A few years ago, we learned that Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias had been lying about his credentials for years, suggesting he had multiple earned doctorate degrees (he did not), affiliations with prestigious universities (nope), and honorary titles (false).
That year, after claims that he was sexting with a married woman, he claimed the couple was lying and extorting him for cash. That lawsuit was later dropped after both sides agreed to a private settlement. His ministry soon published a statement in which Zacharias was quoted as saying, “I love my wife with all my heart and have been absolutely faithful to her these more than 16,000 days of marriage.”
But in recent weeks, reporter Julie Roys has broken open that story, with emails and documents revealing that there was indeed an intimate relationship between Zacharias and the woman and that Zacharias tried to keep it under wraps.
Zacharias died this past May. Vice President Mike Pence spoke at his funeral .
And yet now a very different scandal is coming to light.
A few weeks ago, atheist attorney Steve Baughman, who exposed those initial lies about Zacharias’ fake credentials, posted a shocking video claiming that, at two health spas the Christian apologist owned in Georgia — he had a side hustle! — former workers were now saying Zacharias was “sexually out of control with the female therapists over whom he had professional power.”
I’ll be honest: I saw that video when it was released and I wasn’t sure how seriously to take it. The allegations were damning — more damning that all the previous stuff. As the video notes, these weren’t just allegations about sex; they were about sexual abuse.
But with Zacharias gone and unable to defend himself, I felt I needed to wait for more confirmation before posting about it. Baughman didn’t feature or name the women who spoke to him, to protect their own privacy, but he encouraged journalists to look into the story.
Now those women have spoken with Daniel Silliman at Christianity Today, and holy hell, the story only gets worse.
Three women who worked at the businesses, located in a strip mall in the Atlanta suburbs, told Christianity Today that Ravi Zacharias touched them inappropriately, exposed himself, and masturbated during regular treatments over a period of about five years. His business partner said he regrets not stopping Zacharias and sent an apology text to one of the victims this month.
Zacharias masturbated in front of one of the women more than 50 times, according to her recollection. He told her he was burdened by the demands of the ministry, and he needed this “therapy.” He also asked her to have sex with him twice, she said, and requested explicit photos of her.
CT has verified the identities and job histories of the three women. They shared their stories under the condition that they not be named, fearing the stigma of coming forward as victims and possible retribution for harming the reputation of a famous Christian leader. They spoke with CT by phone multiple times over the past five weeks, and CT heard from three coworkers at the spas who corroborated elements of their accounts.
The people running Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) deny everything but add that they’ve hired (unnamed) lawyers to investigate the matter. Without specifics, though, there’s no reason to assume that this will be a thorough and independent investigation.
Incidentally, RZIM is also refusing to release the woman at the center of that sexting scandal from the NDA she signed in that settlement. Her story could easily shed light on this newer one.
These are the actions of a ministry that doesn’t want the whole truth to come out.
On a side note, I found it interesting that Christianity Today published a note explaining why they’re covering this story.
The statement itself is fine, but the fact that it was included just shows you the moral rot of modern evangelical Christianity: Even professional journalists have to remind fellow Christians that investigating sexual abuse involving famous apologists — even after they’re dead — is worthwhile and necessary. The implication is that there are Christians out there who may criticize the magazine for even bothering to look into this matter and sully the name of a popular evangelist. Those Christians are more worried about perception than truth.
That such a reminder had to be written tells you a lot about why this kind of abuse by Christian leaders occurs at all.
Incidentally, I asked Baughman what he thought of Christianity Today‘s investigation. He called it “excellent” but added via email that there’s another important takeaway:
The big story here isn’t Ravi Zacharias. It is about Christian enabling. For decades the major power brokers at God, Inc. actively enabled a transparently dishonest man to deceive the world about who he was. Many others simply read Jesus as saying “turn the other way.”
The response to Ravi’s deceptions reveals that Big Evangelism is not much different from Big Tobacco. They don’t care how bad the product they’re selling is as long as it generates power and money. It makes one wonder whether powerful Christians really believe their own religion.
Ravi had been misrepresenting his academic credentials since the early 1980s. Christians didn’t care. Not even his colleagues with real PhD‘s from top universities spoke out against him. This went on for decades.
The evangelical code of silence is very very real. It took a sex scandal to get Ravi’s misconduct on the front pages. And even that was brushed over until we learned that he sexually abused women who worked at the massage spa he himself owned.
You know what shakes me up about this? How close Ravi came to getting away with it.
(Screenshot via YouTube)