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.