This is one of the most difficult write-ups I’ve ever dared to compose because it involves the celebrated Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. The man has influenced believers worldwide, myself included, to think critically about their faith and bridge the heart and mind in pursuit of truth.
His talks at university forums have shaped the way we engage one another, respectfully and candidly, even when grappling with some of life’s most troubling questions about meaning, purpose, and objective truth.
It is difficult to mention modern apologetics without mentioning Ravi. His work has covered Christian thought and had the reach of one of the world’s leading ministries, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).
I recall the time where I would work as a cleaner and vacuum all day long listening to Ravi’s talks and sermons. His teachings on meaning and suffering. The purpose of Christ through emotion and rigorous thought. Of his many encounters with diplomats, governors, foreign ministers, and dangerous entities to share with them this great gospel message of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. His many talks kept my mind out of a gutter of fundamentalist flaws. Kept my soul from flailing miserably down the precipice of anti-intellectualism because through his ministry I sought to investigate other thinkers, predominantly so German philosopher and author Frederich Nietzche.
The fear of investigating other worldviews had dissipated with the firmness and gentleness with which Ravi spoke of revealed truth, reducing my prejudices about people to shreds and my uninformed nature to humble truth-seeking.
But then the allegations began.
First of his continued use of academic terms and titles that he did not study nor accomplish rightfully. He would call himself “Dr. Zacharias” when in reality his doctorate was honorary at best. He used this in talks, sermons, question and answer sessions, and went as far as to add such a title to his own name in a book.
This, as harmful as it is to the integrity of academia, isn’t as bad as what would come later.
News broke of an alleged plot to extort Ravi and the Zacharias family through a litany of salacious emails passed back and forth between Ravi and a married Canadian woman. There was a lawsuit to prevent his extortionists from doing more damage to his name, his reputation, the ministry and his family.
I recall thinking that it was very much possible for people to extort famous persons, more so religious ones who flew at the chance to silence any allegation of impropriety, however false, so as not to taint or tarnish their Christian witness.
For some time I allowed myself to believe Ravi’s narrative of this story. He and his wife, his family, and his ministry were but victims of a destructive and greedy force.
Until dozens of women who worked at massage parlors (two of which Ravi co-owned) alleged that he would solicit them for sexual favors in hopes of release from ministerial tensions. He suffered from chronic back pain and sought out every means to alleviate his debilitating pain and massage therapy seemed like the least invasive approach.
But looking back it sounded like the perfect cover-up, and evidence proved that it was, for his continued predation on financially and emotionally vulnerable women.
He used his position of prominence to create an atmosphere of acceptance when in fact his requests of sexual favors were in contrast to his Christian witness.
He would ask his therapists about their lives, their religious views, their family and friends, and financial stability or instability and become their de facto religious and financial father.
This is considered grooming. It’s the first step in hypnotizing your prey, your victim, so as to bring them into the fold of secrecy and continued abuse.
He would then walk into massage sessions nude because according to him it was accepted as a cultural norm. Other times he would disrobe, exposing his genitals to massage therapists, clearly aroused. Other times he would do all of this and request to be massaged inappropriately so as to attain sexual gratification from his therapists.
Most refused. Some submitted. Others felt they had no choice. Who would believe that the world’s leading apologist was running his hands up a massage therapist’s thighs or that his special requests meant sexual intercourse.
No one would believe them because our crippled evangelical industrial complex paved the highway for us to believe predators over victims ten out of ten times.
That is why Ravi did what he did, for decades, without getting caught or without ramifications.
He would always travel with a male ministry companion to claim that he never traveled alone but after meetings, he spent days, if not weeks, alone and without further supervision. In these shrouded moments of hidden acts, he would solicit the services of massage therapists and meet them at his hotel reception area. Other massage therapists would meet him in his room. One of them received a key to his room gracefully hidden within a book he gave her with a note inside that asked her to meet him in his room minutes later.
Ravi would travel to Bangkok where he owned two apartment spaces to write, he was a prolific writer and a voracious reader, therefore, according to him, he needed time for clarity and rest as he wrote. Uncluttered by the demands of day to day ministerial tasks and away from the weight of family responsibilities.
While there, he would meet several women, massage therapists, we know, who would spend time with him in his apartment. Alone. Away from the eyes of accountability partners, ministry partners, and his family.
His phones and laptop were turned over to technology specialists and in these were found hundreds of photos of women, most of them very young, with a few of them being suspiciously provocative. There were nude pictures of one of his victims, the one he bound to a non-disclosure agreement once she decided to come forward with their illicit and extra-marital affair.
Ravi was living like James Bond, womanizing and ravaging in between talks, whilst no one batted an eye.
Well, that’s the troubling part, I believe many people did but so few were willing to challenge the man’s conduct because of his position of prominence and his continued giftedness from the stage.
Hell. I was blessed by his giftedness and I owe much of my spiritual growth and inquisitive nature to him.
But, his level of compartmentalization and predatory behavior behind the scenes is but a reminder that we cannot give men or women power to govern and control with impunity. Without accountability. Without rigorous discipline and the threat of ouster should they fail to live up to the standard that has been set up for them.
Ravi is but the culmination of the evangelical industrial complex. We made him. We promoted him. We pushed him to stardom well knowing that we should not trust men or women so much but under the spell that he was so close to God.
Perhaps he was. Perhaps his walk with God was honest. But like an addict who struggles with his substance perhaps Ravi’s substance was an insatiable desire for sexual favors from and hidden extra-marital affairs with young married and unmarried women.
He used his power, his prominence, his money, his influence, his position of honor to woo dozens of women, seducing them into sin.
His intellect did not represent him in darkness. In fact, the truth he lived on stage was tarnished in a bed of adultery, multiple times, hundreds, perhaps.
His death might have been God’s coup de grace, mercy blow, to prevent his present and monumental disgrace in the eyes of the world. Cancer ruined his bones and took his life but his conduct while alive and healthy ruined his soul.
I hope Ravi made it to heaven. In fact, I believe he did if in his dying breath he sought forgiveness for his duplicitous lifestyle of predation.
One only attains heaven through a bridge that stands firm over the chasm of eternity, that bridge being Jesus Christ. There is no other way Ravi, or any of us for that matter, could enter God’s eternal rest.
But with that in mind, we cannot dismiss the fallout of his predatory behavior and sins that have stayed behind. The consequences of his actions are here and they are going to stick. They have to stick because we cannot stand idly by and allow this nefarious conduct to happen again.
His victims must be heard. His victims have to come forward with strength and in numbers. The woman bound by the NDA must be released by the Zacharias family so that we can hear, and learn, and listen, and repent, and lament, and reform.
We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.
Now is a time of reckoning and Ravi’s name is going to face so much judgment.
For the sake of truth, it must.
The apologist, the intellectual, and the serial predator.
If anyone needed Christ it was him. We all do.
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