Why would the most famous Christian apologist since C.S Lewis own spas, threaten suicide in an email to a married woman, have a secret corporate board, settle lawsuits with secrecy agreements, or use encrypted messaging apps?
It's wrong to speak ill of the dead. It's wrong to hurl accusations at anyone who lacks the means to defend themselves. But equally, there is a long tradition of people coming forward after a celebrity's death to confess their victimisation once the perceived threat no longer exists.
Months before confessions of Falwell's sexual impropriety emerged this year, CDAN was revealing some extremely dark open secrets: https://www.crazydaysandnights.net/2020/09/blind-items-revealed-2.html
Previously in 2018, the Houston Chronicle recounted an interesting history of a highly-ambitious younger Joel Osteen which was totally at odds with his own humble tales of taking on pastoral duties at Lakewood Church: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/How-Joel-Osteen-made-himself-the-smiling-12960441.php
The latest chatter surrounds Hillsong Church and payments made to celebrities for appearances to boost recruitment.
It appears another celebrity Christian leader in the camera's gaze may have his own posthumous moment arriving at his fresh grave.
Allegations of a Evangelical Epstein
According to a worrying article in Christianity Today, female employees appear provide corroborated testimony of behavioural eerily similar to that of Jeffrey Epstein: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/september/ravi-zacharias-sexual-harassment-rzim-spa-massage-investiga.html
Having read recently reported allegations against the late Ravi Zacharias, we are shocked and deeply distressed by them. While these allegations are not consistent with the man many have known for decades, we take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously. We are committed to an independent investigation. To that end, we commissioned Miller & Martin, a firm with expertise in this area, to investigate this matter to the fullest extent possible. As followers of Christ who passionately believe that every person bears the image of God, we detest any sin of abuse. RZIM is committed to submitting fully to this investigation, and to publicly releasing its findings.
Thorough investigations of this nature take time. We do not plan to comment on any details of the allegations or published reports until the independent investigation is complete.
These are not accusations of "misconduct", as described in the press. These are serious criminal offences under Georgia's state laws amounting to felonies in the aggregate. And if more surface elsewhere, they are considered Federal offences.
Even leaving aside the potential for civil tort, a cursory glimpse at Georgia's legislation on sexual crime (https://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-6/) it's quite simple to deduce there is Cause under multiple statutes:
- § 16-6-5.1 - Sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority
- § 16-6-12 - Pandering
- § 16-6-14 - Pandering by compulsion
- § 16-6-17 - Giving massages in place used for lewdness, prostitution, assignation, or masturbation for hire
- § 16-6-22.1 - Sexual battery
Accusations are not truth. They are not convictions. Everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty by a jury of their peers. None of which can happen after Zacharias' death.
However, something extremely odd is at work here.
Zacharias claimed he was being extorted in 2017, but never involved the police. A counter-lawsuit gagged the complainant.
His foundation, RZIM, in 2020, again, doesn't seem too eager to involve the police, and appears, superficially, to be more interested in analysing its legal liability. A cleverly-worded statement doesn't say much at all, other than "he wasn't like that with us".
Miller & Martin (https://millermartin.com/about/our-firm/) are a super-woke business law firm specialising in litigation. This may well be a rather strong - and potentially not unreasonable - signal to the accusers: i wouldn't take this any further if i were you, we are lawyered up.
When it comes to complaint of a character this malevolent, an "external investigation" by a law firm is not remotely sufficient. This is potentially criminal behaviour with multiple alleged victims who may well be horribly injured.
Why Does It Matter Now?
Much material can be discounted on the basis of conjecture, and even if proved correct, does not amount to criminal conduct - or perhaps even breach a threshold for investigation. Owning a spa, for example, is not, by itself, suspicious. Nor is it criminal. Receiving massages - even from young women - is nothing to condemn anyone for.
But it is once you publicly make a statement like this: https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-global/ravi-zacharias-statement-on-my-federal-lawsuit
"I love my wife with all my heart and have been absolutely faithful to her these more than 16,000 days of marriage, and have exercised extreme caution in my daily life and travels, as everyone who knows me is aware. 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."
It's also a huge problem if you, and your organisation, have spent a large amount of your time championing the dangers of deviant sexual behaviour, including how pornography devalues women.
"A man or a woman in front of the lens of a camera, whose body is being used purely to try to titillate the imagination or the fanciful thoughts of a man or a woman, in order to provoke just the baser instincts, ultimately leaves you unsatisfied and insatiable. Because what they are pandering to you is not a person. What they enslaving you to is a feeling that no one person can ultimately satisfy. They are creating in you a hunger. The imagination is assaulted to the degree that no one human being has the capacity to fulfill this kind of a longing."
