgment of Dr. Rivera for his weakness in the face of temptation, or the censure of his friend Tim for leaving in the middle of the lecture to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh.

Unfortunately, in an egregious breach of story-telling etiquette, we are denied seeing what Rosco’s final reaction is to Dr. Rivera’s impromptu symposium. Did he fall to his knees and accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior? Did he write off Rivera as a deluded crank, giving Tim a sarcastic “thanks a lot” for subjecting him to such an extended tirade? Or did he jump on the next plane back to the Middle East, armed with his new knowledge of the truth behind the situation there, to achieve new levels of insight in his reporting and ultimately be rewarded with his own late-night news analysis show? We shall never know. To date, there have been no further issues of The Crusaders, although Jack T. Chick and his cartoon ministry are still going strong.


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