The greatest Christian apologist perhaps of all time, in terms of global outreach, in death has had a meteoric fall from grace. In the final decade of his life (and likely even longer back than that), Ravi Zacharias used his star power, his charismatic personality, and a specially designed “Humanitarian fund” from his millions of ministry dollars to lure young Christian women into a harem of 200 or more “massage therapists” spread across four countries. Truthfully, they were his sex slaves. In many cases, he paid for their housing and education (hence the humanitarian fund). But, in return, they were on standby for sexual favours whenever he arrived alone for “study time” or short holidays to recharge.
When money and provisions weren’t enough to keep the women quiet, he used guilt and threats to shut them up. He asked these young 20 something-year-olds if they wanted to be the ones responsible for ruining God’s reputation? Besides, all of these sexual fantasies were
Yes, that was his actual line.
Ravi’s powerful apologetic voice continued right to the end, but his love and commitment to Jesus and His church had long since passed away.
Men can be such deplorable creatures. We want it all, always have all the money, all the women, all the fame, all the power. Most of us are not equipped enough to assert our baser instincts. And so our wild side is lived out through online sexual fantasies, video games, and smaller bits of debauchery that are not as scandalous comparatively. So here is a hard take — The only difference between Ravi and the rest of us is that he was able to live out what only happens in our imaginations.
His charisma, his money, his adoring fans, and his absolute authority over RZIM created the perfect opportunity for him to act on all too common masculine impulses. Ravi is no different than Tiger Woods, Freddy Mercury, King David or a thousand other men whose talents and abilities catapult them into fame and fortune. And he is no different than you and me either. We are just smaller scale.
That’s a depressing thought.
Can anything be done? You would think the Christian principles that Ravi attempted to live by would at least have mitigated some of his predatory, self-righteous opportunism.
All we like Ravi have gone astray, and even Christianity (or any religion) doesn’t prevent us from our waywardness. I’m sharing such happy thoughts today! But, seriously, is there any glimmer of hope, any nugget of helpful advice that can keep men from both small scale and large scale destruction?
- Fame, Money and Power are Not My Friends: They are a deadly cocktail that poisons the minds of most who are unfortunate enough to attain them. They should not be my life goals. The Bible is right when it says a man should not think more highly of himself than he ought to. Fame, money and power basically make that impossible.
A small group of friends and family that speak truth and love into my life is better than fame
A small amount of money that’s just enough to pay all my bills is much better than piles and piles of the stuff
Shared power (however inefficient) with lots of accountability and transparency is better than any arrangement that sees one person large and in charge.
- Alone at the top is not where you want to be. One final observation, in 2014, I read Ravi’s biography from East to West. In it, I noticed something very curious. I discovered that there was virtually no life on life discipleship in Ravi’s story. He was saved by preaching to preaching. Reading commentaries sparked his spiritual development, not living in a close community with other believers. From the very beginning, Ravi’s Christian life was marked by his speeches in front of ever-growing crowds of people and jetting off to one appointment after another — always seemingly disconnected from people. I didn’t like what I was reading. But who was I to judge? After all, look at the results of his life. I said as much in my review, but I think I was on to something. Men are bad, and without the actual life on life daily influence of people speaking good into us, we have no chance at overcoming evil; it’s just too powerful.