Particularly heartbreaking is the situation around Zacharias' beautiful, gentle, and integral daughter, Naomi; a woman who has dedicated her life to helping victims of prostitution through her Wellspring Foundation, and was herself someone whose relationships were apparently, according to her own description, deeply affected by pornography.
In words which may come to unfairly haunt her more than anyone else:
"Others say they are there because they are paid for something, and they do not want to have this life choice stripped from them. As Levy notes in regards to pornography, “Because I am paid to,” should not be confused with “taking control of ones sexuality.” From what I have witnessed, it seems the majority are there with a horrible story that took them there: from low self-esteem, to manipulation, to abuse, to trickery, to desperation, to trafficking."
It's one thing to lose a father. It's quite another to lose the image of him as well.
It's for this exact reason - the tendency of those who are abused to recycle the behaviour and become lost in trauma and prostitution - that if the allegations are substantiated, it would make a leading moral prosecutor a perpetrator of the cycle itself.
Considering the existence of apparent testimonies of nearly a dozen people which claim differently, there is either a conspiracy to defame Zacharias, or he simply wasn't telling the truth.
Facts Are Stubborn Things
As John Adams so infamously declared, facts are stubborn. And there are some disturbing facts in the case of Ravi Zacharias which are extremely difficult to ignore.
So, proceeding on the basis that imagining what might be the case is entirely wrong, what do we know as material, indisputable fact?
- Zacharias had a history of mental illness and suicidality.
This one fact is incontrovertible. His entire confessional story is of being converted at 17 after a suicide attempt.
2. Zacharias moderated his own biography after being challenged on its authenticity.
Archives show he referred to himself as a "professor" and "official lecturer" at Oxford, yet the university publicly denied in writing he had ever been employed there. His biography also claimed he studied Quantum Physics at Cambridge under a "visiting scholar", and was "educated" there, yet that "professor" only taught religious classes. He claimed he had chaired a "department" at the Alliance Theological Seminary in New York, which they deny existed.
3. Zacharias' doctorate(s) are honorary.
He earned a B.A from Ontario Bible College, and a M. Div from Trinity International University (Deerfield, Illnois). RZIM's response on his use of the doctor title was bizarre, to say the least: https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-global/rzim-statement-on-ravi-zacharias-biography. In many places - including some US states - this is not a "controversial" practice, it is illegal.
4. He co-owned 2 spas in Georgia.
Financial records show Zacharias invested "at least" $50,000 with business partner Anurag Sharma in "Touch of Eden" (John's Creek, GA) around 2004, until its close in 2008. After that, they opened the second venue, "Jivan Wellness", which closed in 2015. His daughter's foundation, Wellspring International, was a "beneficiary" of the latter. Neither were secret.
5. Zacharias earnt extraordinary wealth from his foundation.
Tax records show his earnings were "at least" $365,000 from RZIM. Estimates of his net worth vary, but tend to centre around $7-8 million. Estimates of RZIM's total earnings also vary between $25-40 million: https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/ravi-zacharias-international-ministries,133200719/. His financial records from 2015 reveal an extensive portfolio and considerable compensation for family members.
5. RZIM has been less than transparent about its Board.
Zacharias has publicly been identified as its Chairman. Despite the copious amount of information on its staff and programs, it took many years for investigators to uncover the "Executive Committee of the RZIM Board of Directors" conducting oversight are "Plaintiff’s wife and daughter, among others”.
6. Zacharias was sued by a well-off, litigious couple where the husband had a history of suing church leaders.
In 2010, Bradley Thompson sued Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Belleville, Ontario, and its pastor, Rev. John Visser, for $1 million, over an investment scheme which went wrong. The lawsuit was dropped and the Visser was suspended for 90 days. Their reported earnings show the Thompsons to have an income of nearly half a million dollars, and donations of $50,000 to charity.
7. There is no apparent record of Zacharias Or RZIM involved the police or Christian authorities in any complaints.
Despite claiming he was the victim of the crime of extortion, Zacharias does not seem to have asked the police to investigate. Neither were oversight organisations such as the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) asked to oversee. It would seem likely that anyone innocent of fabricated charges would want to clear their name decisively.
8. Zacharias is unlikely to have "groomed" a 40 year-old adult.
Lori-Anne Thompson, who wrote of her need to confess her own adultery (itself an admission of dishonesty), is a sexual abuse survivor who claims she was "groomed". The idea of a 70 year-old "grooming" a middle-aged married woman is absurd.
