Guest Post: My Dinner With Ravi: An Atheist meets the “Great Apologist of our Time.”

Ravi Zacharias, RZIM, Steve Baughman, Apologist, lawsuit, sex scandal


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Ravi Zacharias, sex scandal, falsified credentials, lawsuit

Twitter photo

This article was originally posted at the blog, Ordinary Times on culture and politics and was reprinted by permission.

It is written by attorney Steve Baughman who has spent the last 2-1/2 years trying to get Ravi Zacharias to come clean with his exaggerated academic credentials and claims. Why would I want to post an atheist’s writings here on a Christian blog? Good question. I found Steve to be a very interesting and respectable guy. He got upset when he discovered that Mr. Zacharias wasn’t completely honest about his academic credentials because he was led to read his works based on his so-called credentials. It’s kind of like when I once poured 1% milk in my kids’ whole milk jug. They were expecting what was on the label: whole milk. The jug concealed the true color of the milk, so when they poured it, they saw that it was not as creamy, and felt cheated. It was upsetting to them. Would they feel certain that the milk in the jug was always going to be whole milk after I tricked them? Probably not. We all can understand that disappointment. (I don’t do that anymore.)

A couple of things to note: this dinner invitation came about soon after social media was picking up on the story of Mr. Zacharias’ inflated academic credentials. Take special note that Mr. Baughman mentioned getting together many times before, but now that there was negative pressure spreading in social media, Mr. Zacharias made that dinner happen.

Why was that? Was it so Mr. Zacharias could soothe things over with Mr. Baughman? Think about it – if you have a nice and friendly dinner with someone, and they pick up the tab, is it going to make it more difficult to write negative things about the person?  I suspect so.

As I have studied the ways in which religious leaders work to draw people in, the first thing that happens is the charm. You will read about this in Mr. Baughman’s account. Steve and I talked before going to dinner. I’m pretty sure I reminded him to try to stay on topic so he could get his questions asked. That didn’t happen. He was charmed.

It’s important to note that neither I, nor Steve Baughman, mean any ill-will toward Mr. Zacharias. What we are looking for is honesty and transparency. What we’ve seen publicly is a failure to deal with these issues head on. We hear a lot of fluff, but no real substance.

In Mr. Baughman’s dinner account, you may read some new information that has not been released by mainstream media. (I have shared some of this info on Twitter.) It’s important to note that I have the e-mails from Ms. Thompson and Mr. Zacharias. I received them long before there was any threatened lawsuit. I also have a 20-page narrative. We’ve only heard from Mr. Zacharias, yet Ms. Thompson must remain silent.

But I was not part of that settlement agreement. And until Mr. Zacharias comes clean, I will continue to release more information. Ms. Thompson was not the instigator in sending nude photos as Mr. Zacharias has publicly claimed. He needs to own up to his part in the relationship. There will be more to follow. ~Julie Anne


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by Steve Baughman

Approaching Six

I had never tasted a Deschutes IPA before, at least not in an Indian restaurant. It came in a long skinny glass and I would have had another, but my dinner partner showed up and greeted me. Despite the fact that, as a result of my lengthy investigations of Ravi Zacharias, I had come to hold the man in very low regard, I knew all along that when we met I would like him. He was instantly charming, warm, engaged, and very well dressed. He also looked just like his recent photos, with the combination of sexual and academic scandals taking their toll in his eyes.

As we walked up the stairs to our table, Ravi asked me about the math book I had been reading at the bar. I launched into my new theory about Cantor’s infinities posing a problem for William Lane Craig’s Molinist defense of Hell. I am glad it was a short staircase because I really did not know what I was talking about.

Over the past two-and-a-half years I have became one of Ravi’s staunchest critics. I have published my findings online and in a series of videos at my Friendly Banjo Atheist channel on YouTube. My investigations have uncovered compelling evidence of nearly four decades of systematic credential fraud by Ravi Zacharias. I also learned that the man has not exactly been Christ-like in the sex department.

Ravi, as far as I can tell, does not grant interviews to non-friendlies. His modus operandi is to take the stage before non-specialist audiences where he is immune from searing cross-examination by real experts. This schtick has made him “the great apologist of our time” (in Chuck Colson’s phrasing) with some 25 books to his credit and over 2,000 outlets playing his radio show every week. I had sent a dozen or so “any time, any place” interview requests to his ministry and was convinced that there was no way his handlers would let me get near him.

