Here is an update to two articles I published in 2017 concerning allegations and evidence of sexual misconduct of Ravi Zacharias. I believed the victim then, now, and all the time in-between, as did other abuse advocates and bloggers. Where was the rest of the Christian community?
Most people found the allegations shocking, unbelievable, and shameful, which led to public victim-shaming while Zacharias remained believed, protected, and praised. When Ravi Zacharias died in May of 2020, he was adored and memorialized by well-known celebrities, politicians, best-selling authors, celebrity pastors, and most of the evangelical community. Because I can’t police the internet, I found it safest to stay away from the world-wide-web in the days following Zacharias’ death. A person could have spent their time 24/7 setting the record straight about Ravi’s sexual sins and falsified professional credentials.
I recognized the disbelief since I’ve lived through similar jolting when I found out about my first husband’s hidden sexual addictions and abuses. Other than close friends and family, I wasn’t believed and lost all my ministry friends. Having been married to a duplicitous, conscience-seared pastor, the allegations against Zacharias were sadly, not alarming to me. Duplicitous personalities are wolves; they are not sheep. Wolves are often false converts, not Christ-followers, and evil. And yes, they can know scripture well, just as Satan knows scripture. (I don’t know what may or may not have happen on a death bed where repentance/conversion can take place).
I believed Ravi’s abuse and falsified credentials allegations as soon as I saw the evidence because I understand from personal experience dynamic speakers with dark, evil hearts. He was an entertaining speaker, and people, except for victims/survivors and advocates, remained fascinated by his great logic.
Below is a relevant Tweet by Susan Codon who is a professor and advocate standing against sexual abuse in the evangelical church and writing about her public theology of trauma.
which sin matters?
As a national advocate for abuse victims, I can testify that predatory pastors and evangelists are commonplace in the Christian environment. Upon hearing allegations of abuse, most leaders don’t want to act or trouble themselves with making the environment safer for vulnerable sheep. We would be more likely to gain traction from Christian leadership by asking them to remove a female speaker, teacher, or pastor from a pulpit or classroom rather than acquiring assistance in reporting sexual abuse allegations, seeking justice for victims, and providing restitution for wounded souls. I’m not overstating the case. Some pastors have publicly stated that, in their view, females teaching men is a greater sin than a sexual predator or a pedophile behind the pulpit.
In my 2017 articles, the woman who was preyed upon by Zacharias and who I wrote about was Lori Anne Thompson. She and her husband were slandered by RZIM in horrific and damaging ways when the allegations and evidence were made known. Instead of being held accountable for his inappropriate and sinful phone calls, text messages, and emails, Zacharias justified, excused, deflected, minimized, and spiritualized the abuse to the RZIM board. The board believed him without using logic in light of the gospel with the heart of Christ. Then Zacharias sought legal counsel. He utilized a non-disclosure agreement to keep Lori Anne Thompson from moving forward against him with her case of predatory sexual abuse and abuse of power. Ravi’s family has not yet lifted the N.D.A. against Lori Anne despite the independent investigation report released this week.
Victims and church members in a Christian environment should not be asked to sign a release form or non-disclosure agreement. N.D.A.s should not exist in a Christ-centered environment for relational matters. It’s asking someone to lie or to remain quiet about a secret, sin, or crime. As followers of Jesus, we are to walk in the light, not hide in the dark.
Allow me to state that with conscience seared, double-minded individuals like Zacharias, it is common for them to commit abuse in plain sight. Consider the name “Touch of Hope,” which Ravi created as a “humanitarian effort on the part of RZIM to meet short term needs for long term gains.” People like this get a thrill out of telling people what they are doing behind closed doors. They feel brilliant and unstoppable. They consider Christians gullible because their minds aren’t thinking in sexual, murderous, thieving, or fraudulent ways. If you still don’t understand, I’ll clarify. “Touch of Hope” described that he held hope that a touch would lead to desired sexual contact. “Short-term needs” explained his sexual cravings being abusively coerced and forced from massage therapists. “Long term gains,” referred to the victim’s education or housing being paid/provided. To such a mind, there was transparent honesty about the nature of the humanitarian effort.
I weep over the harm purposefully done to precious souls, in the name of Jesus, as was the case with one of the massage therapists who considered Ravi a father figure. He acted in kindness, gained personal information, provided her with financial support, then required sex from her, and as is common with abusers, “he made her pray with him to thank God for the ‘opportunity’ they both received.”
I’m pleased to tell you that RZIM, after years of responding incorrectly to the truth and leaving a path of destruction from their wrong responses, finally followed scripture in an open letter to their supporters to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God,” Micah 6:8. I don’t know the motive of their hearts for doing this. Sometimes doing the right thing requires action, sometimes the action reflects the heart. I have learned from past advocacy investigations and responses from Christian churches and organizations that we don’t know if words of a letter are genuine or for damage control. There is fruit that corresponds with repentance. Only time will tell if their acknowledgement and apology were sincere or if their words were to once again pull the proverbial wool over their financial supporters’ eyes.
