*I’ll warn you that this post is long. Before you proceed, I have a request. Please do not comment on this blog post or on my Facebook post if you have not read the entire post and every link shared. I am convinced that those who are reluctant to condemn the actions discussed have not actually read the allegations. So, I am respectfully requesting that you not share your opinion about what I have written without reading the material
that I am commenting on. I am not going to describe every allegation in detail here. Those are described in detail in articles linked within the blog post. Please read them. Thank you.
Have any of us ever been more shocked, devastated, or broken over a fallen leader than over the uncovered sexual misconduct of the late Ravi Zacharias?
If you are not familiar with the allegations against Ravi, you can read the allegations in this article from Christianity Today (CT). In September 2020, CT published an article outlining serious allegations of sexual misconduct by Ravi toward several workers in a day spa that he co-owned. The first I heard of these allegations was on December 23, 2020, when I received an email from RZIM explaining that their board had initiated an investigation into the allegations made in the CT article. Their original intention was not to make a statement until the investigation was complete. However, because of the seriousness of the findings at that point, they felt it necessary to issue a statement to their supporters, and they released an interim report from the lead investigator. That report can be found here.
I cannot tell you how shocking it is. Thus far, the investigators have found that the allegations purported in the CT article are true. Not only that, they have uncovered what they call “more serious” conduct. If you have read the allegations, you will be hard pressed to think of any allegations more serious than the ones already made.
I posted on my Facebook page my shock and devastation but also my anger about the situation. I’ll admit that I am angry. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry but do not sin.” I have asked the Lord to help me keep my anger righteous and not fleshly. I am angry because Ravi Zacharias has brought shame to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and betrayed his wife, his colleagues, his students, his ministry supporters, and his victims. He wrote 30+ books on various ministry topics (including one ironically titled Sense and Sensuality), and his ministry has a presence in 17 countries on 5 continents. He has literally preached around the world. As it turns out, he wasn’t exactly practicing what he preached. When you read the statements of the victims, you see that he actually used his position as a highly-respected, world-renowned apologist to groom them to overlook his advances, blame themselves, and accept his abuse. He was a sexual predator who used the precious gospel of Jesus Christ to victimize innocent women. If that does not make you angry, then what in the world does?
In my post, I never called Ravi any derogatory names. I never questioned his salvation or eternal destiny. Yet I was told I was being judgmental, unbiblical, and unchristian. Yes, I called him a fraud. I was actually echoing the words of Carson Weitnauer, Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist at RZIM and personal friend of Ravi, in his online post “A Catastrophic Betrayal” which can be read here. Ravi Zacharias was by definition a fraud. He claimed to be one thing but was another thing altogether and deceived multitudes in the process. The Bible is clear that teachers of the Word of God will be held to a stricter judgment than others.
In Ravi’s message “The Problem with Pleasure,” he says, “Unlimited pleasure leads to unlimited regret.” I believe that is true whether a person is a Christian or not. However, a Christian should feel more than just regret over sin. A Christian should feel the unrelenting conviction of the Holy Spirit. One of the women he abused said that he called it “therapy” and said he needed it because of the huge responsibility that had been placed on him. Did you hear that? He was using the gift that God gave him and the ministry entrusted to him as an excuse to sexually abuse women and violate his covenant of marriage. We know the story. We know how grooming victims works. We have heard it all too often. But instead of names like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein or wealthy playboy Jeffery Epstein, it is Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. It is almost too difficult to believe. And that is exactly why it was so hard for his victims to speak out. Each victim, including Lori Anne Thompson who brought a sexting allegation against him in 2017, had confided past abuse to Ravi. They were seeking godly wisdom, compassion, and healing, and instead received more abuse.
