It’s Not You, It’s Your Religion
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Whether you realize it or not, your faith is working in the background of your everyday life.
Many people want their faith to be easy because their normal day to day is not. They want someone to step up to the pulpit, and tell them all the things they want to hear. Some people don’t want to hear at all, and those people either want social standing or to have a good program for the kids.
I can’t be angry at those people. Deception is extremely alluring. It can trick almost everyone to turn on their neighbor.
I’ve said this before, and it stands repeating time and time again- When anger is replaced with sadness, that’s the beginning of the Christian journey.
Right now the Covid cases per 100k in Paulding is 575. The threshold where Covid is spreading wild in a community is 200. We are 375 per 100k residents above that number. It gets worse.
When I counted up two weeks worth of reported numbers for Paulding County Schools, and factored in the teachers, that number is around 2608 per 100k. If you need a moment to process that number, I understand. I did too.
Let me explain my math. Skip this paragraph if it hurts your head. Just know student pop with general teacher population is 31,097. Reported cases over the past two weeks in Paulding County Schools are 811. To figure out what the case rate would be per 100k (which helps with transmission rate) multiply case number by 100k, divide by population. If you want to test this out, go to the Ga DPH Covid side and use their numbers and case rates to try it out on a few counties.
The people who are getting desperately ill are by and large, not the vaccinated. They are people who called this whole event a hoax last year. They are the ones who equated it to the flu or a bad cold. They are the people who screamed about personal rights regarding masks.
I can’t feel comeuppance for these people. I can’t. Some of these people are going to die. It won’t be their faith that saves them; it will be their faith that kills them. Knowing that breaks my heart. God is bigger and deeper than their penny arcade faith. A relationship in Christ is worth more than a simple statement of faith. A statement of faith does not take away personal accountability; or allow you to act like an ass to your neighbor. While that’s a crude way to put it, it’s feel-good, easy-choice religion that created this mess. It’s a religion that was so hyper-focused on the self at the cost of the other. All of these screams Dollar Store Shepherds leading the flock in bad faith practices.
From me: I’m so sorry for your loss. Whether you’ve already experienced that loss, or you are going to soon. You deserve better.
Suicide and Abuse: Ravi Zacharias
Trigger warning for suicide and thoughts leading to suicide.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Over the past two weeks I have compared Zacharias’ $40 words to putting lipstick on a pig, have pointed to writings that show him glorifying the abuse of women, and said he was a victim that was turned into an abuser by not working on mending his brokenness. (Brokenness breaks, always.)
This week, I’m going to delve into a very problematic area. I want to express from qualifiers before I start, so we are clear from the beginning:
Ravi Zacharias’ suicide attempt
Like I’ve already written, anytime anyone says they are going to kill themselves, we need to take that statement seriously. Zacharias lived in an age where mental health was ignored. More than that, he solidified himself in a culture that downright shunned men who admitted to needing mental help. That makes Zacharias’ stories around suicide incredibly troubling. Hopefully, I’ll help the reader know how to handle situations when brokenness is used to abuse others.
Zacharias’ story should always be paired with when he shared the story. In April of 2013 he shared with Christianity Today his story of attempted suicide.He was 67 years old when he told the story, and 17 when he said the event happened.
As an adult, he would use suicide as a form of keeping power. As Lori Anne Thompson stated, he threatened to commit suicide if she came out with how he sexually abused her.
I’m going to go in two directions here. Both are extremely difficult for me to write. To give you an idea, this one paragraph took three days from start to finish. I want to look at the consequences of Ravi Zacharias’ testimony as both factual, and made up, all while treating the story like truth in both cases. It is my hope, by doing this, you will pick up some first aid tips for mental health. (Because when hearing about sexual assault, you are a first responder.)
It was false:
His parents, if they were still alive, would have been between 85-95, depending on how old they were when he was born. Zacharias himself did not get married until he was 26, and then had kids even later. It is very possible he waited until their death so any leftover loose ends wouldn’t ruin his testimony.
Except, what about younger adults who knew his parents? Wouldn’t they be able to verify or speak to the falseness of his narrative? Surely the parents of the man who was the next C.S. Lewis would be questioned about their son at private gatherings and whatnot. This is where a cleverly placed line in the Christianity Today article raised red flags, “The details are hazy, and I never knew if the servant hid the evidence of my attempt; my parents and I never discussed why I was lying there in the hospital.”
