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July 10, 2020
by Tina Arnoldi

Faith has grown during the pandemic, but will it last?

July 10, 2020 08:06 by Tina Arnoldi  [About the Author]

Photo by chris liu on UnsplashSome Americans have a stronger faith as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. In an earlier post, experts offered several reasons for this resurgence, including a need for stability, having more time to think about deeper matters, and as a response to an unknown crisis. Once the pandemic is behind us, there are mixed opinions about whether this increase in faith will last. 

Rukhsi Sharif, Ed.D., Creator and Owner of Creatifecundity, believes religious faith and spirituality will last post COVID-19. Sharif explains, “COVID-19's large-scale and severe impact, especially high rates of mortality, has left indelible changes in our society with a widespread realization of the precariousness of life. Religious faith and spirituality are the solace to strengthen people mentally and emotionally to continue to live more meaningfully and gratefully, not only during a crisis but in all times.” 

Pastor’s wife Shannon Duke also believes the reliance on faith will outlast COVID. In her church, she noticed their Facebook livestream presence has increased. “We cannot help but see changes in our lives due to this pandemic,” said Duke, “I don't think that will just disappear quickly. However, those who have re-found faith or experienced the power of faith for the first time will have to work at prioritizing faith post COVID to maintain it.”

Vickie Pierre, a Bible teacher and ministry leader concurs, saying “As more people connect with Scripture, as well as One who is bigger than them, they’ll continue to pursue their faith — not only to get through the pandemic, but also as a lifestyle once it’s over.”

Some doubt this renewal in faith will last, such as Jaimie Eckert, who has served in various ministry roles over the last ten years. She bases her prediction on what’s happened in the past. Eckert explains, “There have always been peaks and valleys of religious interest, and the peaks almost always coincide with major crises. After the crisis is solved, many return to life as usual.”  

Dr. Michelle Bengtson, a neuropsychologist, does not expect a long-term change either. This is not likely to last for many once things return to a more comfortable state,” said Bengtson, “because that’s when we tend to feel like we can handle things on our own and put God on a back burner.” James Hyslop, pastoral assistant at a Christian church, agrees. He also expects the interest in spiritual things will decline with the return to normal life.For some, it’s because it wasn’t that deep, and for others, the busyness of life occupies their thoughts.”

Whether faith will last also depends on personal philosophy. Eckert sees crisis as a time when people go through paradigm shifts in regards to their own personal spirituality. “If their newfound interest in God gets down deep enough — down to the level of fundamental beliefs, worldview orientation, foundational values, and  philosophical assumptions about life — the change is long-lasting. Churches of today are full of dedicated worshippers who are there because of critical paradigm shifts during their own times of crisis.”

Another consideration is the new normal of doing everything online, which Hysop notes. He says, “It is far easier and more comfortable to listen to a sermon or religious talk digitally than to go along to a local church physically. For it to last, it is important to join a local church which not everyone will do.” 

Ultimately, it will be awhile before a determination is made about whether an increase in faith reflects a long-term change. Eckert said, “If we attempt to measure the net increase in a quantifiable form — perhaps in church membership or attendance numbers — the net effect of the crisis, measured several years post-crisis, will show an increase. But this increase will not be as high as the first massive wave of interest suggests.”

And while there may not be long-term changes around structured religion, people may still maintain a sense of awareness about spiritual things. Spiritual coach Leia Kalani notes “People have shown that when it feels like there is no hope, you might just have to give up control to a Higher Power, in whatever form that may look like for you. There is a hope that these feelings of surrender, humble faith, and strange calmness will last beyond the virus, but as with any inspiration - it wears off unless you put some action behind it.”

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi, MA is a business consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. She has reviewed books for PsychCentral and has a portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com


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