Full disclosure: Dan Darling is a friend of mine. We were colleagues for a couple years. Dan has helped my career and my writing, and been nothing other than a helpful, kind person in my presence. I won’t pretend to be objective about the news that National Religious Broadcasters fired him for telling Joe Scarborough that Christians should consider getting vaccinated. I think it’s a deplorable look for NRB and a terrible turn for a talented, compassionate communicator.
But even if I didn’t think highly of Dan, even if I wasn’t inclined to mistrust NRB’s decision, and even if I thought people should not get vaccinated, I still would be asking myself: Does American conservatism, especially Christian conservatism, really have nothing better to do than police the vaccine debate?
In the Book of Common Prayer, the congregation prayer of confession includes sins of omission and sins of commission. “Omission” refers to the good things that we ought to have done but did not, and “commission” refers to the bad things we ought not do but have done. In most of my evangelical upbringing, 99% of the time the word “sin” meant “sin of commission.” It wasn’t until I was older that the importance of goodness left undone was impressed on me. And it was until somewhat recently that I had an important realization:
Sins of commission are often downstream from sins of omission. In the absence of acts of virtue, acts of vice will fill the void.
So I’d like to expand this concept to American religious conservatism as a whole. When honest, thoughtful, Christlike people get fired by organizations that purport to want honest, thoughtful, Christlike people, that’s a sin of commission. Thus I ask, what should this organization should have been doing when it decided to do this instead?
Maybe there’s a clue here.
The middle name mentioned in this NRB-hosted event is Charlie Kirk, a right-wing pundit whom Jerry Falwell Jr. recruited to build a research center Liberty University, before Kirk starting advertising Judeo-Christian values with bikini-clad women and Falwell was pushed out for…a lot of weird things. While NRB is preparing to host Kirk, they are ousting Dan Darling. In the absence of a real moral compass, ridiculous and hypocritical decisions fill the void.
I say what I’ve said before: There’s no financial future within popular American conservatism for having genuinely Christian convictions. The populist conservative movement is adrift in sins of omission, with nothing serious to say about character, the family, transcendent ethics, and the value of all human life. Now the sins of commission are emerging: punishing thinkers who tip over the cash cows of outgroup animus and tribal gainsaying, punishing them not for sins but for virtues.
Does conservatism really have no greater ambitions than this? Are we Charlie Kirk, Dinesh D’Souza, and Tomi Lahren all the way down? Is it media hegemony at all costs? What would we do if not this? Really…what would we do?
Well, we might do more of the stuff Dan Darling does.