Guest post by Steve Baughman
“My question is simple. If he lies about this, what else does he lie about?” – Dee Parsons on Ravi Zacharias’s credential fraud, published at The Wartburg Watch on October 2, 2015, (five years before Vince and Jo Vitale admitted something was amiss with Ravi.)
Am I the only one bothered by the use of “failure” language in the rush of mea culpas that we now see bursting from the bowels of evangelical Christianity as Ravi Zacharias’s empire goes the way of the Titanic? The latest comes from Vince and Jo Vitale, who invoke “failure” or its cognates over a dozen times in their “Personal Confession” of February 23, 2021
Vince and Jo Vitalre were not failures. They were Christian apologetics success stories. Vince rose to become the Regional Director of RZIM USA. Jo was Dean of Studies at the Zacharias Institute. Yet there is no hint whatsoever in the Vitale Confession that professional ambition had anything to do with the conduct for which they now are “so very, very sorry.”
The Vitale defense has apparently chosen a different tact. With the Ravi Zacharias guilty verdict rendered and RZIM leaders now awaiting reputational sentencing, the Vitales plead ignorance. “We were in a situation that we did not have the learning and understanding to handle well.” We “completely and utterly failed to see” that Ravi was a fraud and a sex abuser. So hidden from the Vitale eyes was the evidence of Ravi’s deceptions that “we have been asking God to search our hearts, to reveal to us the ways in which we personally have failed.”
The Vitales remind me of the pastor who throws the collection plate up to the rafters every Sunday and asks God to take His share, and the pastor keeps the rest. It looks good. And, if you think your flock is that dumb, it is good. And the Vitales may actually pull this off.
But those who have read Luke 15 may recall that The Prodigal Son didn’t say “Dear Dad, please reveal to me the ways in which I have personally failed.” That’s damage control, not repentance. Had the Vitales chosen real repentance they might have confessed a little more like this:
“Despite our sincere love of God, we are, and we remain, professionally ambitious. There was prestige, power, money, honor from our colleagues, pride from our parents, and much more, in those books Vince co-authored with Ravi and in Jo being Dean at ‘the Institute.’ We made a calculated decision to overlook Ravi’s credential fraud and the very real possibility that he was a sexual predator. We did this because our careers and our egos were too important to sacrifice for principle. Indeed, our careers in Christian ministry were even more important than stopping the vicious defamatory whipping our boss continued administering to Lori Anne Thompson until the day he died. We hereby resign our RZIM positions effective immediately and undertake a period of solitary prayer and self-reflection as we seek God’s forgiveness and His guidance for our futures.”
That might get them a table at God’s banquet. But it won’t help them find their next well-paying Christian apologetics gig. Priorities, Vitales. Priorities.
Steve Baughman is a San Francisco area lawyer and musician and the author of Cover-Up in the Kingdon: Phone Sex, lies, and God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias.