The recent news of yet another noted leader in the evangelical world is making the news for revelations of sexual misconduct. Instead of explaining the details, here is an article outlining the allegations against apologist and teacher, Ravi Zacharias.
I am saddened by this news, but I am not surprised.
As one who refers to himself as a recovering evangelical, this is an area of high interest to me. I grew up attending an evangelical church in my formative years in the 70’s and 80’s. I studied at and hold a degree from an evangelical seminary. This is my heritage and I cannot deny or disown it. It has influenced and shaped me.
I use the term recovering to describe my faith journey much like any addict who is getting over an unhealthy relationship with something that holds power over them. In my case, it was not drugs or alcohol. Instead, I was bound to a system of thinking.
This system that I have come to reject was less about the ideas and tenants of the faith that I still hold dear to this day. It was more about the spirit that encompassed these ideas.
I’m talking about certainty and control.
As a young evangelical, I was trained in how to share my faith with others who did not believe like I did. This training was built around being prepared with the right answers for any question that I would encounter. The oft quoted scripture used to defend was this:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Ravi Zacharias was at the top of the pyramid when it came to finding those answers.
He would appear on college campuses for debates with well-known atheists. As young evangelicals, we would attend these meetings much like a sporting match, hoping for a knockout blow from our champ against the opponent. There would even be cheers when we felt like he delivered a point-scoring jab.
We all wanted to be on the winning side.
But over time, as I began to relate more and more to people who did not think like me, I grew more disillusioned with this competitive metaphor to describe my faith. I had started making new friends who were muslim or hindu, athiest or gay. I did not like the notion of going to battle against them to prove myself right. There had to be a better way.
As an intuitive person inclined toward feeling deep emotion and instinct, I realized I had been ignoring my own heart as an evangelical. I was taught to distrust my heart and emotions for they were considered evil and unreliable. Feelings were tertiary to facts, knowledge and reason. These were the engines to which I was instructed to pull the train.
As I trusted my heart, I saw this dichotomy more clearly. If I ignore my heart, I ignore my story. And if I ignore my story, I miss everything in it, especially the dark parts.
I slowly started to toss overboard this flotsam and jetsam. I did not throw my faith into Davy Jones locker, but I did gladly watch the system of certainty and control settle to the bottom.
Mr Zacharias fulfilled the teachings of Jesus in these words
Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Whatever means I use to protect myself will eventually be my demise and cause my downfall. If I guard my faith by a rigid system of certainly and control, what else am I guarding?
I like the way I live and believe now. I enjoy the freedom in it. I don’t have to convince you to think like me. I never had that need for control anyway, so why would I want to control how you think?
I’d much rather our friendship be based on curiosity than control.
Stories like Mr Zacharias will continue to emerge as long as leaders like this refuse to own their entire story. Not just the logical parts. Not just the reasonable parts. Not just in the rational thinking.
The whole story.