I was wrong. Two Sundays ago, November 26, 2017, word came in from his ministry that Ravi would be in the San Francisco Bay Area the next day and would like to meet me for dinner. The terms: I could ask him anything I wanted, but nothing about his recent federal sex scandal lawsuit.

Rasa Indian Restaurant, Burlingame, CA, 6pm.

By the time we reached our table, I had told Ravi everything I knew about infinity. He then introduced me to Abdu Murray. Abdu is the North American Director of one of Ravi’s many self-named operations. I know Abdu as an accomplished, award-winning trial lawyer. Up close, his calming smile made me wonder how he had ever succeeded as a litigator. But he had.

Abdu likes to tell folks who call him “Abdul” to “get the ‘L’ out of there.” That’s the kind of joke that makes the world a better place. It still makes me chuckle. Now every time someone calls me “StePHen” I tell them to “get the ’ph’ out of there.” You can laugh, but it’s pretty funny.

I had it from very good source/s that Ravi recently had an online affair (involving phone sex and nude photos) with a married Canadian woman and had (stupidly!) threatened suicide in writing when the woman told him she had decided to repair her marriage by confessing the affair to her husband. Ravi, putting himself first, apparently had a major “I’m screwed” thing flash before his eyes, and in a panic sent Ms. Thompson the now infamous “bid this world goodbye” email. As we took our seats, that email was in my pocket, and not being able to ask him about it was going to be like interviewing Rudolph without commenting on his nose.

Ravi had every reason to believe that his team of Boston and New York lawyers had successfully quarantined the suicide email with that aggressive federal lawsuit against Ms. Thompson and her husband. But he was wrong. The suicide email had been in my possession for some time but I had not received permission from my source to acknowledge its existence. That had just changed, and the plan was for me to share the email with Ravi who, upon seeing that the genie had escaped the legal file, would replace his lawyers with a contrite heart and begin acting in a way that would facilitate healing all around. My source was a respected Christian blogger, an advocate for victims of clergy abuse, who genuinely cares about that sort of thing. So do I. Besides, someone needs to remind the world that famous Christian men of today are as capable of confessing sexual sins as the Al Frankens and Louis C.K.s are. Ravi Zacharias, we hoped, would be up to the task.

But first I wanted him to account for the systematic credential fraud I had painstakingly documented. Sex stuff comes and goes. Ravi’s donors would have a harder time accepting that the recipient of their money has been lying to the world for nearly forty years about who he really is.

Right before he sat down, I noticed Ravi grimace and arch his back slightly. I knew that he has an excruciating disk problem, and it hurt me to see him in such pain. I marveled the rest of our time together at how focused and present he remained during our discussion.

I had a small notebook loaded with questions I would ask Ravi. The bogus “official lecturer at Oxford” claim, the bogus “quantum physics” at Cambridge claim, the bogus “visiting scholar at Cambridge” claim, the bogus “Asian Youth Preacher Award,” the bogus “chair” of a “department” at a seminary that has no departments. After securing responses to these, I would hand him the suicide email and encourage him at last to take the high road.

I was pretty darn sure I had my facts right. Even so, I know that there really aren’t too many things in life we can be sure about. That is why I had been a shitty Christian. The Still Small Voice that said “Dumbass, nobody hears you when you pray!” got to be co-decibular with the One that said “I am with you always, Dumbass!” It is pretty hard to distinguish the voice of God from the voices in our head. Most folks just pick the one that Grandma heard. I take the Truth-finding process too seriously for that, so, yes, despite my confidence, I went into that meeting knowing that Ravi Zacharias could systematically dismantle my 2 1/2 years of “findings” about his deceit.

And he did.

Not really.

Proving That God Exists

We began with pleasantries; I really don’t hate religion, I admired the missionaries I had grown up with in Southeast Asia; I’m a sometime graduate student with the Dominicans at the Graduate Theological Union, etc. etc. But when Abdu mentioned that they had limited time, I suggested we get down to the uncomfortable business of Ravi’s dishonesty. Ravi showed no signs of awkwardness. He leaned forward like a sacred warrior, grounded and ready for battle, and asked, “Steve, have I hurt you in any way?”

Good move! This is a classic cult-recruitment tactic. I know it well; manipulation masquerading as compassion. It was code for “Steve, there is simply no way your criticisms of me over the past two years can possibly have any substance. There must be some psycho-emotional thing going on with you. Would it help you to talk about it with me?” Kind of like husbands saying to their wives, “Honey, are you on the rag?”

