March 23, 2009

The Sad Side of Ray Comfort

Posted in Atheism tagged , , , at 3:13 pm by Andrew

Okay, so making fun of Ray Comfort is kind of a cottage industry for atheists; Richard Dawkins calls him the “Banana Man” for his infamous (and unintentionally hilarious video), and searching for Ray Comfort on YouTube is far more likely to take you to a parody or rebuttal video than to anything from Comfort himself.

But there’s a sad side as well: Comfort’s techniques encourage Christians to evangelize aggressively, confronting strangers in the street shouting a memorized “choose-your-own-adventure” style script that isn’t nearly as clever as Comfort thinks it is. And this sort of thing appears to be on the rise in churches big and small. Last year, in The Great Derangement, Taibbi went undercover at an evangelical megachurch overly fond of Comfort’s “Way of the Master” techniques.

Now, we have a report in Salon from Kevin Roose, who did basically the same thing during Spring Break with his Liberty University classmates. Comfort, it seems, is growing in popularity.

I don’t think Taibbi’s and Roose’s accounts are all that funny. (Well, besides the bit about Richard Simmons.) I find them depressingly sad. I can only imagine the weight on these people’s shoulders as they run out to get rebuffed, over and over again, trying to win converts from a bad script. Here’s the moment I found most poignant:

For these students, the choice is clear: The risk of being loathed and humiliated by strangers is far outweighed by the possibility that even one person will see the light and be saved.

Of course, just because the choice is clear doesn’t mean it’s easy. Tonight, at Razzle’s, I see Valentina, the Italian girl from Manhattan, sitting on a curb with a homeless veteran, her arm slung around his shoulder. It’s pouring rain, a real torrential storm, and both of them are being pounded by the thick drops. After a few minutes, she stops telling the veteran about God’s love and just sits there, holding him. And from across the street, I see her start to cry.

Later, back at the host church, Valentina tells the group about her breakdown.

“I was just sitting there on the curb, and I started thinking about how sad this all is. How sad it is that billions and billions of people are just dying without Christ. I hate that Hell is a real place, and I hate that sin came into the world through Adam, and most of all, I hate thinking about how all we can do — all anyone can do — is try to tell these people that there’s hope out there. They might not want to listen, but we have to keep telling them. For the rest of our lives, guys, we have to keep telling them.”

Every atheist has gotten the “well, what’s the harm if someone wants to be a Christian?” question. Not all Christians are forced to swallow Ray Comfort’s tripe, of course, but this strikes me as a real, psychological harm being inflicted on otherwise decent people.

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9 Comments »

  1. Anselm said,

    As a Christian, I have to say I wish Ray Comfort would retire. He is woefully untrained as an apologist (as demonstrated in his disastrous Nightline debate where he teamed up with Kirk Cameron), and his street evangelistic methods do more harm than good. Leave the debates to William Lane Craig.

    (Just to provide equal time, however, I also have to say that I think if I was an atheist I would desire Richard Dawkins to retreat back into biology–his anti-theist vitriol does more good for the theist cause by turning people off of atheism than for his own cause).

    • Sandy said,

      There is one problem with that, you can’t say anything about being an atheist, because you are not an atheist. Dawkins actually harms the Theist cause to be frank.

      • Les said,

        Can you see where you are self contradictory? Using your own logic, unless you are a Christian, you cannot therefore say anything about Anselm, as she has identified as being Christian!
        So there is no problem making an observation about someone who happens to be of different thinking.

  2. Buffy said,

    If people want to be Christians that’s fine. That’s what freedom is all about and we have to allow people to make their own choices even if we don’t necessarily approve of them. If people want to impose their Christianity on others in any way, shape, or form that’s a completely different story…

  3. warren said,

    as true born again believer in Jesus name ,Jesus was sent by the Father to the world(john 3:16) to proclaim the gospel(GOODNEWS) of His comming Jesus did as the Father commanded ,as Jesus taught His 11 Disciples as they proclaimed the message if your a true christain its not private its public ,but yes it should be out of Love and kindness ,but the truth has to be told,you know the old saying truth hurts,it like if i have found a cure forcancer to i keep to myself or do let all know? but again i share the gospel but i have asked people and they said not intrested ,some i say ok others i might say so do you really want to go to Hell,the gospelessage is avery ,very narrow gate and few do enter ,and the gate that leades to destruction unbelievers think that gate is leading to heaven ,it not,i will keep all in prayer to come to the truth of Christ Repent turn from yoyr sins and embrace the Savoir,once you die and you reject what God has done by sending a Savior to take our place for our sinsand giving ever lasting life forever think about it there is no for ever here. ever sixty seconds about 100 people are not in the place they think they are..look at it this way you have one with his arms open who save u from hell with his arms open and another with his arms open who says the same thing one a liarer and the other is telling the truth,think in this world we r wrong on alot of things we all do it ,but your eternal state is on the line ,you canot and will not embrace truth once your dead.(read luke 16 Lazarus and the rich man Jesus give us avery clear warning of what i said,the bible is full of warning and Gods word reveals our consious who we really are9JERMIAH17:9) AND God does not want anyone to perish read Ezkiel 31:310).as ray said it ,God gave us a brain ,to think eyes to see God creation.(in closing in capitals not screamimgIF YOUR LIVING LIKE THERE IS NO GOD,CREATOR,REDEMMER,SAVIOR,HOPE FORGIVNESS ETERNALIFE,GOD THE FATHER,GOD THE SON AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRITAND MORE AND YOU THINK THIS IS IT YOU BETTER HAVE YOUR FACTS,HOMEWORK ETC RIGHT.

  4. Cameron said,

    Ray Comfort is not a debater (so far), but he is a great evangelist and is very gifted at it. His gospel presentation is consistent with Christ’s and the apostle’s because he talks about the bad news of the gospel, thus making the good news really good and understandable. Many Christians are genuinely saved by the gospel but do not genuinely know the gospel.

    Ray knows the gospel of Scripture, absolutely! It is that we are saved from God, by God, to God. If Jesus is a sinner’s savior then people must first acknowledge they are sinful (before God). Then they must realize there is an ultimate penalty for sin, God’s wrath. The gospel is not “choose to go to Heaven instead of Hell by believing in Jesus” which it has somehow become. Rather it is, “know that God is holy and that He is judge, that you are unholy and therefore deserve to be separated from him forever. Therefore, God will either crush your sin in you or in Christ. Your belief and repentance in Jesus Christ will show which is the case”.

    This does not force anyone to be a Christian, but demonstrates God’s clear gospel message to a sinful dying world which will be judged by Him. I thank God for Ray’s Biblical evangelistic approach. But leave the debates to the presuppositionalists like James White, Greg Bahnsen, Doug Wilson, etc.

  5. Justin said,

    Read ya bible. All the believers in the early church where talking about it. Thats why Nero started killing them off. They changed the world. The reason why christians now have no effect is cus their testimony does not match their deeds. Talk is cheap even a kid knows that at a young age. Step up to the plate. If you were not here to evangelize jesus would have took you home with him a long time ago. you have a job to do so stop playing around and do it!

  6. chaya1957 said,

    Last time I looked Jesus never taught apologetics or evangelism training techniques. He sent them out to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. That would win the debate, wouldn’t it? Until these signs follow a preacher, maybe he should shut up?

  7. JustJoe said,

    Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but Ray is preaching a false gospel. He preaches selection election like John MacArthur. Heresy…


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