Ray Comfort’s Anti-Abortion Video “180”

Was Jesus the son of God?“A shocking, award-winning documentary!”  “Changing the heart of a nation.”  “33 minutes that will rock your world.”  Ray Comfort lavishes his work with superlatives, but does it hold up?

I watched 180 so that you won’t have to.  Spoiler alert: didn’t rock my world.

Motives are immediately suspect when the video opens with Hitler and Nazi rallies.  Right out of the gate, Godwin’s Law is in force, and Comfort makes clear that you’re either on his side or giving Hitler back rubs.

With that dichotomy clear, Comfort interviews people hanging out on a sunny day at some Los Angeles beach.  He begins by asking, “Who was Hitler?”  The snippets introducing us to the (typically) 20-somethings who we’ll see throughout the video all show them clueless in response.  If it was unclear before, it’s now obvious that he cherry picked only those interviews that gave him what he wanted.  This is a poor foundation on which to show us a half-dozen people at the end who are convinced by his message.  (Okay, Ray, but out of how many?)

We connect the present with Hitler through a long interview with a young American neo-Nazi with a tall blue Mohawk and a dashed “Cut here” tattoo across his throat.  And then, videos of concentration camp aftermath.

Comfort primes his interviewees with moral puzzles such as “Would you shoot Hitler if you could go back in time and do so?” or “Would you kill Jews if told that, if you didn’t, you would be killed and someone else would do the job?”

About a third of the way in, the conversation finally turns to abortion.  The use of Hitler and the Holocaust is justified when Comfort declares abortion to be the American holocaust, with killing fetuses equivalent to killing Jews.  His arguments are nothing new to many of us, but they were to this crowd:

  • Finish this sentence: “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when …”
  • What if a construction worker was about to blow up a building but wasn’t sure if there was a person in there or not.  If we’re not sure, we should always err on the side of life, right?
  • What if someone had aborted you?

I’ve already discussed these and other arguments.

Next, he brings up the sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.”  In the first place, he’s done nothing to show that there is a god behind these commandments and that it has any more supernatural warrant than “Use the Force, Luke!”  Additionally, the commandment is usually translated as “thou shalt not murder.”  If the correct word is “kill,” I need to see Comfort walking the walk by campaigning against capital punishment and war.  And if it’s an undefined “murder,” what is murder?  The commandment becomes a tautology: Thou shalt not do what is forbidden.

Granted, but how is this helpful?

Our interviewees seem a little off balance with a camera in their faces and are apparently not that sharp to begin with given their widespread ignorance of Hitler.  Ray picks snippets that give him what he wants to hear, that killing fetuses is equivalent to killing Jews.

The lesson is that you can make an effective emotional pro-life argument to people who haven’t thought much about the issue.  But people who change their minds so easily (Comfort brags about how quickly they changed) aren’t well established in their new position.  How many of these, after thinking about these ideas at leisure and discussing it with friends, are still in Comfort’s camp today?

There’s a fundamental confusion in his interviewees, and Comfort is not motivated to correct it.  There’s a big difference between “Abortion is wrong for me” and “Abortion is wrong for everyone, and we must impose that on society.”  People give him the former, but he hopes we’ll take away the latter.

We’re two thirds through the video now and are just hoping to get out with our sanity intact, but Comfort has saved the best for last.  The anti-abortion argument is dropped, and he falls back to his old favorite, the Ten Commandments challenge.  (One reviewer suggested that Comfort’s compulsive use of this argument is his personal form of Tourette’s.)  This is where Comfort ticks off the commandments: Have you ever lied?  Stolen?  Looked on someone with lust?

He concludes: “By your own admission, you’re a lying, thieving, blaspheming fornicator and must face God on Judgment Day™.  How do you think God should judge you?”  Again, of course, he ignores that we haven’t established the existence of God or the afterlife.

I did applaud one aspect of the movie, the text at the end that read, “We strongly condemn the use of any violence in connection with protesting abortion.”  At least, I applauded this until I realized that this was probably a legal demand since Comfort had pushed his interviewees to consider shooting Hitler early in the documentary.

Given Ray Comfort’s easy success with emotional appeals, what if someone did a rebuttal video?  It could open with stories of illegal and dangerous back-alley abortion clinics.  Then talk about Americans rejecting oppressive government—“the land of the free,” “no taxation without representation,” and all that.  Paint a picture of medieval Europe with the heavy hand of the church on every aspect of life for the poor peasant.  Overlay some stirring patriotic music on waving flags and eagles.

The interviews would focus on intuitive arguments like those I’ve discussed in Five Emotional Pro-Choice Arguments.  Here are several brief examples.

