TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Ravi Zacharias Legacy: Fans, Falsehoods, and Yet Another Troubling Question
- The Ravi Zacharias Rebirth Narrative
- Brother Ramesh Calls the Police
- Brother-in-Law and “Soul Mate,” Rev Sunder Krishnan, Remains Silent
- Doctored Medical Records
- Ravi Invents a New Miracle
- Ravi’s False Reasons for Secrecy
- A (Pro-Ravi!) Smoking Gun?
- Miscellaneous Puzzles
- Passing the Baton
- Ravi’s Influence on Christian Apologetics
- About the Author
NOTES: This is a guest post by Steve Baughman of the RaviWatch site, which is dedicated to “Investigating the false claims of evangelist Ravi Zacharias.” Additional bio information is at the end of this post.
This article contains extensive documentation footnotes — 55 of them. They appear at the end of each section to make it easier to check them instead of having to scroll to the end of the article to see them.
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The Ravi Zacharias Legacy:
Fans, Falsehoods, and
Yet Another Troubling Question
Investigating a suspect who exercises his right to remain silent can be a challenge. The suspect provides no information, so one can spend loads of time pursuing hunches that lead nowhere, or worse, to egg on the face. But with Ravi Zacharias it’s been easy. Almost every one of my hunches has led to evidence of significant deception by the man Chuck Colson called “the great apologist of our time.”
Yes, Ravi really did lie in all those author bios about being “Cambridge educated” and about being a “visiting scholar” at that prestigious institution.
No, Ravi did not study quantum physics “under” Dr. John Polkinghorne in 1990. Polkinghorne did not teach physics that year.
Yes, Ravi lied about being a “Professor at Oxford,” and also about holding an “official” teaching position there.
No, Ravi did not chair a “department” at Alliance Theological Seminary. Alliance had no departments.
No, contrary to his faculty bio as a Guest Lecturer (2012-2013) at Southern Evangelical Seminary and multiple early newspaper bios, Ravi did not earn a B.A. from the University of New Delhi. He dropped out after his first year.
No, Ravi did not win the international “Asian Youth Preacher Award” in 1965 in Hyderabad. That award is a Ravi Zacharias invention.
No, Ravi did not come up with the idea of the Veritas Forum “in an elevator with a businessman from Ohio.” Kelly Monroe describes the origins of the group she founded in great detail in her book, Finding God Beyond Harvard. Veritas was underway before she ever heard the name Ravi Zacharias.
No, Ravi did not “routinely ask not to be referred to as ‘Dr. Zacharias’ – even by employees.” On the contrary, early newspaper clippings show that he aggressively marketed himself as “Dr.” for decades, and when in 2015 or 2016 I called to speak to him I was put through to his personal secretary who answered the phone with “Dr. Zacharias’s office.”
No, Ravi’s father did not sit in the front row with tears streaming down his face when Ravi received his first “doctorate.“ By that time Oscar Zacharias had been dead for over a year.
It gets uglier. Hunches led to my discovery of the vicious and false claims Ravi made in the 2017 federal court sexting lawsuit he filed against the young woman he accused of extortion.
In late 2018 Ravi himself very quietly admitted to what amounts to many years of bold deception about his credentials. The hunches bore fruit, however rotten.
There is another hunch I cannot shake; Ravi’s dramatic conversion-on-a-bed-of-suicide, a story he has shared with millions of fans, never happened. It is a regular part of his presentation to television interviews and large audiences. But it appears that the evangelist kept the God-glorifying story from the public at large until the death of the only two witnesses with firsthand knowledge of its truth or falsity. And less than a year ago he disclosed that the medical records from the incident did not indicate a suicide attempt at all. These, and much more, suggest a late date for the now-canonical Ravi Zacharias rebirth narrative.
Will this be my first big Ravi hunch that splatters egg on me? Maybe. But I don’t think so. Let’s take a look.
 On Ravi’s online sexual misconduct I was provided valuable information by Julie Anne Smith of Spiritual Sounding Board.
