How Ray Comfort’s Parachute Analogy Fails

How Ray Comfort’s Parachute Analogy Fails August 1, 2020

Hi and welcome back! I recently ran across a news article on a Christian site about Todd White, one of the trendy hip pastors lately in evangelicalism. In it, Todd White preached about how he’d realized he was Jesus-ing all wrong. And he’d figured this error out with the help of none other than Ray Comfort! Yes, evangelicals’ favorite buffoon-for-Jesus had reached Todd White! And he’d done so with one of his favorite arguments-in-lieu-of evidence: the Parachute Analogy. Today, I’ll show you what the Parachute Analogy is — and why it fails so amazingly hard.

the parachute analogy fails hard but this does not
(Kamil Pietrzak.) Even if I live to be 100, I will never understand why people fling themselves out of perfectly functional aircraft.

(A note for new readers: Hi and welcome to the blog! When I talk about evangelicals’ product, I don’t mean Jesus. Evangelical soulwinners actually sell a whole different product: active membership in their specific groups. They sell Jesus first because there’s no reason for their marks to consider purchasing their real product without first buying into a whole range of false claims to create a need for their product. Evangelicals don’t consider a sale made until and unless the mark purchases membership in their flavor of Christianity. Don’t worry — we’ll come back around to the other stuff in that story about Todd White. Today, we’re just covering this one aspect.)

Everyone, Meet Todd White.

According to his own website, Todd White converted in 2005 around the age of 22 to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™. Like almost all Millennial Christian loudmouths, he claims an oh-so-trendy past in atheism along with drug addiction. He’s about 35 now, but he looks a lot like Mickey Rourke (who is currently 67 according to La Wiki). Must be all that clean living these past ten years.

After his conversion, his bio says he launched immediately into evangelical ministry. Apparently, nobody stopped a brand-new convert from taking on all this responsibility. White called his ministry “Lifestyle Christianity.” It now consists of a megachurch plus some kind of online course called “Lifestyle Christianity U.”

Over on another bio site of his, we learn that “Lifestyle Christianity” revolves around teaching other Christians to be hardcore 24/7 Jesus fanatics — just like White claims to be. Naturally, hardcore 24/7 Jesus-ing involves pushing sales pitches at everybody who crosses these Christians’ paths.

I can definitely see authoritarian followers eating “Lifestyle Christianity” up with a spoon. Todd White’s black-and-white, everything-or-nothing, with-us-or-against-us mentality has always sold to people of that mindset.

To seal the fundagelical deal, White also engages in the hucksterism known as prosperity gospel. He’s been denounced for it in the past, even criticized in the Netflix movie we’re reviewing tomorrow, American Gospel.

Todd White differentiates himself from a whole pack of evangelical leaders all saying the same exact things by cultivating a really disheveled appearance. (Others grow lumberjack beards or wax eloquent about top-shelf booze. Whatever.)

And Now: The Story.

A few days ago, Christian Post ran a story about Todd White. They titled it: “Todd White repents of failing to preach ‘the whole Gospel,’ calls out American Church.”

Yes. Somehow, this guy wasn’t Jesus-ing nearly hard enough!

(And somehow, his many thousands of fans and his church staffers didn’t realize this mistake either!)

And Todd White figured this error out by reading apologetics dreck from Charles Spurgeon and RAY COMFORT.

Yes! Banana-Man himself!

Todd White said that one argument from Ray Comfort in particular had been “rocking” him, which appears to be slang for shoving him out of his comfort zone into a place where he can begin re-assessing his beliefs.

That argument was the Parachute Analogy, which I’ll explain in short order.

Todd White said this analogy made him realize he wasn’t “preaching the whole Gospel.” (That’s Christianese for not Jesus-ing correctly. Evangelicals use terms like the whole Gospel as a bragging point and accuse their enemies/rivals of not preaching the whole Gospel.)

(It blows my mind that evangelicals see nothing at all wrong with a brand-new convert with a stated past in drug addiction starting a church and leading many thousands of congregants, all because his stated style of Jesus-ing impresses them all so much. This situation bears the marks of a cult of personality, but it also sounds like a formula for serious scandal.)

Now We Cut to Our Get-A-Load-of-This-Guy Cam.

I’m still learning to embed, so hopefully this’ll work. Here’s Ray Comfort and (eventually) Kirk Cameron explaining the Parachute Analogy. I think this comes to us from 2013.

Any drinking game ever invented for modern evangelical apologetics, applied to this video, would send me to the hospital for a stomach pump.

If you can’t handle a few conjobs blathering for a few minutes, here’s my summary of it:

Imagine two passengers on an airplane full of people. Add ominous music in the background that ramps up as the scenario progresses.

The first steward hands the first passenger a parachute to wear and tells him to wear it because it’ll improve his flight experience. So he puts it on, but it’s really uncomfortable, doesn’t seem to help his flight at all, and all the other passengers are laughing at him. Eventually, he takes it off and throws it on the ground. OMG NO! He’s all angry and “BITTER!” BITTER, did you hear that? He’s all BITTER! That steward lied to him!