But it worked. We all crave compassion, and even the fake stuff counts. I instantly felt myself softening inside. I had, after all, once admired Ravi Zacharias. As an atheist who hopes not to get things wrong I try to keep up on the best defenders Christianity has to offer. In the summer of 2015 I discovered Ravi and thought he was one of them. Cambridge, Oxford, multiple doctorates, quantum physics, department chair, all that. This guy was the real deal. He had me reconsidering my atheism. But not for long.

I told Ravi that I started doubting him when I checked up on that misleading Daniel argument he made to students at the University of Illinois on a YouTube video I had watched. Ravi had persuasively demonstrated that the Book of Daniel, which he informed us was written in the 6th century B.C.E., predicted Alexander the Great two hundred years later. Powerful stuff! Could I remain an atheist when someone with credentials like Ravi’s presented so clear a case of fulfilled prophecy?

The problem, I soon learned, was that most scholars believe Daniel to be post-Alexander, written in the 2nd century B.C.E. Ravi had skipped that part. I told him that I considered it deceptive of him not to tell his non-specialist audience that the key premise in his argument was hotly disputed by many respected Old Testament scholars.

But Ravi Zacharias is not known as the “great apologist of our time” by being a dummy. He told me that even if Daniel were a 2nd century B.C.E. document, it was still prophetic because it predicted stuff much later than the 2nd century.

Damn! I had never thought of that. It was a “Steve, even if you’re right, you’re wrong” moment. Daniel really does prove that God exists.

Round One went to Ravi and I assured him I would look into the matter further.

About that time the food arrived. Earlier in the day, a couple of caring friends of mine had suggested I bring someone along to dinner in case Ravi tried to kill me. They were sort of serious. I realized I had done an insufficiently nuanced job of describing Ravi to these folks. Whatever Ravi Zacharias may be, he is not a murderous thug. But suddenly I got worried. Ravi and Abdu had ordered tiny dishes. This wasn’t really a dinner for these rather large men. Something else was up. Maybe they were going to kill me after all.

Ravi asked me if it was OK for him to pray before we ate. Fine with me. I welcome moments of ritual, contemplation and gratitude before we receive the nourishment that the God we are thanking denies to so many others. “Dear Lord, we thank thee that thou treatest us not as though treatest those people.”

I asked Ravi what he would have done if I had said no. Not a heartbeat passed. “I would not have prayed.” It is common in India, he said, to be around people of many faiths and one needs to be flexible about such matters.

We got right back to business, but now with me trying not to talk with my mouth full. I think I failed for the most part. To the extent Ravi and Abdu talked about me afterwards I bet it was about that.

Up next, Cambridge. Ravi has long claimed to have been a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University.” But he never was. He had spent a few months (very few) at a small religious training institute in the town of Cambridge, a place called Ridley Hall. While there he attended courses and lectures at the University. That did not make him a Cambridge “visiting scholar” but he told everybody that it did. Until the summer of 2015, that is, when he got outed by the Cambridge press office response to my inquiry. Then he stopped.

But at dinner he insisted that in 1990 Ridley Hall was a part of the University of Cambridge. That is just plain wrong. He then told me that after he had learned about my criticism, he (or someone in his ministry) contacted Cambridge and asked how he should word his official bio so as to make it fully accurate. Get rid of the exotic but false “Cambridge University” thing and replace it with not-very-exotic “Ridley Hall.” Ravi did that. Good for him. The crown jewel of his academic portfolio (“visiting scholar at Cambridge”) was now gone. (I failed to ask why it took a banjo playing atheist to help him clear up his own C.V.) Onward!

What about Ravi’s published claim that he was the chair of a “department” at a seminary that never had departments? He told me that, well, there had been a “center” at the seminary and he had been its chair. The only time I sensed anger in his eyes was when I reminded him that a center is not a department and that there simply were no “departments” at Alliance Theological Seminary for him to chair. We moved on.

Next came the international preaching contest he won in 1965 that gained him what he calls the “Asian Youth Preacher Award.” I told him that not only does that award exist nowhere except in his own promo materials, but that I had tracked down all three of the judges at the contest and they told me that it was no international competition at all; India only. Ravi shook his head and told me that he had a trophy with the words “Asian Youth Preacher Award” on it but the letters had faded. Really? He asked me if I would like him to get a letter from the contest sponsor confirming the award. Yup. Standing by.

