By JOEY REISTROFFER
SPARTANBURG — Chuck Wallington is frustrated, and some in the Catholic community here are riled due to a 13-cent comic book that trashes the Catholic faith.
Wallington, the president of Christian Supply, carries Chick Publication pamphlets. However, he said there are about 50 in the series and he does not stock the eight in the series that tear down Catholics.
Some of those eight call the pope the anti-Christ. Others claim all Catholics are going to hell. Still others call the Eucharist a “death cookie” and say Satan controls the Catholic Church.
“We have screened those out,” Wallington said. “We don’t stock those.”
His actions, however, have not appeased some local Catholics.
Dottie Towery, a member of Our Risen Savior, told Wallington to take her name off of his mailing list. “I won’t shop at a place that supports those views about Catholics,” she said. “I won’t spend my money there.”
Towery said Wallington had gotten in touch with her, explaining he did not carry the offensive Chick pamphlets but still carried the other Chick comic books.
“He said he had removed the ones that were offensive to the Catholic Church, but said he had to carry material that appeals to all people,” Towery said.
Wallington made no headway. “I won’t shop there,” Towery said. “It puts money into the pockets of this man who is spewing out this material.”
Lynn Connelly, a Catholic in Spartanburg, also plans to bypass Christian Supply because of the Chick pamphlets. “What Chrisian Supply has out is bad, but it’s not as bad as it gets.
“It’s spreading hate,” Connelly said. “I requested that he take all the Chick tracts out of the store and burn them.”
Wallington does not want to do that because he said some of the Chick tracts actually have helped people convert to Christ. He said his store must appeal to all Christian denominations, and it is healthy to debate the differences in faith.
His book buyer, Norman Burleson, agrees, saying the folks who want the store to drop all Chick tracts are trying to suppress Chick’s views of the truth, and he is not about to let that happen.
“It’s what he feels is the truth,” Burleson said. “He has a First Amendment right to print what he feels is the truth. Now there is an organized effort to put pressure (on Chick) and run him out of business. That’s not American, and that’s not Christian.”
The entire Chick controversy weighs heavy on Wallington. He wants his store to appeal to all Christians, yet he does not want to offend any particular denomination.
That is why he has pulled the offensive Chick tracts but not the whole series. He feels they do help. “What we carry are the evangelization tracts.”
Personally, Wallington said, Chick tracts are too graphic and aggressive for his taste.” It isn’t something I would purchase for myself. I just don’t think they’re done in a loving, caring way,” Wallington said.
He, however, feels compelled to run them as a Christian businessman. “We have a particular clientele that like them,” he said. ” We have been able to serve a very wide spectrum of the Christian community. That’s a blessing, but it does create friction points.”
Chick Publications is one of those.
Wallington said he has written letters or called all of the Catholics who have complained about Chick. He also said he has tried to get in touch with the pastors of the two Catholic parishes in Spartanburg to explain his position in hopes that the controversy can be settled and the flames can be doused. The more he tries, he said, the more inflamed the controversy gets.
“It’s like trying to put out a fire with gasoline,” he said.
Wallington said he and his wife have many friends in the Catholic community. “My kids play ball with them (Catholic friends).” That is why the Chick issue is so troubling. Good people, good friends are being torn apart by this, he said.
He compared the dispute to shopping at a major bookstore chain. That store carries some fantastic stuff, he said. It also carries some very offensive material. People still shop there because of their excellent material, he said, even though the offensive subjects also are on their shelves.
He hopes the Catholic community in Spartanburg will look at the good Christian Supply does in its community and not be offended by material that caters to other Christian denominations.
“There has to be some understanding in the Christian community,” Wallington said.
Catholics, as a protest, intend to stay away from Christian Supply until all Chick tracks are out of the store. It is their faith, and they are taking a stand.
That stand is putting Wallington in a tough spot. He thinks Chick is too caustic for a loving message, but some people have been moved by Chick’s message.
He hopes Catholics understand his position and the furor over Chick will end. “I don’t want to tear down anything that’s Christian,” he said.