I have seen some people compare Ravi’s sin to the sin of King David in the Bible. Scripture records that David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and she became pregnant with his child. In an attempt to hide his sin and make Uriah, her soldier husband, believe the child was his, David had him sent home from battle. But Uriah refused to go home and be with his wife in solidarity with his brother soldiers who were unable to come home and be with their own wives. When that plan was foiled by Uriah’s integrity, David had him moved up to the front lines of battle in the hopes he would be killed. And he was. So, yes, King David committed adultery and murder. Yet he is called in Scripture “a man after God’s own heart.” How can this be? The thing that made David a man after God’s own heart was not that he was without sin. It was that when confronted with his sin, he fell down on his face before God in abject humility and repentance. David’s sin was public, and his repentance was, too. Read Psalm 51 to see how he responded when the prophet Nathan exposed his sin with Bathsheba. David wrote:
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.”
In 2017 when Ravi was confronted with sexting allegations by Lori Anne Thompson, he could have fallen on his face in repentance before the Lord like King David did. He could have confessed and repented and asked for forgiveness. He could have tried to make reparations of some kind to his victims. Instead, he lied and denied and actually countersued Ms. Thompson and forced her into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Ask any lawyer who represents victims or any advocate for victims’ rights – people with nothing to hide don’t insist on NDA’s. Ms. Thompson has repeatedly asked to be released from the NDA but RZIM, led by Ravi’s family members, refuses. [Update: I have since learned that the ministry of RZIM does not have the power to release the NDA. That agreement was a personal legal agreement entered into by Ravi Zacharias. Only the Executrix of his will has the power to release all parties from it. She has refused.] She has nothing to hide, but, apparently, they do. RZIM apologist Dr. Max Baker-Hytch wrote a passionate letter to RZIM urging them, among other things, to make “meaningful reparations” to Ravi’s victims. He also expresses concern over what he calls “shifting narratives” and “withholding of troubling pieces of information” over the sexting case involving Ms. Thompson. Dr. Baker-Hytch’s letter can be found here.
When Ms. Thompson brought the allegations against Ravi in 2017, he had already abused the women at the spa for five long years. One of the women said that when the story broke, she knew that Ms. Thompson was telling the truth because Ravi had done to her the exact same things he had done to Ms. Thompson. None of the women at the spa ever spoke to each other or anyone else about what Ravi had done to them.
One of the reasons I want to speak firmly against Ravi’s actions is because of the millions of non-Christians who are watching this play out. I want them to know that we are willing to call out sin no matter who has done it. We don’t circle the wagons and protect our own when they are wrong. We acknowledge the sin. We condemn the actions. We empathize with the victims and support them for their courage. We show grace and compassion to all. Unfortunately, Ravi did not allow us to demonstrate grace and compassion to him while he was alive.
A friend of my mother’s suddenly fell ill right before Christmas this year and was told she had about 4 days to live. She was a retired nurse, a loving mother and grandmother, and a godly Christian woman. Do you know what she did in her last couple of days? She used her flagging strength to call her loved ones to not only reaffirm her love for them but to ask their forgiveness if she had ever hurt or wronged them in any way. I have had cancer which caused me to contemplate death more than once. Do you know what I did? I thought about the same things my mom’s friend thought about. I wanted to be in right relationship not only with God but also with my fellow man. I didn’t want to stand before the Lord with unconfessed sin in my life.
I have to wonder if Ravi did not do this as he lay on his death bed. I certainly do not claim to know what was in his heart, but I believe we can say that he was not convicted of his sin enough to make any final public statement to the world or a private one to his victims. He died the same way he lived – hiding his sin. Surely he knew the truth of Numbers 32:23b: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Ravi thought he could hide his sin in his grave, but he couldn’t.
Another thing I hear is how much “good” that Ravi did. All I can say is, tell that to the women he preyed upon. There is no doubt that he had a brilliant mind and many were brought to Christ through his ministry. But did Ravi do those good things or did God? God uses us, but He doesn’t need us. If we disobey, He will raise up someone else to accomplish His will. Sometimes He even uses the ungodly to perform His will. How much more can God use a heart completely surrendered to Him? One thing is sure: you cannot be wholly devoted to God and to your secret sin at the same time.
