There was “significant, credible” evidence that the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias was guilty of sexual misconduct and more. That’s based on a preliminary investigation underwritten by the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and released to the public yesterday.
In case you need a refresher, shortly after Zacharias died in May — with Vice President Mike Pence speaking at his funeral — former workers at two health spas he owned in Georgia said Zacharias had been “sexually out of control with the female therapists over whom he had professional power.”
An investigation by Daniel Silliman at Christianity Today had three women on the record saying Zacharias “touched them inappropriately, exposed himself, and masturbated during regular treatments over a period of about five years.” One woman said he had masturbated in front of her over 50 times, in addition to propositioning her for sex.
When that article came out, the people running RZIM denied it but said they would hire lawyers to investigate. I will admit I was skeptical of how serious this investigation would be, but what happened yesterday was a step in the right direction.
RZIM hired an outside law firm, which hired its own investigators to look into the matter. The law firm announced that a full report won’t be complete for another month or so, but they were issuing a preliminary report that confirms everything we’ve heard so far. If anything, the full story may be even worse.
While some of the massage therapists we have tried to interview are not willing to share their experiences with us, many have spoken candidly and with great detail. Combining those interviews with our review of documents and electronic data, we have found significant, credible evidence that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years. 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. Our investigation is ongoing, and we continue to pursue leads.
RZIM said in a statement:
This misconduct is deeply troubling and wholly inconsistent with the man Ravi Zacharias presented both publicly and privately to so many over more than four decades of public ministry. We are heartbroken at learning this but feel it necessary to be transparent and to inform our staff, donors, and supporters at this time, even while the investigation continues. We will speak more comprehensively to all concerned after the completion of the investigation.
Remember that all of this is separate from two other hits to Zacharias’ reputation that were made when he was still alive. A few years ago, we learned that he 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). He wasn’t “Dr. Zacharias.” He was Ravi the Liar.
Another scandal involved sexting a married woman. He said that was not true and the woman was extorting him for cash. But it turned out there was plenty of reason to believe there really was an intimate (albeit virtual) relationship between Zacharias and the woman, and that Zacharias tried to keep it under wraps. RZIM and the woman in question settled their legal case out of court, but their deal included a non-disclosure agreement by the woman. She can’t speak about the case. RZIM has not yet said whether she’ll be released from that so she can tell her story. But after hearing about the women from the health spa, the married woman and her husband spoke out anyway.
When it comes down to it, perhaps the bigger story here is how a famous Christian apologist was able to get away with utter hypocrisy and abuse for who-knows-how-long. He told people to follow a specific conservative interpretation of God’s Word while refusing to do it himself. It’s possible that his actions were far worse than those of the non-Christians he thought needed to be “saved.”
If the final investigation confirms everything (and then some), Ravi Zacharias International Ministries should shut down, donate their multi-million dollar budget to a cause that helps victims of sexual abuse, and issue a formal apology for all the damage caused by their namesake and the lies they perpetuated because they refused to fact the facts.
Whatever they do, they shouldn’t pretend that his message was relevant even if his conduct was indefensible. His words and actions were intertwined. They always are with Christian leaders who have a nasty habit of saying one thing and doing another. It turns out even he didn’t believe the nonsense he was spewing. So no one else should believe it either.
RZIM may not deserve much credit at all when this is all over. According to reporter Julie Roys, multiple RZIM board members have recently quit, with one referencing how he had “been badly misled by our secretive board and senior leaders.” (It’s not clear if that accusation played a part in the ministry releasing the law firm’s preliminary report publicly.)
Christianity isn’t a virtue. It never was. It’s possible Zacharias got away with abuse for a long time precisely because he was known as a man of faith and he was shielded by those running his ministry.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were published earlier)