 See Warren Throckmorton’s “Exclusive: Ravi Zacharias Apologizes for False Claims about His Credentials at Oxford and Cambridge.” October 22, 2018. Given how widely Ravi claimed to be “educated at Cambridge” (where he had never enrolled) and a “professor at Oxford” (where he had never held any formal teaching position), these deceptions were significant. Still, as far as I can tell, Ravi made this apology only to Dr. Throckmorton, a fairly obscure Christian blogger, as opposed to posting it in a way calculated to reach his flock. He also waited over three years after the falsehoods were revealed to admit to them. This suggests damage control, not repentance.
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The Ravi Zacharias Rebirth Narrative
Those who follow Ravi Zacharias know the story well. It was 1963. An unhappy 17-year-old locked himself in his bathroom, took poison, and collapsed, in danger of dying. But God had seen something special in this kid and ensured that he took the “right poison” such that he would suffer neither death nor even any kind of “neurological debilitation.”
With God “standing in the shadows,” a house servant “became God’s instrument,” broke through the door, snapping it off its hinges, and got Ravi to the hospital. Then, in a moment of “divine appointment,” God sent a Youth for Christ worker to deliver a Bible to the young man.
Ravi now speaks of that hospital room encounter as “a bolt of lightning in a moment of pitched blackness.” He accepted Christ then and there, and made a promise to God; “I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth.” Thus began “a journey that has now continued with utter delight, … walking hand in hand with Him.”
So important is this experience in Ravi’s life that (in addition to discussing it with great frequency) every time he returns to Delhi he hires a taxi to take him to the hospital, where he sits, alone with the driver, and cries. It is a pilgrimage, he tells us, to “where it all started.“
This is a powerful tale. Did it happen? I began looking closely and quickly saw red flags everywhere.
 Walking From East to West at p.107.
 https://youtu.be/tchqYRMSy_o at 9:30.
 https://youtu.be/PvdLhQ3Mz04 at 1:02:30.
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Brother Ramesh Calls the Police
I decided to cut to the chase and call Ravi’s brother, Ramesh Zacharias, M.D., a prominent physician in the Toronto area. (His phone number and email address are publicly available at his hospital website.)
I left Dr. Zacharias a phone message and told him I was working on a story about Ravi’s conversion. I asked him to confirm the suicide story. I assured him that I would drop my investigation if he told me that Ravi’s story was true. I also emailed him. This was the full extent of my attempt to reach Dr. Zacharias. My communication was polite and brief. (He very likely retained my voice message.)
I expected a simple “Dear Mr. Baughman, it is well known in our family that Ravi attempted suicide as a teenager. Now please go away.” That would have settled it for me.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, a few days later, the Major Crimes Unit of the Toronto Police Department contacted me and threatened to investigate me for harassing a Canadian. They confirmed that the complaint had been generated by Ramesh Zacharias.
Dr. Zacharias may have had his reasons for not wanting to communicate with me. But his sensitivity around my very simple question (and my offer to drop the matter) did little to allay my suspicions about his brother’s tale.
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Brother-in-Law and “Soul Mate,”
Rev Sunder Krishnan, Remains Silent
I thought I would perhaps have better luck with Ravi’s brother-in-law, the Rev. Sunder Krishnan. Rev. Krishnan is a retired atomic scientist who later became a successful Christian minister in Toronto. He and Ravi were very close during Ravi’s early days as a Christian. They were, Ravi tells us, “soul mates” Now they are family.
I emailed Rev. Krishnan through his former church and told him I was writing about Ravi’s suicide attempt, that there were grounds for suspicion, and that his commenting would likely help Ravi. I asked him when he first heard about Ravi’s suicide attempt and assured him that I would mention his comments in my article. I also left a voice message on his home phone.
Again, a simple question, plus an offer to print an answer that I expected would help his brother-in-law.
Perhaps I am being hasty in suspecting that both these men know that Ravi has fabricated the story and they are principled enough not to lie in his support. But they do not wish to out him either. So they split the ethical baby and remain silent.
Whatever the case may be, apart from the curious fact that two of Ravi’s closest relatives do not wish to speak in his defense, there are strong reasons to doubt the now-canonical “bed of suicide” account.
 Walking From East to West at p. 114.
