Photo shamelessly ripped off from JA Smith’s blog and Steve Baughman’s video
Graphic Warning: Some explicit descriptions of sexual activity.
Years ago, I became aware of the lies of Ergun Caner and wrote several articles about it. Here is a synopsis by Wikipedia which is accurate.
(Caner) is a Swedish-American academic, author, and Baptist minister, who became well known for his book, co-authored with his brother, on Islam and his claims that he was a devout Muslim trained as a terrorist, claims since proven to be false. He emigrated to the United States at age four and claimed to have converted to Christianity in the early 1980s.
Caner is the former President of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia. He previously served as the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Arlington Baptist College and was the former dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School of Liberty University. He was removed from this position after it became clear to Liberty University faculty and the Liberty University Board that he misrepresented his background.
He was a prolific liar about his background! He was so good that the US military used him to train soldiers on understanding Islam. However, a Muslim man in the UK heard Ergun *quoting the Koran” and realized he was speaking gibberish and wrote about it. Christians came to Ergun’s defense, claiming that this was a Muslim plot. Except, the Muslim gentleman proved to be correct.
Here is the whole sordid mess should you wish to read it.
n a 2009 San Francisco Examiner article, Davi Barker highlighted errors Caner had made in public statements about Islam, including mispronouncing the word muadhin, misquoting the Shahada, and incorrectly stating that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan lasted 40 days.
In 2010, Christian and Muslim bloggers accused Caner of making up and lying about his life story by citing details that were incongruent with his regularly stated, printed, and often repeated story. The critics particularly challenged Caner’s claims to have grown up in Turkey, when he actually grew up in Ohio; being raised in a devout Muslim home, rather than a nominal one; having been trained as an Islamic jihadist; having debated dozens of Muslims, although they say there is no evidence of such. Mohammad Khan, a Muslim from London, England, was the first to show that Caner’s recitation of what he claimed was the Shahada, the Islamic creed, is actually the first two verses of the Qur’an, wrongly recited.
On May 10, 2010, Liberty University announced that it would launch a formal inquiry into allegations of discrepancies in the claimed background of Caner, the Dean and President of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School. Caner said, “I am thrilled that Liberty University is forming this committee, and I look forward to this entire process coming to a close.” The committee reported “discrepancies related to the matters such as dates, names and places of residence” in Caner’s public statements, although they found no evidence to contradict the idea that he was a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager. The committee also reported that Caner had cooperated with its investigation and apologized for the identified discrepancies. As a result of the investigation, on June 25, 2010, Liberty University removed Caner from his position as Dean of the seminary, but decided to retain him as a full-time faculty member of the seminary for the 2010–2011 school year.
On September 24, 2010, Caner was the keynote speaker for the Twin City’s 12th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast in Bristol, Virginia. When interviewed about the controversy, the chairman of the local prayer breakfast committee said that members were aware of the controversy, but the invitation had been issued before the controversy became apparent. He also noted that the Community Prayer Breakfast does not delve into the backgrounds of their motivational/inspirational speakers. At the meeting, Caner claimed that he and his brother had seen the controversy coming for years. The bloggers were simply “frustrated people in their basements”, he said, adding that it would take more than edited videos to take him down.
Caner left LU in June 2011 to become Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Arlington Baptist College. The President of Arlington Baptist College, Dr. Dan Moody, stated that Caner’s controversy was in the past and the new Vice President had his full confidence. Caner filed a lawsuit on June 18, 2013, in the U.S. district court in North Texas claiming copyright infringement for reproducing, uploading and maintaining his videos without permission. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice on April 17, 2014. The judge ruled the videos had been posted in their entirety and were not edited as Caner had earlier claimed. Two courts ruled the lawsuits were frivolous and ordered Caner to pay a combined total of $59,183.39 in legal fees. Following the court order, YouTube made the videos available again.
Steve Baughman, a banjo-playing, atheist immigration attorney, should get the credit for exposing Ravi Zacharias.
I really like Baughman. He is kind, a straight shooter, and determined to get to the truth. He was willing to face the problems of Zacharias while the Christian community was busy justifying Zacharias. Baughman approached me a few years ago about his concerns. Recently, he was on Julie Roys’ podcast: Atheist Explains His Investigation of Ravi Zacharias. You can read a transcript of the podcast at that link. He told Julie exactly what he told me.
I’ve been interested in Christianity since I was a kid. I grew up around missionaries in Southeast Asia and I actually came across Ravi Zacharias in around early 2015 as part of my intellectual and spiritual searches. I was looking for the best Christian apologists I could find and I found him. And that’s how I started getting interested in it because he made such a powerful impression on me. And sadly, I began looking into a certain, a few red flags, and it’s been a five year journey of just uncovering dirty thing after dirty thing. But no, it really has nothing to do with hostility to Religion. It’s just if someone is deceiving millions of people like that, I think it’s something that’s worth calling them on.
He discovered that Ravi lied about the prophecies in Daniel.
