Efforts across the US to stop the spread of the coronavirus have played a dramatic role in changing people’s work, school and public gatherings over the past several weeks. And in response, a majority of Americans have prayed for the end of the pandemic, according to a poll from the Pew Research Centre.
According to the survey, published on Monday, evangelical Christians are among the most likely to say that they have prayed for an end to the virus, with 82 per cent saying they’ve done so. Among religious “nones” – those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” – 36 per cent say they have prayed about the virus. And 15 per cent of those who generally seldom or never pray say they have prayed for an end to the crisis.
Following previous survey patterns about religious practices, more women than men say they prayed for an end to the spread of the coronavirus, and more black respondents than white and Hispanic respondents said the same thing. Older people are more likely to say they’ve prayed for an end to the pandemic, and more Republicans than Democrats have prayed about the outbreak.
The survey also shows that the outbreak has changed the religious attendance habits of American adults, at least while US officials, including Donald Trump, have discouraged public gatherings of more than 10 people.
Among people who said in a previous survey that they generally attend religious services at least once or twice a month, about 59 per cent now say they have attended less often recently as a result of the outbreak.
However, a similar share of 57 per cent say they have watched religious services online or on TV instead of in person.
Of Americans who attend church at least monthly, 40 per cent say that they have been attending religious services less often and that they have been watching them online or on television instead.
Nearly 20 per cent of respondents said they are attending less often but not replacing in-person attendance with watching services virtually.
Mr Trump said last week that he hoped to see “packed churches” by Easter, but days later, he extended guidelines for social distancing through the end of April. Easter is considered by most Christians to be the most important day on the church calendar, one in which churches often expect attendance and donations to surge. This year, many leaders are scrambling to pull together similar services online but without the same mass gatherings.
General activity on virtual church-related platforms has skyrocketed in recent weeks. One website that hosts virtual giving saw the number of donors double from the year before.
On 15 March, 4.7 million people watched services on Church Online Platform, according to Oklahoma-based Life.Church, which created the platform. And in its Bible app YouVersion, searches for “fear” went up by 167 per cent. It also saw large spikes in searches for “fear not”, “spirit of fear”, “do not fear” and “God has/did not give us a spirit of fear”.
The Washington Post