As evidence mounts that Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias was a sexual predator, Christians are reacting with shock, grief, and outright denial. How should we respond upon learning that a revered champion of our faith was for years hiding behavior that was unquestionably evil? One reaction we must not have to the Ravi Zacharias scandal, say Christian leaders, is to downplay what Zacharias did.
“My sadness in watching the allegations break and watching the reports break and watching the reactions break has just been reading comments in social media,” said Dan Paterson, the former head of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) for Australia. In an interview on The Pastor’s Heart, Paterson observed that many Christians are responding to the Ravi Zacharias scandal by saying, “Yes, but we’re all sinners and God works through sinners.”
This response, said Paterson, makes it “almost as though what we’re talking about doesn’t matter. But these are serious allegations being made against Ravi. They’re devastating to his family, they’re devastating to his friends, they’re most devastating to his victims.” Paterson also believes it is inappropriate to compare Ravi’s situation to that of King David, as many are doing. David famously took another man’s wife for himself and then murdered that man, but was still called “a man after God’s own heart” and wrote many of the Psalms that are part of Holy Scripture.
“I can’t see how we can make comparisons between someone like Ravi and King David,” said Paterson, “because….King David was exposed publicly by Nathan. He was called to account: ‘You are that man!’ And I even remember Ravi speaking on this passage multiple times.”
How Should Christians Process the Ravi Zacharias Scandal?
When Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias passed away on May 19, 2020, he was widely lauded, even by high-profile figures such as Vice President Mike Pence. Speaking at the apologist’s funeral, Zacharias’s sister-in law said, “I want you to know that the way Ravi lived out his faith is the greatest reflection of Jesus that I have ever known.”
But in the fall of last year, shocking allegations surfaced that Zacharias had perpetrated sexual misconduct against several employees of two massage parlors that he co-owned. Christianity Today reported that Zacharias had exposed himself in front of spa employees, masturbated in front of them, and touched them inappropriately.
These allegations raised questions that had previously died down about Zacharias’s relationship with a woman named Lori Anne Thompson. In 2016, Thompson claimed she had had a sexual relationship with Zacharias and accused him of using his spiritual authority to prey on her. The apologist denied any wrongdoing and said that Thompson and her husband, Brad, had tried to extort him. Lori Anne, Brad, and Zacharias settled a lawsuit in 2017 and all three signed an NDA. In a statement that year, Zacharias claimed, “I have long made it my practice not to be alone with a woman other than Margie and our daughters—not in a car, a restaurant, or anywhere else.”
When the latest accusations came to light, RZIM initially denied that there was any credibility to them. The claims did not “comport with the man we knew for decades—we believe them to be false,” said the ministry. RZIM nevertheless commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations.
When Miller & Martin, the firm conducting the investigation, released an interim report on Dec. 23, it published the devastating news that there is “significant, credible evidence that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years.” Moreover, said the report, “Some of that misconduct is consistent with and corroborative of that which is reported in the news recently, and some of the conduct we have uncovered is more serious.” What that “more serious” conduct is remains to be seen.
In the wake of the Ravi Zacharias scandal, Christian broadcasters and booksellers are cutting ties with RZIM, and even some of those affiliated with the ministry are speaking out. RZIM apologist Dr. Max Baker-Hytch sent a letter in December to the RZIM board saying that the ministry needs to “overhaul” its culture and, if the allegations prove true, apologize and make reparations to the victims. RZIM speaker Sam Allberry has voiced his support for Baker-Hytch’s concerns.
I agree with each of the concerns Max BH raises in this letter. (Scroll to the end of the article to read it). Evasiveness, misinformation, intimidation — this is what we all tend to turn to when we try to achieve by the flesh 1/2https://t.co/tBfAN6B7iH
— Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) December 20, 2020