This line very conveniently covers up any remaining loose ends while leaving a big gaping hole! It allows the friends of his parents to believe, or assume, they had no idea about the suicide, so that’s why his parents never acted in a way that suggested they did. Only, why is this line here aside from covering over what was never true? Is it not questionable that your parents decide to act like you never took your life, and you just use that as an aside to your testimony?! I would have been heartbroken had I been hospitalized due to personal choices, and they just continued like it was nothing. Also, he was taken to a hospital, and the hospital didn’t tell his parents why?! Even if the hospital didn’t believe it was a suicide attempt, they would need to know from someone that he ingested poison so they could treat him properly. The parents would know somehow.
I would NEVER follow this line of thinking if someone came to me with this story. I hate myself that his blatant lying has even made me consider it. No! Believe it’s not true! It’s the one area where almost all would be criticized for even giving the suggestion of criticism. Yet, we must look critically at this because if he were lying, that means he knew the power of that lie, and was willing to take someone else’s brokenness to hold sexual control of her. In this respect, he didn’t just turn into a villain from his brokenness; he became a monster!
It was true:
If the story were true, something appeared to have changed in that event that added to Zacharias’ brokenness. Perhaps, and I’m reaching here, painting between chasms of lines, his father suddenly backed off of Zacharias. It would have taught him suicide was a method to regain power and control.
This also means, by 2017, when he told Thompson he was going to kill himself if she spoke, he was still deeply broken. This, all by itself, is a great reason why he was not supposed to be leading. He was clearly not a fully operational person, and that brokenness would affect everything around him, including his writings.
Now, here’s where I need to slow down and read every word I write: Suicide was weaponized to keep control; it is not Thompson’s responsibility to fix the problem. The fact that her story wasn’t treated with authenticity meant brokenness was allowed to continue to break. That’s not on her. That’s on all of us. Yes, even you and me, who are not part of RZIM. We are the Body of Christ, and if part of the Body fails, we all fail.
By just believing Zacharias’ made up story without any follow through, a great disservice was done to everyone. The moment both sexual assault and suicide was mentioned, both of those issues should have seen immediate action. There is an unhealthy worship of male leadership that is spiritually sending shockwaves through the Church. God does not fail, but any person who accepts the mantle can completely and utterly fail. That is not a statement of God’s power, but humanity’s frailty. Nor should those leaders remain in power.
What to do as a first responder
Real quick: the biggest action we can take for Ravi Zacharias is to help Thompson lift the gag order so she can tell the whole story.
How to act as a mental health first aid responder when someone expresses suicidal thoughts:
How to help:
Consider being a Mental Health First Aid Responder. There are trainings all over the United States. Knowing how to act in these situations are vital to a healthy community as a whole.
Who was Ravi Zacharias? Early life.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
To put it bluntly, I think he was a charlatan, propped up by Christians who wanted to hear they are doing the right thing, instead of the truth. He became one of the biggest false prophets in a world where prophecy had died. Before all you non-readers rake me over the coals, just remember the Israelites were constantly turning to Baal and other Gods to get the answers they wanted. The voice of God brought judgement upon Zacharais and you ignored it because the voice was female. Now I’m getting ahead of myself.
This is a story of a master of lies, and an abuser of women. To say anything else would cover over something that has no right to be covered over.
Ravi Zacharias was born in March of 1945, in India. Being new to his readings, I was under the impression he was born Hindu. This is where the deception starts. There was a hesitancy to talk too much about his Anglican upbringing. He allowed the reader/listener to draw their own conclusions unless he was pushed into admitting the truth. I read through Can Man Live Without God, and came away believing he was born Hindu. Did he say he was born Hindu? No. It was a very clever deception, but one that took away some of his power when realized, which was probably why he did it. Once he was fully established as a leader among Christians, it became more appealing to mention his family was Anglican.
(Speaking from personal experience, I don’t share my story as readily online as I could, but pieces of it exist in places. There are people who have heard it, and could vouch for it. There are hints to it in my writing. I’ve also openly expressed why I don’t share it. I know how woundedness wounds others, and it’s out of care for others in my story I refrain.)