 The exact sequence is as follows. I called the Rexdale Alliance Church and they offered to pass a message along to Krishnan. When I did not hear from him, I emailed my specific questions to the church with the request that they forward them to him. When I again did not hear back I made another attempt via email. I then reluctantly called Rev. Krishnan at home and left a voicemail for him indicating that I wished to simply ask when he first heard about Ravi’s suicide attempt. (I found his phone number in the publicly available online white pages and I know it was his home because the outgoing answering machine message indicated that it was the home of “Sunder and Shyamala Krishnan.” Shyamala is Ravi’s sister.
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Doctored Medical Records
On July 10, 2019, over half a century after his alleged suicide attempt, Ravi made the surprising revelation to Christian television host Eric Metaxas that the doctors had “branded [his suicide attempt] as a gastroenterology mishap.” To my knowledge, this is the first time Ravi has revealed that his medical records would not support his story of willful infliction of self-harm.
Why did Ravi decide to disclose this significant fact only last year? I do not wish to be overly dramatic, but I would be remiss not to note the following about Ravi’s timing. The Eric Metaxas interview occurred only a little more than two months after Ravi would have learned from brother Ramesh that I was investigating the suicide claim. Coincidence? Or was Ravi trying to cover his tracks in case someone came forward with copies of those medical records?
Furthermore, insofar as a deliberate attempt to kill oneself is not a “mishap,” why would the doctors describe it as such? Ravi tells us that the doctors knew it was a suicide attempt. And in 1963 attempted suicide was a crime in India punishable by up to one year in jail. If this was a conspiracy to cover up a crime why would licensed physicians take such a risk?
Finally, Ravi tells us in his memoirs “I never asked for any details then or after my discharge.” How then did the 17-year-old know how the doctors described his condition in the medical records? And, again, why disclose that now?
 It is also possible that Ravi did mention the “mishap“ story elsewhere and I have just missed it. But I doubt it. I have seen no such suggestion in any of the many videos and articles in which Ravi discusses his suicide attempt.
 Walking From East to West at p. 105.
 Walking From East to West at p. 103.
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Ravi Invents a New Miracle
How did that Youth for Christ minister, Fred David, hear about Ravi being in the hospital? Ravi tells us that Fred received an instruction to visit Ravi from a minister from Calgary named John Teibe. But how did Teibe know? Although Ravi mentions Teibe frequently, and had a lifelong friendship with him, to my knowledge, Ravi never tells us how Teibe received the news. That is, not until after Teibe died in 2018.
About a year and a half after Teibe’s death, Ravi stood before an audience of 60,000 at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta and shared his standard bed of suicide story. This time however, and apparently for the first time, Ravi revealed the truth behind the mystery.
“God who is Sovereign over the whole universe tapped the shoulder of one man who had come to India from Calgary, Alberta and told him to send somebody into my hospital room with a Bible.”
So God directly told John Teibe that Ravi Zacharias was in the hospital.
Why does this significant event not appear in Ravi’s memoirs, which were published after Ravi had been close friends with Teibe for over forty years? And why does it not appear anywhere else? And why does Ravi share it only after Teibe died?
 https://sermons.love/ravi-zacharias/4214-ravi-zacharias-liberty-university-convocation.html. Teibe’s last name is sometimes misspelled as “Tabe.”
 https://sermons.love/ravi-zacharias/4214-ravi-zacharias-liberty-university-convocation.html See also Walking from East to West at pp. 110, 113, 116.
 Google “John L Teibe obituary”.
 https://youtu.be/-uSOqlHfz9U at 22:00. My emphasis.
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Ravi’s False Reasons for Secrecy
Like the John Teibe tale, Ravi’s dramatic redemption story brings much glory to the God he serves. From picking the “right poison” to preserving Ravi’s neurological structures to miraculously arranging that hospital room meeting, God had His hand on this young man in a very special way.
Why then did Ravi wait sixteen years to begin sharing the story with the media and audiences, as he so eagerly has done in the latter part of his career? Why, that is, did he wait until the only witnesses to the hospital episode had died? Ravi’s mother died in 1974 and his father died in 1979. The earliest public reference I can find to his suicide attempt is in the April 26, 1980 issue of the Milwaukee Journal.
Ravi seems to spot the suspicious timing and he spends a good bit of time trying to explain it. And here he gets into trouble.