7:00

It was exactly 7 o’clock and things were about to get fiery. Ravi’s suicide email was burning a hole in my left breast pocket; it was only a couple of questions away from being served on its author. Suddenly Abdu’s phone did something, and he told me that their Uber driver was waiting out on the street and that they had another dinner to go to.

Ouch! Oxford! Quantum physics! The suicide threat! I would have been happy to make them late for whatever other event they were off to. Who needs two dinners anyway? But my mind went straight to that Uber driver sitting down there trying to score his/her $30 an hour. I know that sounds weird. But that’s what happened.

As they settled the bill (they treated me, thank you both!), Abdu mentioned that they had not really liked the big red “X” I had put thru Ravi’s face on my @RaviScam Twitter account. “Really? That bothered you? I’ll change it.” I felt bad.

But, sheeeesh! Why would they give a hoot about anything I do on Twitter? After a year of tweeting I think I have about 30 followers, a healthy dose of them scantily clad women who seem to really want to meet me, but probably not for free, and definitely not to talk about Ravi. Anyway, I replaced the Big Red X shot with a cute photo of Ravi in a newspaper event announcement from around 1982, one of the early instances of Ravi calling himself a doctor while giving absolutely no hint that he wasn’t. “I’m not a doctor, but I play one in real life.”

Ravi, Abdu and I got up and hugged goodbye, then went downstairs where we shook hands and off they went. The left side of my chest was still burning as I watched them walk off with all the secrets I had hoped to uncover.

The Takeaway

Let’s forget for a moment about Ravi being a deceiver, a sexual hypocrite, an intellectual phony and all that. My most valuable takeaway from our meeting is this; Ravi Zacharias shows us how cults flourish. I went into that meeting knowing my facts about the man. I am an attorney of 27 years and a recovering Southern Baptist who understands manipulation and the use of charm to win hearts by disengaging minds. I really can handle myself.

But when I sat there before Ravi Zacharias and he offered me compassion with eyes more caring than those of the Madonna, it was all I could do to resist casting off my intellect, begging forgiveness, and signing up for whatever my new Leader could use me for. The only thing that kept me from falling prey to the love of the guru was that I had done my homework and a good deal of therapy and self-reflection.

Ravi Zacharias’ closest followers know what I am talking about, whether they know it or not.

POSTSCRIPT:

On December 3, a week after our dinner, Ravi issued a detailed statement in which he denied “inappropriate behavior of any kind” and specifically denied several of the allegations Ms. Thompson had made against him. But, according to Christianity Today, when asked about the suicide emails Ravi invoked a legal confidentiality agreement and refused to answer. Ravi also ignored the list of questions I sent him the day after our meeting, wherein I included a copy of the suicide email.

On that same day, December 3, Ravi’s ministry employed the classic PR move of drawing attention to a trivial transgression while ignoring the big ones. In a “Statement on Ravi Zacharias’ Biography,” which was widely reported in the Christian press, the ministry acknowledged that Ravi’s use of “Dr” was “contentious” and they promised that he would not use the title any more. They also promised to be “more vigilant about editing and fact-checking at every stage.”

But Ravi’s use of “Dr. Zacharias” was never the serious issue; the problem was his inexcusable and systematic refusal to use the word “honorary” when naming his “doctorates,” plus the bogus claims about Oxford, Cambridge and Alliance Theological Seminary. The “Statement on Ravi Zacharias’ Biography” ignored these entirely. And although the Ravi Zacharias scandal has lit up the Christian blogosphere, with a growing number of critical voices being heard, there is no reason to expect the Christian press to demand that Ravi respond to the serious allegations of academic and sexual misconduct. Their coverage has been predictably friendly.

The big question remains: Did the influential evangelist Ravi Zacharias threaten suicide in writing in order to pressure a married woman with whom he was having an online affair to not confess her sins to her husband? It sure looks like it. The emails came to me from a respected source who got them directly from Ms. Thompson. Not only is there nothing suspicious about the emails, but Ravi has not denied that they are his. And if they are, then he is lying (big time!) when he says he did nothing inappropriate with Ms. Thompson. Ravi’s cover-up may turn out to be far worse than his crime.