Zacharias’, proven a liar, shared his childhood. Because he willfully lied about degrees, and later adult sexual assault, what I’m going to share should be viewed with both a sceptics eyes, and God’s grace.
In 2002, Jesus Among Other Gods was published. In chapter one he recounts a story where he willfully skipped school. He admits to doing this on more than one occasion. This time, he was caught. His father was apparently furious, and rightfully so. Government education in India is available, but private education was/is better. As a parent, I couldn’t imagine how furious I’d be for my child to throw away something so precious as a good education when such a thing was such a precious resource. I’m sure this compounded with the cultural idea that all children should seek a professional degree.
He then suggests that if his mother didn’t step in, his father would have seriously hurt him with the “thrashing” he received. I believe this. I believe this, because it explains so much. This kid was raised by a parent who wanted the best for his child, and didn’t know how to react when his time and money was wasted. This is Zacharias’ trauma, and he doesn’t hide it. He just never wanted to face it.
Speaking from experience, living through childhood trauma my first step to moving on was believing it all happened for a reason, and clinging to the trauma like it was something good. The next step was realizing the opposite. People who move from victimhood to survivor are those who then see how that trauma has kept them from being a whole healthy person, then they seek wholeness. For me, this movement from victim to survivor happened in Seminary. I can name the class, and the feeling of knowing I was mentally headed towards a landscape where I could eventually help others too. Now, I’m on the survivor’s path, and will hopefully be for the rest of my life.
Zacharias never moved past the glorification of his woundedness, and therefore, his woundedness remained his whole life. Not working through woundedness has devastating consequences. Instead of moving from victim to survivor, he moved from victim to abuser. Brokenness breaks- always! His father was trying to get him to do the right thing in the wrong way. It’s ironic that he spent his whole career telling others there was one truth, when his un-worked through brokenness kept his truth buried.
Once you realize this about Zacharias, his writings begin to lose their luster. He was a broken child not wanting to deal with the consequence of being wrong; not seeing the goodness in correction, because his correction was not done correctly.
This is what true Grace looks like. You seek justice, not because you want to burn it all down, but because you want to take out what is broken and restore what can be redeemed. You mourn the death of the abuser. First because there’s a hidden victim in the horror and destruction, and that victim never found healing. Second, because not correctly fixing the problem will destroy lives in the long run. If you do not listen to the lamenting voice of God, the wrath of God will eventually follow. It’s not because God wants to destroy, but God’s creation will always trump our brokenness and ability to subvert that very same creation.
That’s where I’m going to end today. As you can see, I’m trying to make sense of all the information I’ve been digging up, and I also want to process it all. I’ve now written a review on a book, and looked at his early life. I want to delve into his suicide attempt next week and his use of suicide as a source of control as an adult. Thank you for your patience. As I vomit it out here (and that's what this feels like to me), I'm beginning to see how a full length video manifests itself after the fact. I'm beginning to storyboard, so it's actually coming together.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Slow and steady wins the race. That’s been my new mantra. Maybe everything is moving like refrigerated syrup, but it’s moving.
And compared to a few years ago, we’re in the races!
I took a two week hiatus from the writing side of everything to work on the video side. My goal was to have three videos recorded and published before the end of Summer break. Today marks the first week of school in my district. How’d I do?
Not a single video.
Some of it is the tremendous amount of data.
I honestly didn’t think I’d find anything reading Ravi Zacharias’ book, Does Man Need God to Live. I just thought it would be a straightforward apologetics book. Instead, it’s filled with examples that should have been warning signals. It also explains this completely off base movement to set up the atheist as the villian, years in the making.
Let me lay it down for you this week:
God is Good… as in, it feels good. Makes us happy.
Him: In the book, he sets up this argument that there is one truth, and the truth is Jesus, and Jesus is good. This goodness is more of the illusion of acting good. This is goodness as in a feeling, or a “satisfaction.”
Me: This is, first and foremost, bad theology. There are multiple locations within the Bible where Jesus tells the Disciples that the future wasn’t going to be “good,” but it was going to be right. I think Ginny Owens summed it up perfectly, “But you never said it would be easy, you only said we’d never go alone.” Easy feels good, at least at first. Your muscles feel good because the workout was easy. That doesn’t mean the workout was good for your body, only that it felt good. (And feeling good while also being good can begin to feel like the same time after you get through the workout feeling bad for a few months.)
