So, the final report in to the claims of sexual misconduct by Ravi Zacharias has come out. And while we don't have his side of the story, unfortunately, there is enough material to conclusively prove he was complicit in abuse and misconduct.
I would urge you to read the whole report for yourself, just so you are informed for yourself. It's no use burying your head in the sand. Ravi wasn't the first high-profile Christian thought leader to be found behaving badly, and he won't be the last, but we do need to make ourselves aware of high-profile people using their power and authority to abuse others, especially those who are vulnerable.
Yes. This was abuse. There are no bones about it. Not just abuse, but manipulation, secrecy and control - exactly what cults do.
I applaud the willingness by RZIM to engage an independent firm to conduct investigations, and for releasing that report. My advice to them would be to now drop the RZ from RZIM and make a new start. RZIM was built of the public profile of RZ, and now we know RZ was a creep.
I am now going to comment on certain aspects of the report.
EMPLOYMENT AND CORPORATE PRACTICES:
The fact that the two spas he allegedly co-owned hired very few, if any, therapists with proper training or qualifications is damning enough in itself. If indeed he did own the massage therapy places, it really does read like he set up massage therapy businesses simply to make a cynical dollar.
Set up a massage therapy place, hire low skilled and unlicensed people, pay them minimum wage, done!
To quote the report:
"We refer to all of them as “therapists” or “massage therapists,” although as this report reveals not all of the individuals who provided Mr. Zacharias with massage services were trained and licensed therapists." and;
"One spa he frequented was closed down, and its owner’s massage therapy license revoked, for hiring unlicensed therapists."
To further quote the report:
"Mr. Zacharias is not listed on incorporation documents filed with the Georgia Secretary of State for either company, and he did not appear to have any role in managing the day-to-day operations of the spas. He told one massage therapist he was a silent investor in both spas…"
Which means Ravi was lying to someone: either he was lying to the massage therapist when he said he was a silent investor, or he was lying to the government when his name somehow did not get listed on any corporate paperwork for the businesses.
This, to me, is a cynical ploy to take the credit, but deflect responsibility - "I'm the famous man of God, and when things are going well, look at the money I'm secretly making…but if things go wrong, I know nothing!"
INTERACTIONS WITH THERAPISTS:
The report notes that while he was professional with numerous massage therapists, there were a number of them who he took advantage of, or definitely attempted to take advantage of.
To quote the report:
"Several massage therapists confirmed Mr. Zacharias’s frequent efforts to “try for more than a massage,” as one therapist put it. Eight therapists reported that Mr. Zacharias would start the massage either completely nude or would remove the sheets during the massage. Six therapists reported that he always or almost always had an erection during the massage. Four therapists reported that he would either touch his genitals or ask them to touch his genitals. And five therapists reported that he touched or rubbed them inappropriately."
But what is concerning is that he played off of his reputation and his charm to get people to drop their defences:
"…aspects of Mr. Zacharias’s behavior towards this witness were similar to his conduct with other therapists, specifically: the use of ministry funds to provide financial support, the effort to elicit personal information about a difficult past, and Mr. Zacharias’s use of religious language during their encounters…She reported that after he arranged for the ministry to provide her with financial support, he required sex from her. According to this witness, Mr. Zacharias used religious expressions to gain compliance, as she was raised to be a person of faith. She reported that he made her pray with him to thank God for the “opportunity” they both received".
"The therapists he reportedly targeted for “more than a massage” discussed a similar modus operandi of building their trust and making them feel at ease. As one put it, he “wasn’t frisky initially.” Some therapists described a process that began with probing conversation and him asking about their families and backgrounds, often delving into deeply personal issues such as financial struggles or emotionally broken backgrounds"
"Another therapist also refused when he asked her to “go lower” and massage closer to his genitals, and she admonished him on several occasions when he would start touching himself. He asked this same person to travel overseas to massage him on trips, but she was not comfortable with him and was afraid she would not be able to afford a plane ticket home if she felt the need to return early."
This man is not creepy at all. No.
You have to remember that Ravi is effectively their boss, if his reported words to the therapist are to be believed. As an investor, he wields a form of authority.
SECRETIVE TRIPS TO ASIA:
The report notes that Ravi would travel to Asia, often alone, where he would write books by day, and get treatment on his back at night.
"In addition to finding alone time when he travelled with others, Mr. Zacharias travelled alone to Bangkok and other parts of Southeast Asia for substantial periods of time. RZIM staff described these as writing trips where he would work on his latest book. On such trips, he would stay for days and sometimes weeks alone. According to a text message to a Thai masseuse in February 2016, he spent his days writing and his nights receiving massage treatments."
"We also learned that for several years, Mr. Zacharias owned two apartments in Bangkok…between 2010 and 2014 he spent a total of 256 days in one of these apartments…the other apartment, in the same building but on a different floor, housed one of his massage therapists. An entry on Mr. Zacharias’s phone for the lower floor unit includes this massage therapist’s initials."
Why travel to south-east Asia to write a book and get massage therapy, when you could easily find solitude in places much closer to home and find licensed professionals to do the job?
To me, there is no way that he's spending long periods of time, alone, in one of the hotspots of Asian sex tourism, and not having illicit sex.
