A little over a week ago, Daniel Darling, the senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to speak about why Christians should get vaccinated against COVID. Since the NRB is a non-profit group working to promote and support Christian communicators, it seemed like a reasonable booking. Plus, Darling had written an essay promoting vaccinations for USA Today earlier in the month.
His appearance was a welcome one especially considering that many white evangelicals refuse to get their shots — whether due to their acceptance of conspiracy theories, their desire to follow right-wing pundits leading them off a cliff, their bizarre belief that vaccines are part of some larger culture war battle, or their utter lack of understanding of how vaccines work. Take your pick.
So Darling was doing something incredibly useful. He was saying his Christian faith taught him to love his neighbors, and getting vaccinated was an extension of that. He was also letting people know there was nothing about the vaccines that violated the core beliefs of their faith.
But now, because he spoke out in favor of vaccinations, Darling has been fired by the National Religious Broadcasters, a group that ostensibly promotes free speech.
They said he had violated a requirement that he remain neutral on COVID vaccines.
Let me repeat that: The National Religious Broadcasters believes there’s a legitimate debate about the efficacy of vaccines — which there isn’t — and that urging people to get vaccinated and save lives and stop the spread of COVID makes him seem too partisan.
Being neutral apparently means defending COVID. That’s how ignorant these Christians are. It’s the dumbest move I’ve ever seen from an organization with a long history of making idiotic decisions.
In 2014, the NRB kicked out a Christian publishing company for releasing a book that said homosexuality was compatible with the faith.
In 2015, the NRB gave Mike Huckabee the opportunity to speak at their annual convention, and he denounced transgender people in the most cringe-worthy way by saying that if he could pick genders (which is not how being trans works), he would totally have showered with underage girls back in high school.
In 2017, the NRB’s then-President & CEO Jerry A. Johnson signed the Nashville Statement, a lengthy declaration of faith-based bigotry.
But while we’re used to white evangelical organizations drawing a line in the sand when it comes to LGBTQ acceptance and protecting civil rights, they’re now booting one of their own employees for being on the side of not killing people with a virus.
They’re so “pro-life,” they’re going after people trying to eliminate COVID.
To his credit, Darling stuck to his statements even when he was given the option to recant — RECANT! He knew he was doing the right thing and he didn’t back down. Bob Smietana of Religion News Service reports:
Earlier this week, leaders at NRB, an international association of Christian communicators with 1,100 member organizations, told Darling his statements violated the organization’s policy of remaining neutral about COVID-19 vaccines. According to the source, Darling was given two options — recant or sign a statement admitting he had been insubordinate.
When he refused, Darling was fired and given no severance, the source told RNS.
That’s some Christian love for you right there: Either remain silent about masks and vaccines (which will lead to more infections)… or find a new job. The NRB is making it clear they won’t rest until the pandemic wins.
The irony is that the very first item on NRB’s own code of ethics states, “I will conduct my personal life, corporate ministry, and business affairs in a way that will not bring shame or reproach to the name of the Lord or the NRB or its members.” And yet the NRB has brought shame upon itself — while giving people like me a slam dunk case to make against evangelical Christianity — by punishing an employee for telling the truth, promoting science, and urging Christians to take some responsibility for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
Last night, Darling issued this statement in response to his firing:
— Ruth Graham (@publicroad) August 27, 2021
Let’s put this bluntly: More people will die because groups like the NRB treat science like it’s part of some liberal agenda.
That’s where Christianity has led them. It’s evidence of the moral bankruptcy of their faith. And when one of their own finally recognizes that — and urges Christians to do what damn near every other group (including atheists) has already done — they decide he’s the problem instead of the white evangelicals spreading the virus.
Who could’ve guessed this super-diverse team of NRB leaders chose the side of white evangelical ignorance instead of basic human decency?
It’s hardly the first time a religious ministry, faced with a simple moral decision, chose the worst possible option, but as someone who covers this stuff every day, this one’s jaw-dropping even for me.