9. Some form of 2 year relationship existed with the Thompsons.
The Thompsons produced records of Zacharias' number on Lori-Anne's phone, but "anonymous" records she claims were him can't be verified. Both parties admit an inappropriate relationship existed, yet dispute who instigated it.
10. The Thompsons' were partially represented by a Christian organisation with a mission to deal with abuse.
Boz Tchividjian, of G.R.A.C.E: https://www.netgrace.org/. Billy Graham's grandson.
11. Zacharias' RICO lawsuit does not deny the authenticity of his extremely strange correspondence.
These emails include a nebulous threat to commit suicide if he were publicly humiliated. However, the reading and context does not necessarily imply a confession of his guilt, as is claimed by his critics. It is, however, incredibly bizarre.
12. The Thompsons' lawsuit does read as extortion for hush money.
"the Thompsons will sign a release of you and your church and ministry in exchange for a certified check in the amount of $5 million dollars.”
13. And Zacharias' counter-suit is extremely strange.
One look at Zacharias' lawsuit makes it abundantly clear its a weaponised legal action: a huge list of unverified claims which appear extremely heavy on characterising the defendants rathering than factual information.
14. Lori-Anne Thompson received gifts from Zacharias.
Delivery notes have been given in testimony with his signature. His lawsuit says she sent them to him, and stalked him.
15. Zacharias admits to asking Lori-Anne Thompson to use secretive, encrypted messaging.
The 2017 lawsuit claims his "regular" use of BBM was to evade discovery by of content on his phone in countries "hostile to Christianity", and "hacking attempts". This is extremely strange, considering the simplest answer to that nature of foreign travel - involving confidential information stored on a device - is to use a second phone.
16. Zacharias could have easily ended the Thompsons' lawsuit by providing evidence he ended any contact.
As far as it is known to date, Zacharias has provided little to no evidence of the claims made in his own RICO lawsuit. Moreover, it would have been a simple issue to provide a copy of his correspondence demanding Lori-Anne Thompson stop contacting him.
17. Zacharias' own lawsuit makes clear he was not honest about blocking the Thompsons.
"Curiously, while the complaint claims that at various times Mr. Zacharias attempted to block further messages from Ms. Thompson, it also says that he "remained amicable out of fear for his family's safety and of potential damage to his professional reputation if he upset the Thompsons."
So it appears undisputed that, at very least, Mr. Zacharias continued for some time to receive sexual photos from Ms. Thompson even when he could have attempted to terminate contact with her,"
18. Zacharias settled his lawsuit privately and obtained a gagging order which both parties appeared to later violate.
The 2017 lawsuit was dropped. The defendants voluntarily agreed to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and undisclosed sum of money. Zacharias gave interviews in the subsequent years which seem to go further than allowed, and Lori-Anne's relatives sent key documents to the Roys' Report blog which were published.
19. The Christian & Missionary Alliance's investigation of Zacharias was hopeless.
One need only look at the public statements of the C&MA. Neither is it in their interests for any investigation to have revealed anything.
20. Zacharias' business partner fired an employee who claimed she was sexually harassed.
Anurag Sharma told World magazine he confronted Zacharias about a complaint from a therapist around 2009, which Zacharias vehemently denied.
21. Zacharias was not being honest about his aloneness with women.
Multiple witnesses testify to monthly visits by Zacharias to a female-staffed spa for help with his back problems. Clearly it is self-evident that you would be alone in an intimate situation with women other than your wife if you were visiting your own spa for massage therapy for a back problem.
22. Christianity Today claims to have corroborated 3 victims' accounts.
A leading publication has done enough background research to conclude it has enough evidence to take the risk of publishing the allegations. They claim to have verified the alleged victims' identities and job histories, as well as obtained another 3 witnesses.
23. Zacharias' alleged behaviour did not seem to stop the victims from continuing to treat him.
"One woman said Zacharias showed her his erection at least 15 times in a few months."
"The next time she gave him a massage he exposed himself again and masturbated again. By her account, this happened more than 50 times over the next three years."
24. The alleged victims do not appear to have typically-vexatious motivations.
According to CT, the 3 victims have stated they do not want attention, revenge, apologies, or money. They have stated they were afraid, lost their faith, and wish to remain anonymous.
26. The alleged spa victims' stories seem to tally with the Thompsons'.
All four women describe a similar timeline of events: long-term relationships which start innocently, involved intimacy from learning private histories, then becoming inappropriately sexual later. It is entirely possible, of course, the 3 spa therapists read the Thompsons' lawsuit: at least one admits she was motivated to come forward after seeing the 2017 complaint, if only to allege she was asked for explicit photos.
