Sowing and pathos.” (Glenn & Gray, 2013, p

Sowing the Seed: Analysis of The Use of
Rhetoric
in Ray Comfort’s 180 Movie

In this video, Ray Comfort interviews a group of young adults
asking them questions about the Holocaust. He starts by asking them if Adolf Hitler’s
action during the war was evil or not. Most of the people thought Hitler was
evil, but a few people thought Hitler was not evil. Ray Comfort then asks the
same people about their opinion on abortion. Again, it shows people on both
sides of the argument. Ray Comfort then compares their answers to both question
and begins to ask why their answers were different when it came to abortion. 

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According to The
Writer’s Harbrace Handbook, “You can shape effective arguments through a
combination of persuasive strategies, which include the rhetorical appeals of
ethos, logos, and pathos.” (Glenn & Gray, 2013, p 151).  Ray Comfort, a Christian minister and
evangelist, uses all three of the rhetorical appeals in his movie, 180, to change the hearts and minds of
people about abortion and the Gospel. This essay will explore the effectiveness
of Ray Comfort’s approach to swaying his audience to his point of view.  This essay will answer the following questions:

1.    
How does Ray Comfort use ethos, pathos, and
logos to make his argument more effective, and to not offend his audience and
make them walk away?

2.    
How does Ray Comfort use his understanding of
the rhetorical context of witnessing to random people on the street to make his
argument more effective?

3.    
What is the result of Ray Comfort’s
understanding and use of rhetoric in his witnessing?

4.    
Do you believe that his arguments lacked in any
area of rhetoric? How successful was his methods?

The first step to answering these
questions is to look at Ray Comfort’s use of the three rhetorical appeals.

Comfort’s Use of Rhetorical Appeals

Aristotle stated, “We believe fair minded people to a
greater extent and more quickly than we do others.” (Communication Assessment
Learning Lab, 2013, para 1).  Ethos or
credibility means convincing the audience by a reliable person. The audience
tends to judge the speaker’s credibility before he or she begins to speak. The
speaker needs to establish credibility with their audience by showing expertise,
respect, authority, and physical and emotional presentation. Ray Comfort
establishes his credibility by stating facts about Hitler and the Holocaust. He
gains his audience’s respect by calmly speaking to them and not judging them on
the answers they give him. Comfort’s use of a strong voice adds to his
credibility. Comfort uses ethos by stating known facts in his discussions with
the people. By stating facts about the Holocaust and putting a witness to the
killing of Jews makes him seem credible to his audience. In the beginning of
his movie, Comfort tells his audience Hitler ordered the death of eleven
million people. He then asks people if it was okay to kill the Jews. Most of
the people say that it was wrong to kill these people and that they would not
do that if forced to kill. When these individuals were asked if it was okay to
kill babies in the womb, they said it was okay. Ray Comfort then asks them if
they believed in God. Many of the people said yes, and some said no. Comfort
says, “The fourth commandment is that you should not kill, so then why are you
ok with abortion.” (Comfort, 2011). Ray Comfort uses known facts; therefore, people
view him as a credible speaker. He can correct the people he is interviewing
when they do not know the answers or say something false about the Holocaust or
abortion.  This establishes his knowledge
about the two situations. The next rhetorical appeal used by Ray Comfort was
pathos.

Pathos means swaying an audience by
appealing to their emotions. Aristotle stated, “To understand the emotions—that
is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which
they are excited.” (Communication Assessment Learning Lab, 2013, para 2). Ray
Comfort uses a tragic time in history like the holocaust with the death of millions
of people, and compares it to abortion. Although the two issues are different, the
result is still murder. He uses this emotional subject of the death of millions
of Jews that did not deserve to die and compares this to the innocent deaths of
aborted babies.  Ray Comforts tells them,
“I want you to feel like you are in Germany when the Nazi’s were killing the
Jews all around you, this is how it is in the modern-day world with abortion.”
(Comfort, 2011) When he compares these two situations, many of his audience who
were okay with abortion start thinking how similar the Holocaust and abortions really
are. They began to change their mind about abortion. Comfort used the emotion
of the Holocaust to sway his audiences’ belief about abortions. The right to
live is universal. The final rhetorical appeal used by Ray Comfort was logos.

Aristotle stated, “Persuasion occurs
through the arguments when we show the truth or the apparent truth from whatever
is persuasive in each case.” (Communication Assessment Learning Lab, 2013, para
3). Logos is the logic used to support a claim. Ray Comfort uses logos when he
asked the people if a gun was pointed to their heads would they kill Jews?  Most people said no, but some did say, “yes”,
so they could save themselves and their family. Comfort
goes on to ask if they believed in abortion. When they said yes, Comfort asks, “Why
are you for killing a baby in the womb but are not ok with killing Jews?” (Comfort,
2011). He also goes on to ask people why they are willing to speak out against
the Holocaust, but not about abortions. Comfort tells them that by declaring
abortions are okay, people are say babies are non-humans like Hitler said about
the Jews.  He tells the people that
killing a baby in the womb is like a construction worker knocking down a
building, but is not sure if someone is inside.