Him: He also lays out that Jesus took on all the pain and suffering for the world, so we wouldn’t have to. If that were the case, someone should have informed the Apostles who all died horrific deaths following Jesus. Someone should have informed the Germans and maybe millions of Jews would have been spared. Someone should have told the warlords in Africa, or Genghis Kahn in China. Perhaps the genocides could have been avoided all together if they only knew. And, as snarky as I’m being, the answer to this little rant would have been “Yes, that would have stopped those events in their tracks!” According to Zacharias, a lack of faith turns people into tyrants. He does admit that Christians have their own pile of atrocities, but the atheist pile is worse.
Me: Before I really rip into this idea, he doesn’t back this published book with any data or statistics. He simply states it as fact and moves on. Even when I use quotes, or links in my (tiny, not worth a lick) blog, I still separate my thoughts with “I believe.” Those are important words. I might have spent the entire blog linking various articles to hold up my belief, but it will still be something that belongs to me and my thought process. Zacharias has no problem throwing out beliefs in a categorical way.
Also Me: It is bad theology to villainize those who are not Christian. Matthew 28:19-20 reads:
“19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Disciples are not those who automatically know Jesus Christ. Disciples are learners. Going back to easy/good. It is easy to see anyone who doesn’t believe as the villain, and see oneself as the hero. That doesn’t make it good.
Glorifying Sacrifice in Women
Many many years ago a colleague or professor tore apart The Giving Tree. At first, this set me on edge because I grew up reading that book, and loved all things Shel Silverstein. As this person continued, I realized they were right. The boy calls on the female tree to sacrifice to nothingness, while the boy is never satisfied. It’s a horrific tale of abuse.
There are some who have read Christ as the tree, and in that light we should read ourselves as the boy. In that light, it’s a horrific view of how we take advantage of God. We should leave the book wanting to be better than the boy.
Him: I bring this story up, because at face value, it appears Zacharias has nothing but respect for women. He practically worships them. It’s in that worship he is scary. He tells this Hindu story of a son who loves a woman, and the woman keeps asking for more and more until he asks for the mother’s heart. The son does it, and murders his mom. As he takes the heart to the woman, he trips, and the heart goes flying across the ground. The heart cries out, “Son, are you alright.”
This is a version of The Giving Tree. We are to look at this story as a mother’s sacrificial love, and ultimately Christ’s love.
Never does he condemn the son, who took everything from his own mother.
Me: Putting all sacrificial love on females is a way to justify abuse. For generations women are just supposed to take it, because their motherly instinct meant they were going to sacrifice more for their children. We condemned them naming their abuse, because that meant they were not accepting the Godly sacrifice.
Hottake: When someone doesn’t choose to sacrifice, that’s called abuse. When someone is forced to sacrifice, that too is called abuse. When the system is set up to do nothing but force you to sacrifice, guess what friends, that’s abuse. Zacharias glorified abuse.
Him: Zacharias included women in his book. It is vital to realize, when he referenced a female writer it was because she was quoting a male writer, or telling a male centered story. When he thanked a woman at the beginning of the book, it’s because of all the hard work she did for him.
Also Him: He did use masculine pronouns, and I didn’t think much of it (the book was written in the 90’s) until on one page he talked about his daughter, and switched for one pronoun to “he or she.”
Me: I see, time and time again, men in leadership choosing women who will help the man or look up to him. This is confused by men and women as the man treating women as equals. This is not equality, it’s a monarchy. When a true feminine equal is placed next to that man, time and time again I’ve seen the man sics his women helpers on the equal, especially when calling out sexism. Zacharias liked women who liked him. They were followers, not equals. It was easy to hide, because in the mid-90’s there were no substantial women theologians. When you’ve been raised up like Yertle the Turtle, you are going to push people down, and it becomes very easy to have no equals. It might sound backwards, but it’s easier to hide your views on equality, when you put everyone below you, and everyone allows you to do it.
Also me: Every time I go to work on this, I get stuck. It’s not because I have too little to work with. It’s because the evidence to abuse is so damning I feel overwhelmed. It goes back decades, to way before Lori Anne Thompson. It’s our fault this existed.