27. Zacharias cannot be indicted, prosecuted, or defend himself.
He is dead. Justice cannot be served to any parties. However, an inquest is entirely reasonable.
28. RZIM's statements are unusually-worded.
To any untrained observer, and to those who are familiar with the cases, RZIM's clever wording of their responses - many times which appear to be weasel-grammar for legal purposes - may not be cynical in intent, but are self-evidently cynical in linguistic terms.
29. Other Christian leaders have interviewed and supported the alleged victims.
Several pastors - at least one known already to RZIM personally - are emerging with their own information in wake of CT's publication.
30. Zacharias has many vocal enemies who are active on social media.
In particular he seems to have offended a considerable number of Muslims with his commentary on Islam.
31. RZIM has consistently denied any and all accusations made against Zacharias.
There are few, if any, documented sources of any RZIM representative conceding anything, ever.
32. A litigation firm that family board members hire is neither "external" nor "independent".
External independent investigators of alleged crimes have a name: police. You don't hire a litigation firm when you know something is false; you hire them when you are worried you may be on the hook because it's true.
33. If he did these things, his family are also victims.
All too often we assume those defending a possible perpetrator do so out of being accomplices, rather than an idealistic disbelief their loved one was capable of it. A wife, daughters, granddaughters, and many others, may well have been betrayed. They deserve compassion too.
What Happens If It's True?
The terrible truth is we won't ever know, in the judicial sense, if it is true. Justice requires Zacharias be able to make his case against the accusers he is given the opportunity to face.
What does seem to be recurring in all of these reports - disputed or not - is a theme of dishonesty and/or embellishment.
What happens now depends on what the parent organisation RZIM does.
In church terms, the charges are extremely morally serious for a leader. In secular terms, they only meet the threshold of Zacharias, frankly, being a dirty old man who seems to have been chronically lonely underneath.
The key question is: what happens if their "investigators" (their defense lawyers) unequivocally assert to their clients the allegations have merit? Are they really going to suggest RZIM publicly disclose their own liability? What lawyer in his right mind is going to tell his client to publicly declare their own guilt and culpability?
Or are they more likely to suggest the three alleged victims are given generous settlements in exchange for settling a non-disclosure agreement?
Is it such a stretch to believe a man in a lonely marriage would seek out sexual intimacy when in private circumstances where be believed he would escape controversy over it? Not at all. Is there any evidence to suggest he was forceful or violent? No. It a stretch to believe he might have requested naughty pics? No. Is it surprising an ambitious man who built a foundation would embellish his credentials? Not at all.
Probably the worst accusation you could throw at Ravi Zacharias is he wasn't the man he claimed to be. He's not the first.
Do we have to discount all the things a man has said, or all of what he said which might have been right, because of his behaviour? No.
Would anyone want to voluntarily subject a loved one or their family to public disgrace? No.
Any good lawyer - and their lawyers are good, which won't have escaped the alleged victims' notice - would tell their clients something approximating the following:
- Retain a law firm. Send a message to others they are going to be out-lawyered.
- Wait and drag it out for a few months, claiming the investigation is still ongoing. See if any other allegations appear in light of the existing ones.
- Destroy any paperwork which could be subpoena'd later.
- Put private detectives on the victims. Find out if there is a way of getting leverage over each (financial debts, credibility, threat of humiliation etc).
- Settle each of the 3 (or even 6) privately where liability is certain, in exchange for a gagging order which forbids mention of the gagging itself (a super-NDA).
- Put out a statement saying an investigation has been done, and the complainants have retracted their statements to Christianity Today.
This is what is so damning. If the man was entirely innocent, you'd do something entirely different:
- Immediately suspend anyone fron the RZIM board with even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
- Call in the police, immediately. Hand over everything.
- Call in an independent Christian organisation like G.R.A.C.E to oversee and investigate every part of everything related to Church standards. Hand over everything without exception.
- Publish any and all correspondence with the parties. Be immediately transparent.
- Hold publicly open, accountable, and transparent town halls with the RZIM board and reach out to the church network for help.
- Publicly reach out to anyone who might have been affected, and commit to supporting them as victims.
At this point, RZIM isn't looking like a Christian organisation who is attempting to do the right thing. They are looking like a Mob family business covering up a Godfather's misdeeds via litigation, in order to protect his reputation.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Or as the Bible puts it:
"The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."