In most accounts he chalks the lengthy delay up to the sensitivities of his parents. His suicide attempt was “very embarrassing” for them. Ravi tells us that he could not talk about the suicide matter while his parents were alive, or until his father’s “latter years.” He also explains his silence by his own pain in reflecting upon “the intense sadness and embarrassment of my foolish act.” In his memoirs he says the memory was like “trauma from a war experience” and “It took years before I could mention it to anyone, even those closest to me. The only one with whom I was comfortable talking about it was Margie, my wife.”
But this appears to be false. Ravi actually talked about the suicide attempt a great deal with his classmates at the Ontario Bible College (OBC) in the early 1970s. I recently spoke with two students who were with Ravi at OBC. (Both remain strong followers of Jesus.) One told me that in his/her first conversation with Ravi, which occurred in 1970 with perhaps one other person present, Ravi proceeded to talk about his suicide attempt. (Ravi had not yet married Margie at that time.) This person also said, “I think [the suicide story] was well known” at OBC. The other former student, now a partner of the first, told me that it was his/her impression that Ravi’s story was well known at OBC, although s/he was not sure how that impression arose.
Ravi, I was told, “swept in like a whirlwind” at OBC. Was Ravi Zacharias in 1970 already doing what is now known to be his P.R. modus operandi, making up stories to enhance his status? A dramatic conversion story would have helped his image, and his parents would not rebuke him for fibbing because they would likely not hear about it. What would stop the ambitious future preacher from turning a “gastroenterology mishap” into that dramatic tale of “divine appointment”?
There is more trouble for Ravi around his secrecy account. In 2019 he told Eric Metaxas that before he published his memoirs, Walking From East to West, he asked his family permission to mention the suicide attempt. “I asked them permission. This may embarrass the family. What do you think?”
But Ravi published these memoirs in 2005, over a quarter century after his father died! He had also discussed the suicide attempt on several occasions with the press, beginning in 1980. The story was out. Why would he in 2005 still need his family’s permission to write about his (Kingdom-glorifying) conversion story? Might there have been family discomfort around Ravi including in his formal memoirs something they all knew was false? That would explain the need for a family discussion in 2005. (Notice also that on his 2019 version the reason for Ravi’s secrecy was no longer mom’s and dad’s conservative Indian sensibilities, nor his own “sadness and embarrassment.”)
Ravi’s fabricating the suicide story at a later date would also explain his odd claim that his father possibly did not know about the suicide attempt until years later. His father, Ravi plainly tells us in his memoirs, may not have known “what happened.” On the same page he also says, “None of us ever talked about the incident. In fact, a few years afterwards, when I did mention it in an interview with a magazine, the details seem to shock my father. He wanted me to talk to him about the whole episode, but I wanted this to be just a thing of the past.”
Let us assume (for the sake of discussion alone) that Ravi did indeed have this discussion with his father before he died in 1979. We now need a complex explanatory web to make sense of how it was that Oscar Zacharias, who was with Ravi in the hospital room, did not know about the suicide attempt until Ravi told him about it years later. By contrast, if the suicide story is bogus, the pieces fall nicely into place.
 https://youtu.be/EL2OYILO8Gg at 2:00.
 https://youtu.be/V8bD7ovxIuc at 14:00.
 The issue is available online through Newspaper.com. Anyone interested in confirming my cite here may take advantage of the free one-week trial subscription they offer.
 https://youtu.be/AzTeniSROnY at 8:20.The reluctance of Ravi’s father seems a bit implausible. Oscar Zacharias had had his own powerful conversion to Christ. Would this not have made him less squeamish about Ravi going public with the God-glorifying bed-of-suicide story?
 Walking From East to West at p. 106.
 Walking From East to West at p. 106.
 They have asked me not to disclose their names.
 Walking From East to West at p. 163.
 At Newspaper.com I found numerous references to Ravi’s suicide attempt beginning in 1980.
 Walking From East to West at p. 104. It I s clear from the context that Ravi means that his father may not have known that he had attempted suicide.
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A (Pro-Ravi!) Smoking Gun?
What about that alleged early magazine interview, the one that contained an interview in which Ravi discussed his suicide attempt only a “few years“ after 1963? That would bolster Ravi’s credibility by showing that, at very least, he did not wait until his parents died to go public with the story.
I have made several requests to Ravi’s ministry for information on that article. They have not replied. I suspect that that magazine article is like Ravi’s nonexistent “Asian Youth Preacher Award.” But I could be wrong.