Is there grace and compassion from God for Ravi? Absolutely. From me? Of course. I think, however, that to jump immediately to expressing those does two things: (1) it leaves out the necessary and healthy steps of grieving, one of which is anger, and (2) it can come across as dismissive to victims of sexual abuse.
The truth is Ravi betrayed us all. We admired, respected, and trusted him. None of those things equate with idolatry. It is not wrong to honor godly men and women. Giving honor and giving worship are two different things. To casually toss aside our hurt and anger over his betrayal of our trust and his victimization of innocent women is callous and unwise.
No matter how you feel about Ravi or me and my opinions, can we all agree in prayer on behalf of Ravi’s victims, his close friends and colleagues who have been deeply cut by this, and the leaders of RZIM and his family who have some major decisions to make regarding the future of RZIM? I will meet you at the throne of grace.
6 Comments Add yours
Have you ever thought how the mention of “sex” generates a different response from us and others. Substitute it with theft, lying, gossip, gluttony, etc and see how feelings change. All are sins, all affect others and all damage the name of Christ. I wonder why we obsess over sexual sins.
I don’t understand your accusation of “obsessing” over sexual sin. To call it out and be hurt by it isn’t “obsessing.” The Bible treats sexual sins differently. Read 1 Corinthians 6:18. Sexual sins cut deeper into our souls than other sins. No one is saying any sin is less or greater, but there ARE greater consequences. Ravi’s sins had VICTIMS. A person who has been the victim of sexual assault carries that for the rest of his or her life. Someone that is gossiped about may be hurt by it but she doesn’t carry the deep emotional scars that a woman who has been molested does. And when the abuser is a trusted minister of the gospel, deep spiritual scars are inflicted as well. The point is that Ravi was preaching against sexual sin, writing books about it, counseling people through it all the while perpetrating it himself. You don’t have a problem with that? He was a hypocrite of the highest magnitude. I have a hard time believing that you actually read what he did. It made me sick to my stomach to read it, but you seem to be able to gloss over it so casually with an oh-well-we-all-sin attitude. And just for the record, if I found out that Ravi was a serial murderer or bank robber, I’d be just as upset.
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Nancy has a point that sin is sin. However, St Paul does note that every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the sexual sin has greater significance and consequence than other transgressions.
It is one thing, as King David knew, to sin in one’s heart and quite another to cross the rubicon. Based on the interim report, Ravi’s action have directly impacted many women and their lives.
As to the “good” that Ravi did, St Paul’s observation comes to mind: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
Kari is right that Ravi has betrayed us all. Let us hope that, as in the King David narrative, RIZM will do the right thing: acknowledge their role, take responsibility, lift the NDA, and compensate the victims.
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And one more thing about the “good” that Ravi did: Abdu Murray said in his book Saving Truth “Fair or not, people judge the credibility of a message by the integrity of the messenger.” Ravi himself said “If I get discredited as a person, the message gets discredited too. What God is calling upon you and me is to so live that the messenger is always faithful and honest.”
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The mention of sex does, has, and always will generate a different response from people. “Sin is sin” is a cheap catch-all phrase that believers would do well to abandon. Sexual sin cannot be likened to thievery, lying, gluttony, gossip, etc. There’s a significant difference in those behaviors. Not everyone can understand the thief, the gossip, the glutton…but everyone can understand the battle against the flesh relating to sexuality and purity before God. Some fight that battle, some give into it; but, it’s a common thread every adult understands and will feel a response towards. Every. Single. Time. I don’t gasp in horror at the shoplifter, but I’ll gasp in horror in response to any professing Christian who victimizes another person sexually; especially after spending their life luring people into the false comfort of their trustworthiness. These are not obsessions, but they are real issues to be examined, scrutinized, and require accountability.
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