Clearly, Ravi Zacharias does not intend to participate much in this Season of Sharing, at least not in the information department. Instead he fires potshots from the safety of his keyboard, and hides behind “confidentiality” when the questioning gets tough. To my mind that makes him a coward, a bully, and probably a very guilty man.

37 comments on “Guest Post: My Dinner With Ravi: An Atheist meets the “Great Apologist of our Time.”

  1. Yes, Julie Anne warned me to “stay on message” in my dinner with Ravi. It wasn’t easy. I suppose having a confrontational personality would be helpful, but I don’t really.

    Thank you for sharing my article, and I want you to know that many of us eagerly await your sharing more of the communication from Ms. Thompson. Ravi and his ministry made detailed statements that basically made Ms. Thompson out to be a liar, all the while hiding behind “confidentiality” when it came to the questions they did not want to answer. Really disappointing.

    May we all see the Christian press step up to the plate and do its job on this important story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yep, I have dealt with people who charm. It’s so easy to get sucked in. I remember when I spoke with Bill Gothard on the phone and confronted him about the fact that the women with whom he had sexually abused had not heard any apology from him, even though he claimed he had finished his business and was free to move on (not sure if you know him, but look him up). Mr. Gothard was masterful at steering the conversation. I had notes in front of me and I had to keep saying, “Mr. Gothard, you did not answer my question.” I think he got pretty upset at me. After both conversations I had with him, I was convinced that it would be very difficult to go against him on anything. He has a way of making you come on his side of things, even when you don’t want to. That is how manipulators work to get victims. They are very gifted in that way.

    And you are also right, Steve, about Mr. Zacharias speaking in venues in which he has more knowledge. If he spoke at a venue with academics, they’d blow his cover.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am deeply disillusioned by this. I can’t blame you, Steve. Not right to kill the messenger.

    It hasn’t wrecked my faith though. I’m a follower of Christ, not Zacharias after all.

    Like

  4. I think that those of us who did not grow up with the internet/Twitter fail to realize how a) it is easy to find information, and b) that once information is posted, it never goes away. Ravi appears to still not understand how lame his excuses are when the answer is just a click away.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation | Spiritual Sounding Board

  6. I am really a bit worried about Ravi’s stability. He just keeps contradicting himself. In his December 3 press release he makes it sound like he and Ms. T communicted through her husband’s email ( which, if that were true, would indeed look more like a conspiracy between Mr. and Ms. T.)

    But in his federal complaint he specifically says he gave Ms.T his BlackBerry information so they can have more secure communication.

    Like

  7. She went back and forth between using she and her husband’s email acct and her own when she was corresponding with me. It was a bit confusing at times. That could have happened for any number of reasons (ie, she could have sent them from her phone and didn’t check from which acct it was being sent). I’ve done that before and gotten mad at myself for unknowingly giving someone my personal email address.

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  8. Rachel ,
    Im sorry you are so disallusioned. I can only gently remind you that scripture warns us over and over about false prophets and false teachers. Its a life lesson. 7
    If even the elect can almost be fooled it means these people must be highly intelligent, highly crafty and able to use many things to trick people.
    In 2 Peter 2 it says (And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words)
    In my own experience, i look for how these men handle their finances, and i always raise my eyebrows at why one guy with a ministry has so much money. Ravi is Extremely wealthy, and for me that puts many red flags flying high. Jesus said you cant serve God and Money. So for me, i always question who they serve when I see such profound amounts of money.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, Steve…. you would have done well to bring up something you knew could get under his skin, to test him, and find out what the flip side of that smooth demeanor is. He didn’t bring a lawyer for nothing.

    Like

  10. Julie said “She went back and forth between using she and her husband’s email acct and her own when she was corresponding with me. It was a bit confusing at times. That could have happened for any number of reasons (ie, she could have sent them from her phone and didn’t check from which acct it was being sent).”
    Thats true but if she used husbands email accidently while talking with Ravi wouldnt husband know of the affair? And as Steve mentioned give credence to both being in on something?

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  11. Yes. I wish I had been less cordial and more businesslike. Had I known we had only 55 minutes I would’ve done things differently. Sigh.

    I could not have asked him questions about the lawsuit, but I sure could’ve served him that suicide note and made a little speech about what I hope you did with it. Sigh.

