A Poll on Churchgoing in the Age of COVID Shows How Obstinate Evangelicals Are April 21, 2020

A Poll on Churchgoing in the Age of COVID Shows How Obstinate Evangelicals Are

A few weeks ago, Paul A. Djupe, with two colleagues, conducted a very revealing survey of 3,100 American adults about their and their congregation’s responses to the coronavirus crisis. Djupe is an associate professor of political science at Denison University and an affiliated scholar with ​the Public Religion Research Institute. Over at Religion News Service, he published a summary of what he found.

Keep in mind that these stats were gathered from March 23-27. We don’t know how much, or if, the situation has changed since then, and whether any change is for better (more compliance with public-health directives) or worse.

Writes Djupe:

Only 12% of respondents reported that their congregations were open to in-person worship at the time of the survey.

There’s nothing “only” about that. On April 3, I charitably estimated that one in 10 churches — about 32,000 total — were still open. I guess I should belatedly raise my estimate by 6,400. From a public-health perspective, that makes the picture 20 percent worse.

But even if we assume that 88 percent of churches actually closed their doors, there’s a catch. Says Djupe:

Just because 88% of congregations are following public health officials’ advice does not mean that individuals are following suit. Our survey asked if the survey respondent was still worshipping in person even if their own congregation was closed, presumably crowding into a church that is open. This number was much higher — 20% of church attenders reported still attending in-person services.

In other words, even though the majority of churches temporarily shut down, some of the parishioners gathered anyway, in a different house of worship… that flouted the rules. That doesn’t seem compatible with rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — you know, abiding by the directives of secular authority.

Huh. Christians not following their Holy Book. I’d never heard of such a thing. You?

Resumes Djupe:

[E]vangelicals were more likely to report worshipping in person in states with no restrictions ​as well as​ states with religious restrictions. In both cases, almost a third of church-attending evangelicals reported attending worship in person.

We should never again let these people tell us they’re “pro-life” without at least laughing in their faces.

[W]e asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “If the government tells us to stop gathering in person for worship I would want my congregation to defy the order.”

What we found is that defiance is higher by some 13% among those with congregations still open and is considerably higher, by 40%, among those still worshipping in person… Non-evangelicals reject an attitude of defiance to state orders regardless of state restrictions. However, evangelicals take a traditional embattled stance.

The aggravation is hard to miss in Djupe’s final sentence:

It appears that only through viral infection do holdout congregants finally ​get the (public health) message.

Foolishness is an unpleasant quality in normal times, but a potentially murderous one during a pandemic. I’ve always endeavored to stay away from most evangelicals; it may be that, in order to stay alive, I’ll have to redouble my efforts.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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