Will his ministry provide it?
 The impressive sounding “Asian Youth Preacher Award” exists only in Ravi’s self-promotional materials. Google the award to confirm. When I had dinner with Ravi in 2017 he told me that he had a trophy with those words on it, but that they had faded.
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There is an intriguing medical question here. Ravi claims that upon swallowing the poison he immediately began vomiting and “couldn’t stop.” He soon lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital. An emergency room doctor to whom I presented Ravi’s claim said that while the story was plausible, “It’s a little bit far-fetched that some poison that made him vomit would also cause him to lose consciousness, but it would really depend on what substance he took.”
Ravi is surprisingly and consistently vague about how he got the poison from the university chemistry lab. In his memoirs he says “I somehow got into the locked cupboard where the chemicals were stored.” Elsewhere he simply says that he went to school and “saw some chemicals.” But how is it that he cannot remember a bold, risky and illegal act such as this? It was daytime, classes were in session, and the poisons were locked away. Stealing them was no small feat. But he recalls nothing of how he gained access to those deadly controlled substances.
Ravi wonders aloud on several occasions about how the Youth for Christ worker, Fred David, got into the hospital room. Ravi claims to have no idea how it happened. But Fred did not die until 2013 and Ravi maintained close contact with him until then. Why did he not simply ask him?
How did the servant get into the bathroom to rescue Ravi? In his 2018 television interview with John Ankerberg, Ravi does not remember. “I don’t know whether he broke the door down, pushed the door down, I don’t remember exactly.“ But in his memoirs, Ravi remembers the details very well. “Suddenly, the door banged hard behind me. It was the servant, pushing against it. Another bang, and another. Finally he burst through, snapping the door off the hinges.”
In some renditions, the servant rushed Ravi to the hospital. In others the servant seems to have remained behind to clean up the mess and cover Ravi‘s tracks. Perhaps the servant did both, but would that have given him enough time to get back to the house to clean up the mess to cover the tracks of this young master? And, was he also able to repair the door before the family returned? And how would Ravi know any of this given that he lost consciousness in the bathroom and woke up in the hospital?
Ravi returns to India at least once a year and takes a taxi to the hospital every time to sit and reminisce. Over the decades this would mean he has made dozens of such trips. The hospital name changed in the 1970s, at least forty years ago. But Ravi does not seem to remember its name. And in his memoirs he gets the original name wrong as well.
Ravi says that he lay on that hospital bed “with the doctor giving me no more than five days to live.” Do doctors really share such speculative predictions with their teenage patients or with their mothers?
In 2017 Ravi told the International Leadership Conference at GONCIL that he attempted suicide because “I knew an exam was coming and I wouldn’t make it. I had only one option and that was to take my life.” To my knowledge this is the only time he has ever mentioned the impending exam. In all other descriptions he speaks only of a general malaise. (“I didn’t even have what it took to get by.”)
 Walking From East to West at p. 103.
 https://youtu.be/7ad91US2GU4 at 11:00.
 https://youtu.be/CT6-MGubddk at 20:40.
 Walking From East to West at p. 102. In each of the numerous other videos in which I have seen Ravi discuss acquiring the poison he is equally vague about how he pulled it off.
 See https://youtu.be/AzTeniSROnY at 8:30.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tchqYRMSy_o&feature=youtu.be at 9:31. “I still don’t know how he got in. Maybe because he was a minister.”
 https://youtu.be/7ad91US2GU4 T 25:20.
 https://youtu.be/AzTeniSROnY at 9:45.
 Walking From East to West at p.
 Walking From East to West at pp. 103-104.
 https://youtu.be/CT6-MGubddk at 20:40.
 https://youtu.be/7ad91US2GU4 at 13:22. See also https://youtu.be/QeZdVW8CpLM at 29:37.
 Walking From East to West at p.103. The hospital was called the Willingdon Hospital until the 1970s. Ravi called it the “Wellington Hospital.”
 https://youtu.be/bOQqOl0b0Ww at 20:00.
 https://youtu.be/deBMwxn9j3s at 59:00.
 Walking From East to West, at p. 99.
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Passing the Baton
None of these puzzles is conclusive in and of itself. But together they raise concerns about the veracity of Ravi’s conversion story.