I’m always reading and I’m taking a class right now with a Christian Professor on the proofs for the existence of God. So yeah, Ravi’s, I found Ravi because I was really impressed. I remember the argument very well, he made an argument about fulfilled prophecy and Daniel, and it was powerful. And I said to myself, if that argument is true, I need to change my worldview. And I looked into it, and that began my realization that Ravi was not a straight shooter.
Zacharias always said we should seek the truth. Steve did this. Ravi apparently did not.
In 2015, I wrote a post and asked the question, “If he lied about this, what else did he lie about?”
Little did I know that I would find out more than I ever wanted to know about Zacharias. In the post, I quoted from an article by Baughman: Press Release: Has Evangelist Ravi Zacharias Misrepresented His Academic Credentials?
It seems like Ravi Zacharias is in a bit of a pickle. I apologize that I didn’t have time to consult Tim Bayly to see if a woman is allowed to point out pastors who lie. It appears that MR. Zacharias may have been fudging things his entire ministry. My question is simple. If he lies about this, what else does he lie about?
We are two atheists and a Christian who are concerned that a prominent evangelist, Mr. Ravi Zacharias, has engaged in misconduct that undermines academic integrity and misleads the public. We issue this press release with two primary goals in mind. First, we wish to draw attention to what we believe are the dishonest practices of Ravi Zacharias.
Their stated concern:
We believe that the problem of professional evangelical Christians exaggerating their academic credentials deserves much more media attention and public discussion than it currently receives. There is much grumbling even within Christian circles about the practice of honorary degree recipients using the “Dr.” title ‘
They credibly dispute the following claims of Ravi Zacharias:
He was not a visiting scholar at Cambridge.
He refers to himself as Dr Zacharias yet has no earned doctoral degree.
He claims to have lectured at the world’s most prestigious universities.
He claims to be a scholar yet has published nothing in scholarly journals and does not have peer reviewed research.
Hypothesis 1: When Christians flagrantly lie on their CV, I believe they are probably lying about much, much more.
This was true for Ergun Caner and, as time goes on, it appears to be true for Zacharias. For those of you who do not know about the sexting scandal involving Zacharias and Lori Anne Thompson, here is catchup.
The sexting scandal
Before this broke, I had the opportunity to speak to Lori Anne Thompson. I believed her narrative and I urged her to get an attorney. Julie Anne Smith wrote a great post which showed the proof of the emails, etc. However, due to the eventual lawsuit settlement, the evidence needed to be removed.
Hypothesis 2: When Christian celebrities have one sex scandal, there are usually more scandals to come.
The massage parlor debacles
Think Tullian Tchividjian. Only God knows how many women he trolled in his time as pastor. I believe that there were likely more than he said. Here is an interesting article which was written shortly after Zacharias’ death: DETRACTORS MOUNT AN ATTACK ON RAVI ZACHARIAS Notice the wording by Eternity Magazine. Those who were exposing Zacharias’ duplicity were *detractors* who were attempting to attack him. (I plan to write about the Varnier situation soon.)
One common meme has been to compare the situation to that of Jean Vanier (founder of the L’Arche communities that support people living with disability). But there was a detailed examination by Vanier’s L’Arche ministry into his background that took a couple of years – and definitively established that he had abused a number of women.
Investigations into Zacharias by his denomination, the Christianity and Missionary Alliance, have resulted in a decision not to discipline him.
So, in the absence of further information, we do not have a Jean Vanier situation. Another point of difference is that the allegations against Zacharias have been on the public record for some time. The Vanier stories came as a shock.
The author quickly cleared Zacharias of abusing other women because of the poorly handled investigation by the CM&A which supposedly cleared him. As I read this, I banged my head on my kitchen table, upsetting my pugs, Tulip and Buttercup. Way too many naive Christians were willing to declare that this celebrity was unfairly targeted and the victim was a liar. As one who spoke with Thompson, I believed her story was true because it had the elements of predators I have covered. I’ve read many of the Zacharias’ defenders who gleefully tried to pin this one on the victim. They spoke too soon.
Todd wrote Ravi Zacharias – Working the Kinks Out While Earning Extra Cash for Spreading the Gospel! In this post, he features Baughman who discovered that Zacharias has owned at least two massage parlors. Christianity Today posted Ravi Zacharias’s Ministry Investigates Claims of Sexual Misconduct at Spas. On 9/20/20, RZIM decided to investigate what appeared to be sexual misconduct or harassment.
(RZIM) opened an investigation into allegations that its late founder and namesake sexually harassed multiple massage therapists who worked at two day spas he co-owned.
They were obviously quite uncomfortable and sought to downplay what I believe to be their lack of oversight of Zacharias.
Three women who worked at the businesses, located in a strip mall in the Atlanta suburbs, told Christianity Today that Ravi Zacharias touched them inappropriately, exposed himself, and masturbated during regular treatments over a period of about five years. His business partner said he regrets not stopping Zacharias and sent an apology text to one of the victims this month.
