Three Sundays ago, after church, I drove up to Alpharetta to meet with Anurag Sharma. Sharma was, along with his friend Ravi Zacharias, the co-owner of Jivan Wellness, the now infamous spa where the world-famous apologist has been accused (by multiple witnesses) of asking for “happy endings” and sexual intercourse. The story of Jivan Spa came as a shock to some but not those who believed the account of Lori Anne Thompson. Having been bound by a nondisclosure agreement, Thompson can’t provide a lot of details of her cyber affair with Zacharias but what is clear to any reasonable observer is that Thompson was groomed by the older, charismatic “man of God” for an exploitative sexual relationship. Having read an open letter penned by Lori Anne and her husband and published by Julie Roys tonight, I am convinced that Lori Anne is not the only woman who was approached this way by Ravi Zacharias. Human depravity, basic statistics, and my experience with disgraced evangelist Clayton Jennings (and what little I know about massage parlors) tell me that Lori Anne is probably not the only woman Ravi solicited nude photos and sex from over his many years of popular ministry and world travels. I am left wondering how many more women there are out there who remain silent, bound by shame or a nondisclosure agreement. I am also left wondering how many witnesses and confidants remain silent as well. Consider the case of Anurag Sharma. When I pressed him for further details of his dealings with Ravi his response was “I plead the fifth”. Now, I don’t think Anurag meant to imply that he did anything wrong himself (because I clarified it with him), he only meant to say that he didn’t want to say anything other than what he had already let slip to Steve Baughman (the atheist attorney and banjo enthusiast who first exposed Zacharias for what he truly was to the public).
Silence. Surely it is not as bad as the offense itself. But can it be excusable. As a I left Alpharetta and a silent Sharma I was left thinking about another investigation in the same city where I was left with few answers. Last year, I published two articles about sexual abuse in the home of a prominent SBC leader. They were entitled “Sexual Abuse in an SBC Leader’s Home? I Need More Information” and “Sexual Abuse in an SBC Leader’s Home? More Details Released.” The articles were written in the response to the following letter received by Pulpit & Pen.
As the author of the letter encouraged me to do, I investigated. I tracked down the name of the girl, her brother and the school, Covenant Christian Academy in Cumming, Georgia. I was unable to speak with any teacher or student at the school, including the alleged victim. I tracked down the brother, who had become an athlete at Truett-McConnel University (a local Baptist school) but he did not respond to my attempts to contact him. An uncle, whom I already knew, told me that the allegations weren’t true…but I think they are. The more I learn about the SBC leader in question (and his associates) the more believable this letter gets to me. Outside of his family, the man in question has been involved in lawsuits, accused of underhanded dealing, and caught in documented lies. I suspect the Southern Baptist trustees who have oversight of him are just as compromised and partial as those RZIM trustees who were supposed to be keeping and eye on Ravi Zacaharias.
Last week I talked to another Christian writer who has done much reporting on the scandals, cover-ups, and outright ungodliness that has been perpetrated in what is sometimes called “big Eva.” We lamented the stories we “knew” were true but simply couldn’t publish because of the standards of journalism. The unnamed teacher and the silent Sharma, if only the witnesses would speak.
I am convinced of two things.
- Many of the men who guide the Southern Baptist Convention and other large evangelical organizations are money-driven, power-hungry, self-serving, and crooked.
- Many of the insiders who have been witnesses to #1 are convinced that the church is better of if nobody knows just how wicked the men who are driving the train are.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is that God became man and dwelt among us. He died for our sins on the cross. His blood paid our debt. Through the risen Lord Jesus we can be reconciled to God the Father and have eternal life. Somehow, things have been pointed away from Jesus and his work and towards the schemes and industries of the vision-casting mega-men in the church business. Are we really protecting Jesus by protecting the reputations of the men who pretend to serve in His name? Shouldn’t we first clean our own house? And what of these men, like Ravi Zacharias. He is dead and can never be called to repentance. Shouldn’t we be calling men like Ravi Zacharias and the SBC leader to repentance, if only for their own good?
Instead, silent people sit back as they gobble up more and more money and power. Stop it. Stop it by stopping the silence.
I await your emails from Alpharetta, especially yours Mr. SBC megaman. You know who you are. If it’s not true, you can deny it. If it is, your silence speaks volumes.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
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