    Hopefully he will take me out to dinner again sometime soon. 😅

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  12. I think this is why we victims prefer to go “no contact.” You have described my husband. Skillful at manipulation. Exceedingly charming. No one believes the evil he is capable of committing. You might catch a quick flash in the eyes if you know what to look for – as you did with Ravi when you cornered him about the distinction between “center” and “departments” when he wanted you to defer to him about being a chair at the university.

    This, too, is why it is recommended to keep all contact “strictly business” and “grey rock” when interaction is required. I prefer written (email) as I can edit and hone my “business” tone. However, like you, when I am in my abuser’s presence – it doesn’t take long to feel the “hook” of their tactics: sympathy and charm being the two biggest. I severely limit my face-to-face contact with my exh.

    Taking notes (and a friend) with you helps. It must be “business professional” when dealing with master manipulators. At least, that is what I have found to be most helpful and centering.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Excellent comment, Charis. And yet some would look at your comment and say, “what are you talking about? Ravi is so kind, he’d never hurt a fly.” What does
    The Bible say about charm? It’s deceptive.

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  14. This is why Ravi allegedly wanted to meet with Mrs T before she told her husband. The charm and sympathy tactics could be used with full effect. To my mind this is as important as the “bid this world goodbye” promise. Because the spin is that he tried mightily to avoid a persistent stalker and extortioner. Yet he begged with several “please”s to meet her.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Then there are the 2-on-1 tactic and the “oops– the Uber is waiting to take us to another dinner” tactic. Brilliant!

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  16. This is why Ravi allegedly wanted to meet with Mrs T before she told her husband. The charm and sympathy tactics could be used with full effect. To my mind this is as important as the “bid this world goodbye” promise. Because the spin is that he tried mightily to avoid a persistent stalker and extortioner. Yet he begged with several “please”s to meet her.

    True, and those short emails were one after another. No response between them (that I am aware of). To me, that reads like a man is very worried about himself, his future.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nope, sandy, he had her download the Blackberry app for their private conversations and pictures. She didn’t use her gmail acct until after the sexual part of their relationship was over.

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  18. It’s too bad Ravi Z. won’t just own up to his part in that e-mail scandal. I think if he admitted to that, and any other moral lapses, even a lot of his atheist critics might be able to forgive him and move past it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The fact that she wanted millions via the lawsuit ruins her credibility. I think this was a set up. It just seems so obvious since they previously had another lawsuit with a Pastor. why should she get millions from his ministry?
    5 million dollar lawsuit?
    What am I missing?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Yea, I was concerned about that amount at first, but a couple of thoughts came to mind. Attorneys seem to always shoot high. Secondly, how can you put a price tag on someone’s life? Both husband and wife were suicidal and are probably still receiving care. This has affected their whole family.

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  21. Pink Cherry Blossoms, my disillusionment is a good thing. Tearing down illusions is better than luxuriating in deceptions however pretty they are. Perhaps Ravi and others like him were idols to me. (Not good!)

    Living in luxury is not for Christians. John Wesley was rich in that he made more money than most other Englishmen of his day. But he kept a pittance for himself (little more than a day laborer’s wages) and gave the rest to the poor.

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  22. @Hannah. Another piece of the puzzle is that the mere fact of a prior lawsuit doesn’t tell you anything about the content of it. Here’s a section from the Resource Archive and FAQs post that addresses your question.

    https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2017/12/08/resource-archive-and-faqs-on-the-ravi-zacharias-and-rzim-situation/

    LAWSUITS

    Did the prior lawsuit the married couple initiated involve extortion, or has that been mischaracterized?

    The fact that the couple whose lawyer filed the Demand Letter had been involved in a previous lawsuit against a church has been taken by some social media commenters as “proof” of their being litigious, and thus that the Demand Letter to Mr. Zacharias is frivolous and just an attempt to extort money from him. Such comments rarely refer to any details from that prior case.

    So far, this question has been addressed more thoroughly on the following post at The Wartburg Watch, especially in comments by blog co-owner Dee Parsons, along with commenters “sandy c” and Charis. Read this series of links to comments in that thread, and historical sources linked to, and see what you think about whether this was “extortion” or not. And if so, what should be done about that? And if not, is the mention of it by Mr. Zacharias potentially an attempt to “poison the well” or “controversialize” the couple?

    Mr. Ravi Zacharias and the Emails/Sex Scandal UPDATED – We suggest you begin in the middle of the comment thread with this particular comment, and follow the chain of comments from there that look at the 2008 court case.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you for this post. Yes, the prior lawsuit has been terribly mischaracterized by Zacharias’ defenders.