The second steward hands the second passenger an identical parachute to wear. He tells the second passenger to wear it because at some random moment, he will be forced to jump out of the airplane — at 25,000 feet. The terrified passenger gladly wears it. He doesn’t care about how uncomfortable it is, nor does he even notice the mockery of the other passengers.

The first passenger will end up leaving Christianity as “another inoculated and bitter backslider.” Meanwhile, the second will go to Heaven because he never got told that the parachute would do anything for his flight experience.

Stewards need to sell their parachutes the right way, dangit!

Ray Comfort constantly presents us with a living example of the eternal truth: evangelicals cannot create good parables to save their lives.

(The Other Parachute Analogy Ray Comfort Likes.)

Ray Comfort has used parachutes and planes in his apologetics before, of course. The other one is even more hamfisted and fear-based. You can find an analysis of it here.

But here it is:

“Imagine you are on a plane, and suddenly it is going down. You fear for your life and want to be saved. Someone hands you the Mona Lisa, you push it away. Someone offers you keys to a Ferrari, you reject it. [. . .] Suddenly someone offers you a parachute that can save you. This parachute provided to you from Ray Comfort is faith in Jesus Christ that will save you from a terrible fate.”

So when I first read about Todd White mentioning parachutes and Ray Comfort, my mind immediately went to this more commonly-known example. Indeed, I was quite surprised to discover that he’d invented another one!

Dude just cannot keep his hands off terror as a marketing tool.

We now return to the terrible analogy at hand.

Problem One: The Parachute Analogy Itself.

In the Ray Comfort scenario that Todd White felt so “rocked” by, the parachute represents Jesus himself. In turn, Jesus represents safety from Hell. The plane represents our lifetimes, which will of course end — or crash. Jumping represents heading into the afterlife. Removing the parachute means rejecting Jesus himself, but also losing the protection Jesus offers from Hell.

If you wear a parachute, then, you will jump and land safely (in Heaven).

If you don’t wear a parachute, you’ll hurtle to the ground and die (be tortured in Hell) when your plane crashes.

Right out of the gate, this analogy fails. 

Not to belabor a point, but no Christian has ever credibly demonstrated that Jesus exists, nor Hell or Heaven.

In fact, the only element they can demonstrate exist might just be the plane itself: one’s lifetime. Yes, our lifetimes will end at some point. Everything dies. But there’s not a way to “jump” out of the plane as it crashes.

Christians need to demonstrate that an afterlife exists before they start telling people their parachutes will protect people from the bad version of that afterlife.

Problem Two: Those Darn Stewards.

In this terrible parachute analogy, stewards represent the Christians evangelizing people.

The steward sells the parachute to the first passenger by telling him that wearing it will improve his flight experience. Obviously, it doesn’t do anything to improve flight experience. As Comfort describes it, the parachute feels drastically uncomfortable to wear and looks silly to the other passengers.

Meanwhile, the second steward sells the parachute in the Comfort-approved way. He tells the passenger that it won’t do anything to improve flight experience. However, wearing it will help him survive the jump he’ll be forced to make any minute into the flight. So yes, it’s still uncomfortable and looks silly, but the passenger is terrified of the jump to come. He thinks only of the jump. So he doesn’t care about all the discomfort and mockery. Whatever inconveniences and discomforts he suffers while wearing his parachute, he endures it gladly. See, he understands. The parachute’s actual function is to save his life, not to look pretty or feel good.

So Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron denounce all evangelists who sell parachutes the wrong way. They tell evangelists they need to sell parachutes the second way, not the first.

But as we’ve recently discussed, evangelists sell their product the way they do for a reason. It’s the only way they can score even a dwindling number of sales. If they sell their groups the second way, nobody will want to join them.

Fear worked on them, obviously. That’s why they’re okay with using fear to sell to others. But fear makes sales with fewer and fewer people these days.

Problem Three: Christians’ Flight Experience.

The third problem, of course, is that Christians like Ray Comfort want to have their religion both ways.

Their Bible constantly tells Christians that their god does real-world stuff all the time. They love to claim miracles constantly in their own lives.

And Ray Comfort’s Parachute Analogy undermines all of those claims. He sells a Christianity that is 100% totes for realsies — while he simultaneously denigrates anybody who takes that marketing seriously.

If Christianity’s claims were true, then yes, belonging to it absolutely would make Christians’ lives — their flight experiences in the Parachute Analogy — better in every conceivable way. It would absolutely have to.

But it doesn’t.

Ray Comfort’s solution is to sell a Christianity that is completely, totally a hindrance and burden on believers. His ideology only confers one benefit: it helps buyers escape Hell and enter Heaven.

(Toxic Christians love to sneer at ex-Christians when we talk about this topic. They snidely inform us that we deconverted because “we didn’t get a pony.” The facts remain: We wouldn’t have expected anything at all if the Bible hadn’t promised results repeatedly and unequivocally.)

Problem Four: The Nature of the Parachute Itself.

In Ray Comfort’s Parachute Analogy, the parachute is distinctly uncomfortable to wear. It’s awkward and looks silly in every single circumstance except when its wearer reasonably expects to jump out of a high-flying airplane.