On top his two apartments, one which was used to house his personal masseuse, was this:
"between 2010 and 2014 he spent a total of 256 days in one of these apartments and sought rent reimbursement from RZIM for those stays"
I think it's a bit cynical to seek money from your company to stay in places that you already own. The only way I would excuse this is as a tax dodge. Otherwise, it comes across as being cynical and greedy.
We also come to his slush fund.
"Mr. Zacharias also used his ministry to financially support some of his long-term therapists. According to a description in the Notes application of one of Mr. Zacharias’s phones, Touch of Hope (“TOH”) was a “humanitarian effort on the part of RZIM meeting short term needs for long term gains.” We learned it was a purely discretionary fund and no clear guidelines governing how money would be granted….in reviewing documents provided by RZIM we noticed that a significant portion of the wire payments from that fund went to or for the benefit of four women—all of whom were at times Mr. Zacharias’s massage therapists…each of these four women received monthly support from TOH for extended periods of time."
This now raises a valid question - when an ordinary person donates to a famous (or even not-so-famous) Christian ministry, we have a right to know what percentage of that goes to hush money, discretionary spending on women who do the famous preacher sexual favours, money to reimburse someone for staying in properties they already own, etc.
In Australia, we have what is called the Charities & Not-For-Profit Commission (CNC), in which every organisation that wants a tax break for charitable or religious purposes has to submit yearly reports, much like a corporation does. Maybe the US needs something like that as well.
PHOTOS OF WOMEN:
The report also notes that Ravi had been sent images of numerous photos of women, by those women, and his multiple electronic devices stored photos of those women in various states of undress.
Now, if those women willingly and knowingly did so, this actually isn't a problem. Sexual communication between two willing participants is not a moral crime in itself. The downside of this is that I really don't want to to think about Ravi Zacharias sending his own nudes in return - the mental image of wrinkly preacher dick turns me off my lunch. The only saving grace is that cameras on phones 10 years ago weren't as sharp as they are now, so at least it's not 4K HDR photos of wrinkly preacher dick…
But what I suspect is that he maniupated numerous women in to sending those compromising photos of themselves, using that veneer of charm, confidence, security and safety that he is known for. This then becomes is a moral crime.
USE OF THE VENEER OF RESPECTABILITY AND PASSIVE-AGGRESSION TO DEFLECT CRITICISM:
To me, the most egregious violation of ethics is highlighted by these lines of the report:
"A high-level RZIM staff member expressed concerns to Mr. Zacharias about it and encouraged him to stop travelling with her. In response, Mr. Zacharias grew angry and barely spoke to this staff member for a long period of time. He was effectively “sent to Siberia,” as another staff member recalled. Their relationship never fully recovered."
"Several RZIM staff reported to us his “shifting narrative” as emails and other relevant facts were publicly leaked and he was forced to explain them. Rather than fostering an environment of truth-seeking and transparency, Mr. Zacharias was strident and inflammatory. He described his critics as “nasty people” and “lunatics” who were engaging in “‘satanic-type’ slander and falsehood.” Some RZIM staff told us that he expressed frustration with having to issue an apology at all. He was able to convince many that not only was he innocent, he was the victim of malicious “evil.” At an all-staff virtual meeting in January 2018, after significant details of the Thompson communications had been made public, Mr. Zacharias offered explanations that many staff members found nonsensical. But some staff members reported to us that when they expressed doubts about Mr. Zacharias’s story, they were ignored, marginalized, and accused of disloyalty"
"Another former RZIM staff member reported similar treatment from Mr. Zacharias when he raised questions about Mr. Zacharias’s conduct in and solo travel to Asia. As a result, he was “demonized” by Mr. Zacharias, who accused him of spreading rumors."
"Mr. Zacharias’s response to the Thompson allegations—including explanations of his emails with Ms. Thompson that surfaced on the internet—raised questions about his credibility. We interviewed witnesses within RZIM who were not satisfied with Mr. Zacharias’s explanations, and some reported their belief that they were marginalized for raising questions."
Ravi CLEARLY used his power, in the form of manipulation, ostracisation and demonisation in order to deflect criticism. And furthermore, his own staff only found out about the incriminating information via leaks. This is how cults work. Control information, come down hard on people who even DARE to criticise the great leader, selectively ostracise.
It's interesting to note that Jesus said, "if you are at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar, be reconciled to your brother and then come back and offer your gift". It seems Ravi had a selective memory.
I was also quite taken aback by this:
"In response, Mr. Zacharias sued the Thompsons in federal court for extortion under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute on July 31, 2017. The Thompsons and Mr. Zacharias mediated and confidentially resolved their disputes in late fall 2017. The resolution reportedly included a nondisclosure agreement (“NDA”)."
Ravi Zacharias, a man who represents God to the world and who trades off his reputation as a righteous man, sued a woman who he manipulated in to sending nude photos to him, under legislation meant to tackle organised crime and drug cartels. RICO has been used to charge the Hells Angels, the Gambino crime family and FIFA, and now this man used RICO to effectively persecute a woman who did his own bidding for the crime of making known that she wasn't going to cop his manipulation anymore.
The man was a slimeball.