    As for lawsuits in general, I have personally sued several people in the past. Every lawsuit was a forceful reminder that the litigation process is not very kind to opportunists or liars.

    If anything, I would bet that his prior lawsuit made Brad T LESS motivated to get involved in litigation with Mr. Zacharias.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I think the $5,000,000 demand letter from attorney Mark Bryant was a disservice to his clients and very bad legal practice. It is a ridiculous demand.

    But I don’t know how that reflects on the Thompsons’ credibility. And I am pretty sure it does nothing to help Mr. Zacharias’ credibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Steve B – do you not think that Zacharias’ lawyers have in turn done him a disservice by allowing a settlement out of court? If the dispute between the parties has been settled, there is nothing more to discuss about it, certainly not in public. This in turn means Zacharias cannot clear his name, or, if he really is guilty of serious wrong-doing, now ‘repent’ of it and try to put matters right.

    This solution to the dispute seems to me to be unsatisfactory to all concerned. Unless I have missed something somewhere (quite possible!), I’m not sure why this is still a matter of public discussion.

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  26. @KAS. In your December 17 comment, you said: “If the dispute between the parties has been settled, there is nothing more to discuss about it, certainly not in public. […] Unless I have missed something somewhere (quite possible!), I’m not sure why this is still a matter of public discussion.”

    I would suggest that this continues — and will continue — to be a matter of public discussion for several reasons, some of which have more to do with the overall system than any specific details of the legal settlement or non-disclosure agreement (NDA). But, as best as I can see from trying to keep up with news on forms of abuse, much of this has to do with the larger context.

    I think we find parallels in the current social reckoning on sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. One woman who had signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the legal settlement broke the mandated silence to talk about how this overall system was used to intimidate victims, keep them silent, and thereby perpetuate a system where the perpetrator could continue predatory behaviors. She did this — and might be sued for it — so other victims wouldn’t remain silent. So, the system itself for navigating legalities is an issue of discussion, including recent proposals about doing away with the option of NDA in cases of sexual harassment, etc.

    Then, there is the context of non-profits. Mr. Zacharias is a Christian public figure by his profession as an apologist-evangelist, who also heads a 501(c)3 non-profit that is required by law to operate in the public interest and not for the excessive benefit of board or staff. So his reputation and integrity as a non-profit CEO are always matters of relevance to both Christians and to the general public. Carrying out his profession and non-profit roles are both based on trustworthiness. And that has already been questioned, if not eroded, by issues regarding his/RZIM’s transparency, accuracy, and integrity in the matters of his academic credentials, honorary versus earned doctorate, appropriate or inappropriate use of the title “Dr.,” and confrontations about those reported misuses past and present.

    This amplifies suspicions about his reported actions of sexual misconduct. And yes, the out-of-court settlement set up conditions that may make it impossible to clear his name regarding the reported misconduct. However, there are several issues that will continue to surface because of the allegations, reactions and official actions, and the systems engaged.

    The case of Mr. Zacharias is all happening in a larger social context of discussion in both the religious and political realms about “the Billy Graham Rule” as a means for men to avoid sexual temptation/impropriety. His official website statement (copied in full by the Christianity Today [CT] article) references taking better care to avoid appearance of impropriety, etc. So, that involves him as an individual.

    And there is also the issue of transparency and integrity for RZIM as an institution. The website/CT statement by Mr. Zacharias is imprecise as to when he informed his board of the receipt of the nude photos; it seems he only brought the entire matter to the board when the Demand Letter was filed. That would be a significant gap of time. And on that board of directors are his wife and one daughter. Other relatives occupy lead institutional roles or other staff positions, so this all brings in the issues involving potential conflicts of interest, and appropriate levels of benefits because it is a non-profit.

    Over the past decade where survivor blogs and other investigators have been posting their research, these same kinds of institutional issues have come up repeatedly in situations of reported abuse of power and/or sexual misconduct by high-level individuals in Christian non-profits. Those who’ve followed Spiritual Sounding Board a few years should be able to come up with at least a few examples.

    Bottom line: The individuals and institution involved in this case have created a situation that intersects with ongoing public discussions in both Church and society. Their choices brought them into that realm, and changes now may not be able to remove them from that realm. It would be good if this situation came to resolve. But meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned for intervention in such situations in the future, and prevention so they don’t take place.