  • Suppose a building were on fire, and you could save either a five-year-old child or ten frozen embryos.  Which would you pick?  If you picked the child, what does that say about the argument that equates embryos with babies?
  • If you’ve seen anti-abortion videos or posters, you may have seen the bloody results of late-term abortions.  Why do you suppose they showed you that rather than a woman swallowing an emergency contraceptive (“morning after”) pill?  Do you suppose they really think that it’s a “baby” all the way back to that single cell?
  • Given that half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, do you suppose that God has much of a concern about abortion?
  • A week-old human blastocyst has fewer cells than the brain of a fly.  Does it make sense to equate that with a one trillion-cell newborn?  The newborn has eyes, ears, legs, arms, a brain and a nervous system, a heart and a circulatory system—in fact, all the components of the human body that you do—while the blastocyst has just 100 undifferentiated cells.  Does it make sense to equate them?
  • Who better to weigh the impact of a child than the mother herself?

Do you think we’d get similar results with this video?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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11 thoughts on “Ray Comfort’s Anti-Abortion Video “180”

  1. Pingback: A Defense of Abortion Rights: the Spectrum Argument | Galileo Unchained

  2. Emergency contraception doesn’t even kill fertilized eggs–it just disrupts ovulation so there are no eggs around to get fertilized. EC probably doesn’t even prevent implantation.

  3. In Hitler’s Germany (Third Reich) abortion was strongly forbidden and grate punishment was prescribed for the “crime” (if parents were of right race, of course), so presenting Hitler can be used only for the pro choice causes.

  4. The Daily Show gives serious consideration to Sean Hannity’s recent discovery that the US is making war on Roman Catholicism:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-13-2012/the-vagina-ideologues
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-13-2012/the-vagina-ideologues—sean-hannity-s-holy-sausage-fest

    In reaction to Rev. Richard Land’s comparison of Obama to Hitler in the famous quotation from Martin Niemöller: “First of all, when the Nazis came for people, they also left with them. It wasn’t a metaphor.”

    Who’s coming for them? “The secret police aren’t coming for you. Hell, the IRS isn’t even coming for you. This government hates religious organizations so much it lets them keep $100 billion a year in offerings tax free. Persecute MY ass like that!”

    Since it’s a comedy show, Jon Stewart didn’t want to get into the serious side of it, but that won’t stop me. Every step in Hitler’s agenda was done IN COLLUSION with the Catholic Church, so they are totally painting themselves on the wrong side of history in their crocodile-tear claims of persecution.

    = = = = = =
    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” — Adolf Hitler, to General Gerhard Engel, 1941

  5. Hey Bob,

    You said: Who better to weigh the impact of a child than the mother herself?

    Me: Is the worth of a child based on what their parents think of them? I am not sure where you got this question but it is flawed. That child//baby/fetus/ball of human cells has worth because they are made in the image of God. If the mother thinks that baby is going to be a burden on her then I hope we both would agree that adoption would be better than abortion.

    Travis (anotherchristianblog.org)

    • So you want the government stepping in? That’s the better option?

      I’m surprised–I would’ve pegged you as someone who wanted government out of private life as much as possible, leaving people to take responsibility for themselves.

      As for adoption, where it works, that’s terrific. But don’t pretend that the route to adoption has zero impact on the mother’s life. Only 2% of pregnancies to unwed women that go to term are put up for adoption; the rest are kept by the mother. Wow–talk about a life changing event!

      Given the consequences, the woman needs to have the power to decide what’s best.

      • Only 2% of pregnancies to unwed women that go to term are put up for adoption; the rest are kept by the mother.

        And the Foster Care system isn’t that great either. Trust me, I was raised in it. Even though it is grossly underfunded, and it pays little, many foster parents do it simply to pay the bills. When you’re 17 and a half, you start getting the check in stead of your foster parents, and at 18 the checks stop and you’re out the door on your own.

        I ran into my old case worker once, he recognized me, and started crying. He told me I was the only kid that he’d had that “made it”. It seems all the others were either in prison or living in bad situations. One local case worker I read about was so distraught that he hung himself in his garage.

        BTW, several of my foster sisters were pregnant girls who had gotten kicked out by their religious parents.

        Now this underfunded system is having it’s budget cut even further. Think of all the money being poured into the anti-abortion fight, and then think of all the money being cut from the Foster Care system… doesn’t make a damn bit of sense does it?

        • Thanks for the insight. The Christian myth seems to be that adoption is the solution, and they’ll point to good Christian families that are going through the difficult process of adopting.

          I was adopted. Worked out fine for me. I’m the kind of end result they imagine when they look at a 15-year-old with an unwanted pregnancy.

          Of course, they ignore the not-so-successful side, as you’ve eloquently pointed out. Or the girls embarking on a life of poverty when they go through with the pregnancy and decide that they must keep the baby.

          It’s weird how the conservatives who detest the “nanny state” idea do a 180 and want that nanny in fully force to ensure that their moral beliefs are imposed on others. Do none of them see the irony?

  6. Pingback: Don’t Like Abortion? Then Support Sex Education. | Galileo Unchained

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