Perhaps a journalist with more clout than I, one whom Ravi and his people cannot repeatedly ignore, will persuade the Zacharias ministry to produce that magazine interview from “a few years“ after the alleged 1963 event. That, or any such public statement by Ravi predating the death of his mother, would undermine my theory that he fabricated the story and kept it from his parents.
This would, however, also make it much harder for Ravi to explain why he, the one who vowed “to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of truth,” left one massive Kingdom-glorifying light largely under a bushel for so many years. Ravi is indeed in a bind.
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Ravi’s Influence on Christian Apologetics
In the eternal sense, all conversions to Christ are equal. But in our shallow pre-mortem world, some conversions are cooler than others. I believe I have given serious reasons to suspect that Ravi Zacharias enhanced his cool factor with a false, but dramatic conversion story. There is enough here to warrant a response from the Zacharias ministry, especially given their leader’s well-documented practices of deceptive self-aggrandizement,
However they handle the issue, we must not forget that the mountain of Ravi Zacharias dirt we have comes from merely scratching the surface. Imagine the deceptions we would uncover if we had the cooperation of Ravi’s board (and his denomination) and the resources to pursue hunches about, say, the “revival” he “triggered” in Vietnam, the one that was “[traced] back to a young Indian,” the revival where he personally saw “nearly three thousand people come to know Christ.”
And his astonishing success as a preacher in Cambodia with that packed “large public arena” where “masses of people pressed forward to commit their lives to Jesus.”
And his quasi-miraculous near miss of a Vietcong ambush, where the body count was one in his 1971 version, but had grown to four by the time he wrote his memoirs in 2005.
And how about that Russian general he led to Christ, the one from the nonexistent “Center for Geopolitical Strategy”?
And what about Ravi’s finances? What was with those entity status changes right around the time of his lawsuit?
But to whom would any of this matter? The big lesson Ravi Zacharias teaches us is that most Christians do not want to know how corrupt their gurus are. The pew-warmers, a most incurious lot indeed, dismiss the evidence with speed (and often vitriol). And the evangelical Powers-That-Be cover it up.
This is most unfortunate for those who value the rich and important philosophical debates about God’s existence and the truth of Christianity. As we attempt to navigate the technical issues presented by, say, modal logic and the problem of evil, freedom versus determinism, cosmology, etc., we cannot but rely on experts. Ravi Zacharias and his enablers have made it harder for honest lay seekers to distinguish experts from pretenders. Apologetics has become a pretender’s paradise.
Given the very sad news about Ravi’s recent cancer diagnosis, he may or may not be with us much longer. But the damage he has done to ethical standards in apologetics and Christian publishing will linger. The powerful Christians who have supported him along the way remain as entrenched as they are unrepentant. We find ourselves now in an ironic situation where conduct that would lead to canceled book tours, revoked contracts, and ruined careers in the secular world is accepted practice in Christian circles.
Too strong a statement? Last time I checked, Ravi’s new book, Jesus Through Eastern Eyes, is still set for release next month, April 2020, courtesy of the behemoth HarperCollins Christian Publishing. The evangelical publisher announced the book a few months after Ravi settled a lawsuit and paid money for a non-disclosure agreement that permits him to remain silent about the written suicide threat he made to cover up his online sexual misconduct. Things really are that bad.
 Walking From East to West at p.170. See also https://youtu.be/Yte0SUOR6kU at 46:00 for Ravi triggering a revival in Vietnam.
 Walking From East to West at p. 181.
 In the December 1971 issue of the OBC magazine, The Evangelical Recorder, after the ambush, Ravi saw one “blood soaked body.” By 2005 it had become four bodies “strewn across the side of the road, bullet-riddled and dead.” See Walking From East to West at p.168.
 Walking From East to West at p. 201.
 I have been encouraged by the Christian bloggers and academics who have been willing to speak out against Ravi’s deceptions. Sadly, we can count them on less than two full hands.
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About the Author
Steve Baughman is the author of the investigative exposé, Coverup in the Kingdom; Phone Sex, Lies, and God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias. He is a lawyer and sometime graduate student at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley. He wishes to thank Paul McCarthy for extensive research assistance and for finding many of the video clips cited here.
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