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  27. Hi KAS. It seems to me that what the allegations against Ravi, if true, would be a legitimate matter of public concern even after he and the woman agreed to confidentiality. (And there is more to learn about it even if they don’t talk.)

    Also, there is Ravi’s credential fraud, a separate issue, but also a legitmate concern, no?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So true, Steve. It is absolutely a matter of public concern, especially if it involves coverup of sexual impropriety on his part. Then it leads us to question: has he been transparent with other relationships, other areas of ministry? We already have a record of ongoing deception with regard to inflating of academic credentials. What else is inflated or hidden? Should we be looking more closely at financials at RZIM? Should we be investigating any other claim he makes? Of course we should. Christians are to be Christ’s witness.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. RAVI ZACHARIAS JUST GAVE US YET ANOTHER REASON NOT TO TRUST HIM.

    Mr. Zacharias misled the public in his December 3 press release. In that statement, his first public comment on his federal lawsuit against Ms. Thompson, he says this: “Subsequently, she began to contact me via the email address I had used to contact her husband after first meeting them. My responses were usually brief. Then, last year, she shockingly sent me extremely inappropriate pictures of herself unsolicited. I clearly instructed her to stop contacting me in any form; I blocked her messages, and I resolved to terminate all contact with her.”

    This sounds innocent enough. Mr. Zacharias communicated with Ms. Thompson through an email address that both she and her husband had access to.

    But the truth is that Mr. Zacharias actually gave Ms. Thompson his private Blackberry info and asked her to contact him through this “more secure” method of communication. That is how he received the nude photos. How do we know? Because that is what he told the Federal Court in his July 31, 2017 complaint.

    Here is what he says in paragraph 36: “Plaintiff asked Ms. Thompson that she communicate with him via private BlackBerry Messenger (“BBM”)—a more secure method of communication than e-mail given its superior security and encryption capabilities.” (For his entire complaint see http://www.raviwatch.com/news/story/sex-scandal/ )

    Ravi Zacharias has been racking up untruths at an astonishing rate. More to come. Stand by.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Brad – thank you very much for your long reply.

    It seems to me two things here are getting mixed up together. One is the private relationship between Zacharias and a married woman, which as far as it goes is between the parties concerned and no-one else. However unsatisfactory it may be, this appears to have been settled.

    But I take your point that Ravi’s ministry is a high-profile pubic one, and therefore subject to public scrutiny and accountability. This is particularly so for those who actually support him.

    With apologies to Steve, I don’t think the lawyers (I’m married to one!) have done us any favours on this one. I would much prefer a specifically Christian intervention that would seek to put right what has gone wrong from a moral point of view. Without the worry that what is said in private might appear in the internet the next day. This might yet be possible. We have ended up with what the apostle Paul wanted to prevent in 1 Cor 6: To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you.

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  31. Steve B: regarding Ravi’s credentials, no-one gets hurt by this, it is a bit a side issue. It does damage his credibility, and I would lable it as folly rather than fraud. As I said somewhere else here, I could give an equality misleading impression of my time as a student at Oxford University. (Nottingham University is better anyway … 🙂 )

    It goes to show you can be highly intelligent, and yet lack wisdom.

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  32. The subjects of honest credentials (truth) and marital faithfulness (righteousness) are extremely important.

    Here we have RZ who has put himself forward for many years as an expert representing the Lord to the world at large, and he has become famous and wealthy in the process. His fame and wealth being very dependent on support from folks who trust that RZ is invoking God in truth and righteousness.

    But if RZ has repeatedly and stubbornly misrepresented his credentials and experience for his own personal gain, and if he has been unfaithful and unrighteous in his relationship to his wife and harmed others… and if he is more about circling the wagons and protecting his reputation and revenue stream at all costs (willing to heap more harm on other people’s reputation in the process, willing to continue to mislead the public)… rather than being transparent, admitting fault, repenting and renouncing his sins… then I believe that this scripture applies (“treacherous”):

    Isaiah 48 (excerpts) (NIV)

    1 “Listen to this….
    you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
    and invoke the God of Israel—
    but not in truth or righteousness—

    2 you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city
    and claim to rely on the God of Israel—
    the Lord Almighty is his name:…

    8 …Well do I know how treacherous you are…

    11 …How can I let myself be defamed?
    I will not yield my glory to another.

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  33. Pingback: Wednesday Link List | Thinking Out Loud

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