The board hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries confirms that Ravi Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct. The report by Martin & Miller is posted on journalist Julie Roys website right before Christmas. This is a post reflecting on a Zacharias event in Milwaukee in 2000 hosted by Steve Mayer and prayed over by Paul Coldagelli. Cognitive dissonance is a major issue in American evangelicalism and it makes the movement toxic. The writer of this blog has had to deal with it regularly from evangelicals when he was one. How are evangelicals going to react to the claim that Ravi Zacharias misled and deceived people? Many evangelicals are going to be in denial and stick their head in the sand. Its all that many evangelicals can do.
“The fraudster’s greatest liability is the certainty that the fraud is too clever to be detected.“
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15 ESV
On November 1, 2000 Ravi Zacharias came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and spoke at The Italian Community Center. The master of ceremonies for the event was Steve Mayer. The opening prayer was conducted by Paul Coldagelli. The event was hosted by Straight Talk of Milwaukee. As a student leader of Campus Crusade for Christ at Marquette I was encouraged to attend and did so. Crusade had a good presence there at the Italian Center for Ravi Zecharias. Present as I recall were myself, Jen Hight, Mike Schuttke, Jason Norum and his one day wife Katie and several others. Steve Papez and Erick Lettner who led Crusade in Milwaukee were also present. In a rather packed hall filled with evangelicals from Milwaukee and SE Wisconsin it was explained as to what a treat it was that we could listen to Ravi Zacharias. And for what may have been 45 minutes to an hour Ravi Zacharias talked about atheism claims and his proof of God and apologetics. After the event I picked up his book “Jesus Among Other Gods” and inadvertently threw in the program from the event into the book. Today I am grateful that I saved it as it allows me to fill in more details for the event. Today in light of the news confirming Ravi Zacharias engaging in sexual misconduct I wonder how many of the above individuals will react to the scandal. But as usual I am getting ahead of myself.
Miller & Martin Report on Ravi Zacharias
Over the last year more reporting about sexual misconduct involving Ravi Zacharias had come to the surface. The most disturbing is the 2017 sexting claims with Lori Anne Thompson which you can read here. Some of the recent sexual misconduct claims involve how he visited a spa in the Atlanta area and requested sexual favors and pressured females for sexual acts. Steve Baughman, who has been pursuing the issue did a video a while back which is inserted into the following blog post, “Ravi Zacharias Allegedly Sexually Harassed and Abused Women in a Spa in Alpharetta, Georgia.” After that information came to light Ravi Zacharias International Ministries hired Miller & Martin a firm to investigate the claims conducted an investigation. After research and speaking to eye witnesses that firm concluded in a report that Ravi Zacharias did engage in sexual misconduct. The report which was actually obtained by journalist Julie Roys can be read on her website in the following post, “Interim Report Finds Ravi Zacharias “Engaged in Sexual Misconduct Over Many Years” The report does find “credible evidence” that Zacharias “engaged in sexual misconduct for years.” The report goes on to say, “Some of that misconduct is consistent with and corroborative of that which is reported in the news recently,” the report said, “and some of the conduct we have uncovered is more serious.” The fallout from the Ravi Zacharias scandal continues to grow with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries branch in the United Kingdom calling on the United States board to undergo radical change. For more information on that you can read, “RZIM Branch in UK Calls on U.S. Board to “Reform Radically”
American Evangelicals and Cognitive Dissonance
Its a part of the evangelical story and it happens over and over. Person in ministry is caught in scandal and many evangelicals refuse to accept the facts of the situation. Instead they double down and stick their head further in the ground. The inability of many evangelicals to face reality is part of the reason why I rejected evangelicalism and in a larger context faith. This is what I saw over the years:
- I watched an Air Force Captain deeply involved in a Sovereign Grace Ministry church who blew when I pointed out the issues with C.J. Mahaney and child sex abuse cover up. He couldn’t accept the information.
- I watched that same Air Force Captain ignore the issues coming out of Mars Hill in Seattle and praise Mark Driscoll even as abuse and the vulgar treatment of females was becoming deeply apparent.
- Here in the Washington, D.C. area I found myself being a whistle blower in a mega church (Fairfax Community Church) that hired a man who was a sexual predator with a history of molestation and on the Virginia sex offender registry. Why did I blow the whistle? I recall the pain and disillusion that took place in Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee when the you minister sexually abused a number of teenagers in 1999.
- McLean Bible was flipped in the Washington, D.C. area and became the subject of a Neo-Calvinist coup with a lot of people losing their jobs and being let go. This blog witnessed people who didn’t care about the misconduct and dishonesty of the elder board. They wanted David Platt as a celebrity pastor and didn’t care how many lives were destroyed in the process.
- As a part of Christian nationalism I watched Steve Papez my former Milwaukee Campus Crusade director ignore the abuse of Donald Trump and defend his racism and in the process throw his African-American adopted daughters under the bus.
Its a story that happens over and over and its why evangelicalism is so toxic and a cancer on the American soul. The inability of evangelicals to hold their own accountable and instead to double down is quite disturbing. No one is being fooled and in the process they show the world that the emperor has no clothes. Why is it so hard for evangelicals who claim to follow God to do the right thing? Why can’t they admit these issues and go about their life and discuss them? Quite simply they can’t and this blog does not expect them to do so. But in getting back to Ravi Zacharias what of the people who gathered in Milwaukee for a Wednesday afternoon event? Will they accept the facts of the sexual abuse by Zacharias? Will the Steve Mayers, Paul Coldagellis, John Andersons, Erick Lettners, Steve Papezs and others from Crusade be able to accept the facts and realize they followed a conman? This blog has its doubts. And for me its a reminder as to why the healthiest thing a person can do is detach themselves from evangelicalism and faith. Which is what I have largely done. A blog like this can bring a horse to water but it cannot make them drink. The hard part has to be done by individual evangelicals. And American evangelicalism is a lazy theological movement that is an inch thick and a mile wide. You won’t find intellectualism in the movement at all.