If Christianity were based around real claims, Christians’ faith in Jesus would not be a parachute.

It wouldn’t even be like a rocket saddle in the video game ARK. In that game, rocket saddles are very hard to get and use a huge amount of resources. However, they allow (certain) dinosaur mounts to fly through the air and clamber all around mountains with the greatest of ease — while also featuring a grenade-flinging flak cannon.

The game in question. Mr. Captain is crazy about this game and he cannot live without his rocket saddle. He calls its built-in flak cannon “good clean family fun.” 

Instead, Christians’ faith would function more like a very real Aura of Divine Protection glowing around them nonstop. If Christianity were true, then I’d expect Christians to be far better people than non-Christians, to have way better relationships than us heathens ever could, to experience far fewer disasters and setbacks, and to suffer way fewer diseases and injuries.

And y’all, if that was all true nobody would mock them for being adherents of their religion.

Problem Five: That 25,000′ Jump.

The Parachute Analogy hinges on this huge 25,000′ jump that the passengers will be forced to make any moment into the flight.

Mr. Captain, who held a pilot’s license during his misspent youth, has been talking to me for the past half hour about how ridiculous that “25,000 foot jump” really is. At 25,000 feet, Comfort’s jump altitude very nearly qualifies as the death zone.

People don’t jump out of planes at that height.

Nobody hands a normie on a plane a parachute and pushes him out the door to fall that far. Ray Comfort might be using an absolutely over-the-top threat to sell his dumb parachute, but even on the face of it it’s as ridiculous as the Oncoming Bus Gambit.

I mean, against all the other stuff wrong with this analogy this doesn’t represent Comfort’s worst offense. But I wanted it pointed out.

Speaking of his worst offense:

Problem Six: The Dealbreaker of Frantic Self-Preservation.

Possibly the very worst problem with the Parachute Analogy is that it tramples the entire lovey-dovey appeal of Christianity, pushes past all the social justice orders Jesus directly gave his followers (that evangelicals ignore), and eliminates faith as a reason for purchasing evangelicals’ product.

His first passenger accepts the evangelist’s product because of promises that it’ll help him in this life. Ray Comfort sees that as sad and shameful. Worse, this expectation becomes a recipe for “bitterness” and “backsliding,” as he puts it, since even he knows that Christianity does nothing tangible for believers.

The second passenger accepts the evangelist’s product because it will help him escape Hell. Ray Comfort sees that as an ideal transaction. As cumbersome and unpleasant and mockable as his flavor of Christianity is, people must have it (he thinks) to avoid eternal torture.

In Ray-Comfort-Land, the frantic knee-jerk scrabble of self-preservation dominates and overshadows all other gentler and nobler sentiments. Christianity’s prime value to him is very obviously that it allows adherents to escape a horrific afterlife. That’s it. I’m not even sure Ray Comfort thinks his god even cares if people really even believe in him at all, as long as they follow the rules Ray Comfort himself has decided are important.

That’s Not How Any of This Works.

Ray Comfort’s god apparently came up with a cosmology that included the monstrous realm of Hell, but somehow can’t give people informed consent about it. For that matter, this god can’t even provide his followers any objective evidence of the existence of an afterlife. The literal only way they can sell this idea to non-believers is through hardcore and callous emotional manipulation.

His god apparently created a set of rules for humans that we are absolutely held to no matter what, but he can’t communicate meaningfully with his ant farm regarding the rules they get wrong or garble. So there’s no way for anybody to know that Ray Comfort’s version of Christianity — or Todd White’s for that matter — is the correct version this god approves most.

And this god apparently doesn’t care that so many of his religion’s leaders are leading millions of Christians astray with nonsense like prosperity gospel. He’s content to allow millions of children to suffer abuse at the hands of his shepherd stand-ins, for millions of women to be victimized by men in power in his churches, for millions of families to abuse their children in the name of godly parenting. He’s never said a word to them about Jesus-ing wrong.

Ray Comfort’s god is either stupid or incomprehensibly evil or incompetent — or some combination of these things.

Christians Themselves.

Yet again, we discover that Christians themselves provide us the best reasons of all for rejecting their product.

The god of the Parachute Analogy is no friend to humanity. Rather, if he existed he would actually be our greatest enemy, and people like Ray Comfort would be counted among the vilest of lickspittles by anybody who cared at all about decency, morality, compassion, and love.

I’m thankful this god doesn’t exist, and the Parachute Analogy itself has really driven home the fact of his non-existence yet again. So I guess I must say:

Thanks, Ray Comfort, for making sure I know just how morally corrupt your ideology truly is at its core.

And thanks go to Todd White as well for driving home that point by deciding that a totally manipulative and inept “analogy” from a(nother) two-bit huckster “rocked” his entire worldview.

NEXT UP: Let’s review American Gospel tomorrow! 

(You know the drill: I’ll put up a chat post around 6pm with the setup. We’ll hang out in comments to talk about it. I’m moving the LSP to Tuesday in the interests of my ongoing Shoulder Saga. Monday I’ll put up the full review itself, and we’ll do LSP on Tuesday.)

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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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