Evangelicals owe Steve Baughman a debt of gratitude. They should thank the atheist for his commitment to truth and his dogged determination in pursuing Ravi Zacharias. In the end the atheist is correct and the evangelicals are wrong. Last year in a blog post I asked if atheists are to be the critics of evangelicalism? Now this blog would like to take that thought one step further. Since many evangelicals can’t police their faith or protect it from conman its time for many evangelicals to be more receptive to atheists when they raise concerns about their ministries, churches and denominations. Evangelicals need to listen to atheists more. Outsiders have the ability to observe the issues in evangelicalism with fresh light.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
The Ravi Zacharias scandal has broken into the open and a report by Miller & Martin in early February helped bring the scandal to a new dimension. But there is another aspect as many people began to realize that Steve Baughman is correct. That the atheist could see the issues that many evangelicals could not see. Ravi Zacharias was a fraud and he is not who he portrays himself to be. Plus thanks to the Miller & Martin report Zacharias became a confirmed sexual predator which makes the prior issues absolutely horrific.
Why Evangelicals in the United States Owe a Debt a Gratitude to Steve Baughman
Steve Baughman through his dogged determination helped expose Ravi Zacharias to be a fraud. There are many reasons why evangelicals should be grateful to Baughman.
- Baughman’s work saved people from giving financial gifts to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. How many evangelicals gave money to RZIM over the years? How many people were in the process of arranging to transfer inheritance or even stocks, bonds or property to RZIM? Organizations like RZIM take in money or generous financial gifts. Steve Baughman prevented people from being further conned by a conman. Not only did Baughman protect sex abuse victims but he also saved people from financial fraud in the end
- Steve helped validate the intellectual issues within evangelicalism. The scandal of the evangelical mind exists and many people as this blog believes are much more likely to be had then they want to admit. Who wants to admit they are easily conned? But when evangelicals are more susceptible to it than others in society it makes it harder to talk about evangelical conman. This is an opportunity for many evangelicals, ministries and schools to learn and grow. Will evangelicalism make the changes needed, or will Zacharias be another fallen scandal plagued individual? One in a long list of people? The Ted Haggards, Jimmy Swaggerts, Jim Bakkers, Mark Driscolls, etc…
- In wiring this blog I have a bookshelf filled with many evangelicals who are corrupt and have gone down in scandal. I used to throw them away and now lean upon it for reference in writing posts at this blog. Baughman in exposing Ravi Zacharias saved many people from buying Zacharias’ books.
- Baughman’s actions will prevent many churches, ministries form partnering with RZIM and it will prevent people from wasting previous time in life being tied to a fraudulent ministry. This blog feels profoundly sorry for many RZIM employees who are there that have this issue that will follow them around in future employment. This blog believes that those ensnared in this scandal who are lower level employees should also be helped.as well.
- While its hard Steve Baughman also prevented more evangelicals from being conned and it also will help the Christian faith long term. Its painful for many now, but can you imagine what it would mean if the RZIM machine just plowed ahead and this was learned at a much later date? The longer a cover-up goes the harder it is to undo the damage. And it ensnares more people in time. The fact that this came out so soon after Zachairas death while hard, is necessary.
Many Evangelical Christians, Churches and Ministries Need to Thank Steve Baughman
Steve took a lot of heat early on for raising questions about academic fraud. Many just wanted to think that this is an atheist who wanted to tear down someone’s beloved ministry leader. This led to many to dismiss, downplay, ignore and rationalize away the issues being raised by Steve Baughman. In the end the evangelicals were wrong and the atheist is right. Many churches, ministries, and evangelicals need to admit that Steve is right and be grateful for what he did. If evangelicals actually take faith seriously they will express gratitude for Steve Baughman and the work that he did. Its right and fair to Steve and its a policy that this blog wants to see play out by many organizations. Steve Baughman has been very kind, even while being dogged in asking questions but he has not been arrogant or acted like he had an axe to grind. Many evangelicals buy into stereotypes about atheists, and those stereotypes cause much more harm in the long run.
Evangelical Christians Need to Listen to Atheists More
Over at The Friendly Atheist these past few days they have a number of interesting blog posts. They have a post about an evangelical pastor in Texas doing damage control over his daughter-in-laws racist behavior. Another post looks at evangelicals in California who disregard science about COVID-19 and are going to resume indoor worship. A number of churches brought a law suit that the Supreme Court decided. Is that wise to do with 3 vaccines now available for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic? We’re almost there why compromise so much with creating superspreader events that hurt communities? The Friendly Atheist has an interesting take on this topic. Then they have another post looking at racial issues and Christian nationalism inside the Southern Baptist Convention. Those are but three examples
Evangelicals need to listen to the wisdom of atheists more. They have a lot to say and their outside experience brings a lot to the table. This blog a while back asked if atheists are intended to be the critics of evangelicalism. You can read that post, “Are Atheists Ordained by God to be the Critics of Evangelical Christianity?” This Ravi Zacharias situation has revealed the blind spots of evangelicalism. Today this blog would take the prior blog post one step further. It is essential that outside critics continue to look at the problems of evangelicalism. And instead of dismissing the claims of atheists evangelicals should stop and consider the points being made. For the sake of their own faith in God which many evangelicals can’t protect or even serve, its all the more important that the truth telling atheist be heeded. And if this is hard for many evangelicals to swallow, all I can say is sorry. Its one thing when your scandals just consume yourself. Its another thing when you scandals consume and hurt communities that even touch on the atheists. How many atheists are frustrated or angry to see loved ones be hurt by a ministry or conman that evangelicals salivate, celebrate and admire? Think of it this way, its one thing to have a person drink themself to death in the privacy of their home. Its another point when a drunk individual gets behind the wheel of a car and thus create a weapon. Organizations like RZIM are the spiritual equivalent of a drunk driver that hurt and create problems for their neighborhoods, cities and even church or faith communities.
So from Steve Baughman to Hemant Mehta to those who are spiritually nothing like myself. There is a lot to say. And will other ministries like Cru, Whitcliff, BGEA, or denominations like the Southern Baptist, Evangelical Free or Assembly of God listen to the issues being raised? Christians its time to open your ears and leave the echo chambers you exist in to take feedback from those on the outside. You will be safer in the end. Because lets be honest, many evangelical churches, ministries and para-church organizations can’t protect the people often inside. That’s why people like Steve Baughman are so needed.