I believe Comfort’s arguments are solid.
He used all three rhetorical appeals to argue his point of view effectively. He
was able to change the minds of the eight people interviewed by appealing to
their emotions and logic. Comfort was able to change people’s minds because of
his expertise in the Gospel and the Holocaust. Comfort also uses a strong tone
when speaking with the people. By talking in this manner, Comfort appeared to
be very credible in that he sounded confident in what he was talking about. Whether
or not he changed their opinion, he really got them to think about abortion in
a different way. Comfort’s arguments were very strong, since all three rhetorical
appeals were used. It is evident from the movie that Ray Comfort effectively
used ethos, pathos, and logos since the eight people interviewed changed their
opinion on the issue of abortion.

Results

The movie 180
was released on September 21, 2011. Since then over five million people have
viewed the movie on YouTube. How successful was Ray Comfort’s methods? Each
year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected data
to document the number of legally induced abortions in the United States since
1969. Nearly 53 million legal abortions occurred from 1973-2011 in the United
States.  “A total of 664,435 abortions
were reported to CDC for 2013. From 2004 to 2013, the total number, rate,
and ratio of reported abortions decreased 20%, 21%, and 17%, respectively.”
(Jatlaoui, Ewing, Mandel, et al, 2017).  “All
three measures tested reached their lowest level for the entire period of
analysis (2004-2013).” (Jatlaoui, Ewing, Mandel, et al, 2017, para 4).   In
Comfort’s movie, he was able to sway the minds of eight people in the matter of
minutes by his use of rhetoric. It is safe to say that not everyone will be
swayed by Ray Comfort’s methods as some people will see it as an attack on
women who are already going through a bad situation. However, the overwhelming
evidence of the lower number of abortions after 2011 is not to be dismissed. Many
political figures say the decrease is because the Affordable Care Act made contraception
more affordable and easier to obtain, but studies have shown that affordable
contraception has been around since the 1950s. It would be hard to prove that
Comfort’s movie had a direct impact on the decrease in abortions, but it is
hard to believe that the timing could be a coincidence. Some Christians do not
believe Comfort’s rhetorical methods were successful. Alan Nobles says, “I am
grateful for Ray Comfort’s work, but I hope that we might learn more
charitable, effective, and loving methods of sharing the Gospel and opposing
abortion.” (Culture, C.A., 2001, para 5). Julietta Loves put a comment on the
180 movie YouTube site, saying, “God bless you. I’ve been a sinner, but I know
now where my salvation lies, and I’ll never leave HIS side…your knowledge,
arguments, and justifications make my faith stronger and stronger.” At the end
of the movie, Ray Comfort shows people that God can cleanse the heart, forgive,
and then change the heart. The message is not just that abortion is murder but
that even the sin of abortion can be forgiven. Jesus Christ died for our all sins.

Conclusion

The movie 180 has two purposes. First to change hearts and minds about
abortion, and second, to change hearts and minds about the Gospel. Comfort’s 180 is designed to address both issues
from a Christian point of view. Strong uses of logos appear throughout the movie.
The points about the babies’ hands, heartbeat, and brain activity in the womb
under three months were used as logical support for not having an abortion.
However, 180 had more of an emotional
appeal because Ray Comfort uses the Biblical Principle of speaking to the
conscience than to our logical thoughts. Since God’s law is written on our hearts,
because of this conviction 180 is a
powerful movie to bring about moral change in this world. In the Bible, Matthew
tells us about a parable taught by Jesus about sowing seeds. “Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell
along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some
fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly,
because the soil was shallow. 6 But
when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they
had no root. 7 Other seed
fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it
produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew
13: 3-9, New International Version). In the end, the only thing that matters is
that Ray Comfort is sowing the seed of the Gospel through his movie 180. Some of the seeds will wither away,
but some will grow changing the hearts and minds of many people.

 

 

 

 

References
Comfort, R. (2011, September 21), “180” Movie Video File.
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI
Communication Assessment Learning Lab (2013, October 8). Persuasive power: The
Importance of Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Retrieved November 25, 2017 from
http://comm.lab.asu.edu/persuasive-power-the-importance-of-ethos-pathos-and-
logos/#.WhnAZkqnHD5

Culture, C.A. (2001,
October 03). Ray Comfort’s 180: Pass It
On? Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2011/10/ray-comfort-180-pass-it-on/
Glenn, C.,
& Gray, L.S. (2013). The Writer’s
Harbrace Handbook. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
The Holy
Bible: New International Version
containing the Old Testament and the New Testament. (2009). Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan.
Jatlaoui TC, Ewing A, Mandel MG, et al. (2017, June21) Abortion
Surveillance — United States,
            2013. MMWR Surveill
Summ 2016;65(No. SS-12):1–44.
          DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6512a1