(RNS) — A new study examining Americans’ response to COVID-19 shows that with the exception of white evangelicals, a majority of Americans are not comfortable returning to in-person religious services.
The results of the survey suggest that despite political pressure to reopen houses of worship — from President Donald Trump as well as leading conservative Christians and religious liberty advocates — Americans aren’t quite ready to take a seat in a sanctuary.
The survey from the American Enterprise Institute showed that 64% of Americans said they were “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” attending in-person worship. Even among those who reported their congregations offered in-person worship in the past week, 56% of respondents said they chose not to go.
“We’re seeing among lay people a significant amount of discomfort in going back to formal in-person religious practices,” said Daniel Cox, a research fellow at AEI who led the study. “People are equivocating and uncertain about whether they feel comfortable attending.”
The study, conducted in late May and early June among 3,504 Americans, comes amid ongoing, politically charged campaigns to reopen.
Okay - I gotta go there! I think these statistics are really interesting.
The only religious group comfortable with church reopenings was white evangelicals — strong partisan supporters of the Republican Party and Trump.
Sixty-one percent of white evangelical respondents said they were “very comfortable” (34%) or “somewhat comfortable” (27%) with in-person worship services at their church. (Among them, men were far more comfortable than women — with 71% of white evangelical men saying they would be at least somewhat comfortable attending in-person worship services compared with 51% of white evangelical women.)
By comparison, 36% of white mainline Protestants, 32% of Black Protestants and 39% of white Catholics said the same. (Among major non-Christian religions, 26% said they would be comfortable returning to in-person worship services.) --- Some 54% of Americans said life in the United States will not return to normal until 2021. They expressed hesitation not only with worship services but said they would be equally uncomfortable attending sporting events, eating out at a restaurant or going to a movie theater.
Only 45% said they would feel comfortable going to their polling place to vote.
I'm undecided on what skews my opinions - being an evangelical; living in SW Oklahoma where the # of positive cases has been low; a perception of only a low level of fear among my fellow local Okies, or if it's something else. Whatever it is, I'll keep my opinions to myself.
Thanks for posting this article!
Psalm 121:1-2 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
I can't help noticing that the Christian denominations that are classed as evangelical are also the ones most likely to hold to traditional conservative beliefs and morals with a primary focus on faith and reliance on God through Christ, whereas most of the mainline denominations tend to be much more liberal in their theology with an emphasis on social justice and "seeker friendliness" with little to no emphasis on salvation and being born again.
If being "good people" in this life is the end all and be all of your "Christianity" I can see where this virus (or at least the media's fear mongering version of it) could be truly terrifying.
For my part, I don't believe that the virus is anywhere near as bad as it is being presented as, but even if it is I'm not afraid of it because I know where my loved ones and I are going after this life is over.
Edit to add: I just wanted to be clear that my negative comments about most of the mainstream denominations were intended to refer to those denominations as a whole and not to all of the individual people in them. I have no doubt that even the most liberal and debased denominations of Christianity have some genuine God loving believers among them. Sadly, there are many places these days where the liberal churches are the only (or almost only) ones available for in person fellowship.