Justice always takes longer than victims and their loved ones desire, but to the guilty, make no mistake, the day of justice does come either on earth or in eternity.
This case is another example of why third party investigations are necessary. Although it took years, the response RZIM provided this week is how Christian environments must acknowledge wrongdoing in abuse cases. I’m grateful for RZIM’s apology. Anything less would have been unChristlike. (Updated 2/15/2021) To see how spiritually abusive the RZIM board acted for years toward one of Ravi’s victims, Lori Anne Thompson, read the French Press link at the end of this article.
Public disclosure, but withholding the names of victims, needs to happen as soon as possible to lessen problems and fall-out later. Most importantly, a victim’s soul care must be priority, making independent investigations essential. People can process truth and wait on conclusions. Silence allows for false narratives and toxic team building by the perpetrator and their supporters, which happened to Lori Anne Thompson and her husband when RZIM set out to destroy their family.
RZIM will have to reckon with who suspected wrongdoing and could have taken steps to stop Ravi Zacharias. Loyalty to leaders or a personality cannot be the main priority in any ministry.
miller & martin pllc report
Here is an excerpt from the twelve-page report by Miller & Martin PLLC
“Moreover, in the wake of the accusations brought against Ravi by the Thompsons in 2017, we communicated our confidence in Ravi’s denial of these accusations, and others trusted Ravi because they trusted us. Through our failure, we made it more difficult for victims to come forward. This grieves us intensely and makes us so thankful that the truth has ultimately been revealed.https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/rzimmedia.rzim.org/assets/downloads/Report-of-Investigation.pdf
These are some of the ways that we have fallen gravely short. There are undoubtedly other ways as well that we have not yet had the wisdom and humility to identify and fully appreciate. We confess that there has been pride and arrogance in our hearts, and we are committed to the ongoing process of repentance. Both for what Ravi did and for all of the ways that we have fallen short, we are so sorry. As an organization, we understand that we have no right to forgiveness and that even if forgiveness is possible, it may take time. We also recognize that earning trust is a process and is dependent on the steps that we take moving forward.”https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/rzimmedia.rzim.org/assets/downloads/Report-of-Investigation.pdf
this is how it’s done
If you are a pastor, a staff member, or a leader in the Christian environment, I beg you to read the Letter from the International Board of Directors of RZIM on the Investigation of Ravi Zacharias.
This is not hearsay, it is not gossip about a man of God, it is not the words of a woman scorned, and it is not about a mistake. Yes, all people sin and are offered forgiveness, through repentance, because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. But unlike an abuser’s narrative, most people’s stories don’t include sexual assault, abuse of power, deceiving a congregation or leadership, grooming congregants or followers, or having our superiors fail to report to the proper authorities. Scripturally speaking, pastors and teachers have a higher standard to uphold.
The report by Miller & Martin PLLC is not the complete list of victims since the report only lists the ones deposed for the scope of the investigation. Missing are the women excluded in this investigation, those still out there and unidentified, or the ones hushed by a non-disclosure agreement.
Ravi Zacharias had nude pictures of women on his phone. He was sexually abusing massage therapists worldwide. He allegedly raped one and then prayed with her afterward.
Please, don’t tell me naming names and printing about misconduct hurts the name of Christ. Jesus was the first one to show us how to clean His Father’s house.
Until the church wakes up to the fact that wolves in sheep’s clothing are in our midst and sometimes hold places of leadership, we’ll continue to be too blind to recognize them.
I understand RZIM was confident the investigation would clear Ravi’s name, so I pray for those in leadership as they move forward in truth. I have three questions for the RZIM board: 1) Copies of emails and text messages were floating around the internet, for which there were no Christ-like explanations. Why didn’t you, since you were responsible for oversight, intervene with an investigation at that point? 2) The Holy Spirit and the scriptures are alive and active. Was the Spirit not screaming in your gut that something was wrong as Ravi threw a fit when you asked to see his phone and emails? 3) Will there now be an investigation into who helped Ravi Zacharias secure visas for Asian women to live in and work in the USA? I think the investigation shows a strong case for sex trafficking.
Publishers are pulling Ravi’s books, authors are editing partner content that included Zacharias, international affiliates are severing ties with RZIM, broadcasters are cancelling shows, and many internet sites are removing all content pertaining to their association with Zacharias.
I pray for Lori Anne and the other victims that their souls find validation, compassion, comfort, and healing for the sexual and spiritual abuse they endured. They are believed.
“We honor God by caring for the wounded and by dragging sin to the light and calling it by its right name.” -Diane Langberg, PhD
Miller & Martin PLLC Report of Independent Investigation into
Sexual Misconduct of Ravi Zacharias
*Photo Credit: Ravi Zacharias public Facebook cover photo