RZIM denies the claims, saying in a statement to CT that the charges of sexual misconduct “do not in any way comport with the man we knew for decades.” The organization has hired a law firm “with experience investigating such matters” to look into the allegations, which date back at least 10 years. RZIM declined to answer any further questions about the inquiry.
….CT has verified the identities and job histories of the three women. They shared their stories under the condition that they not be named, fearing the stigma of coming forward as victims and possible retribution for harming the reputation of a famous Christian leader. They spoke with CT by phone multiple times over the past five weeks, and CT heard from
Zacharias is credibly accused of inappropriate behavior by both the women who worked in the spa as well as his former business partner.
…By that point, they had talked for hours in the private massage rooms, the woman said. He had asked about her life, and she had told him everything from her career aspirations and her struggles as a single mother to her childhood relationship with Jesus and how she had been sexually abused.
The woman felt that Zacharias was ministering to her and “there was a holiness around him.” She thought she was, in turn, helping him and felt compelled to go along to an extent.
Then Zacharias tried to move her hand to his penis, the woman told CT. She refused and turned away as he masturbated. The next time she gave him a massage he exposed himself again and masturbated again. By her account, this happened more than 50 times over the next three years.
“He would say, ‘I need it. I need it. I need it,’” the woman recalled. “He would say he needed it so much and it was good therapy.”
Hypothesis 3: When Christian organizations claim they have investigated sex claims and that their celebrity are totally in the clear, it’s time for an outside, independent investigation because something is up. These organizations are often in the pocket of the celebrity and their boards are simply for show.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance exonerated Zacharias two years ago (2018). Looks like they did a shoddy job but it made them feel better. PUBLIC STATEMENT ON ACCUSATIONS AGAINST RAVI ZACHARIAS
While it is not appropriate to publicly discuss the nuances of these allegations, the available evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.
On 10/2/20 Christianity Today published Christian and Missionary Alliance Opens Second Investigation of Ravi Zacharias
The new allegations came from former employees at two Atlanta-area day spas Zacharias co-owned and frequented for massage therapy more than a decade ago.
Three women told CT Zacharias would touch them inappropriately, expose himself, and masturbate during treatments. In a follow-up article, World magazine reported additional allegations that a therapist was fired after complaining that Zacharias asked for “more than a massage.”
Hypothesis 4: If an organization does not police themselves, they may be on the receiving end of litigation.
RZIM may well face multiple lawsuits from around the planet.
It appears that the CM&A is getting worried. They should. Zacharias traveled all over the world. Given what is now known, it is likely that they have only experienced the tip of the iceberg. They are probably fearing the possibility of multiple lawsuits.
The denomination sent a letter to Alliance workers on Friday announcing that the leadership had “determined that we must look into these new allegations, in spite of the fact that Mr. Zacharias passed away earlier this year.”
They are so worried that they’re revisiting their initial response (or should I say their lack of response.)
The CM&A may also revisit previous allegations against Zacharias. It said in the announcement that the new information reported by CT “raised concerns” about the decision not to discipline Zacharias after a prior investigation.
They investigated him back in 2018. Then they let him loose on the world. Imagine what might have happened in those intervening years before his death. I believe that the organization may be in trouble.
Hypothesis 5: Silence on the part of famous affiliates of the ministry is the usual response. They hope no one notices.
Besides Sam Allberry, here are other speakers for RZIM. To make matters more complicated, there are a bunch of well-known folks who have connections to RZIM or whose works are posted at RZIM. Feel free to add names in the comments.
I hope that anyone, who has had connections to RZIM, issues some sort of statement regarding their care and concern for the growing list of victims.
- My thanks go out to Steve Baughman for pursuing the truth. Here is a link to his interview with Julie Roys.
- Boz Tchividjian chimed in with his usual wisdom regarding investigations from the above CT article.
“It’s more than just, ‘Hey, create a protocol.’ It’s also working hard to shift the culture in our churches so that no one is beyond accountability,” said Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE and an attorney for victims of sexual abuse with the law firm Landis Graham French, PA.
“Beyond the investigation, an organization needs to be doing what it can to shift the culture,” he said. “Talk about these matters repeatedly, publicly. Talk about how you don’t care who it is, no one in leadership is beyond accountability. And prevent leaders from becoming mega rock stars in the first place.”
- I believe that there are more victims. Perhaps there are many more victims.
- I believe that RZIM and CM&A will regret their quick exoneration of Ravi Zacharias.
- I believe that lying on a CV points to an underlying problem. I’ll leave the analysis up to the psychologists. In the meantime, always assume more is happening.
- Christians should be the first to understand that ALL are fallen and capable of great sin. Instead, it appears they want their *pure* celebrities and will defend them to the bitter end. Maybe they have a hard time accepting the reality of why Jesus came. We have got to stop this starry-eyed view of our heroes. It’s really sad when we need those outside of the faith to come in and point a finger at this stuff.
- I believe that some in his circle knew that this stuff was going on and remained silent for the *sake of the ministry.* Warning: that attitude will always come back to bite you.