A Time to Gather: In a Crisis, Understanding Religions
The novel Coronavirus can be fatal or asymptomatic, cause severe respiratory issues or
barely register as a cough. And the diversity in religious responses to the pandemic is
just as varied.
There is an urgent need to gather preaching data including sermons and statements, as
well as other religious responses as the pandemic spreads — not later. A time of crisis
elevates the importance of applying an intellectual and empathic approach to
understanding other points of view, no matter how different from our own.
Enter Preaching Goes Viral: Religious Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a
student engagement initiative at Miami University that aims to track and analyze the
breadth and diversity of religious responses to the pandemic. The initiative focuses on
sermons, statements and commentary in English from United States-based institutions
Deference or Defiance?
So far, religious and political differences have been far from flattened by reaction to the
COVID-19 crisis. Churches, synagogues and other religious voices are expressing
broad disparity in their sermons and public statements about where they stand between
deference and defiance. While some preachers are urging their flocks to stay home,
others say that religious duties should not be subject to what they consider secular
whims. The response is often more desperate when non-compliance with official
guidelines is characterized, rightly or wrongly, as a threat to public health.
In this cultural cacophony, two things are certain:
● Preaching is going viral. Existing theological conflicts and political partisanship
over religion are not going away; rather, they are spreading with the crisis and
could easily deepen entrenched prejudices.
● Preaching data is disappearing. More religious preaching and expression of
messaging is being disseminated online than ever before. But livestreams and
other data may not be archived, unless compiled now, and access to original
sources is crucial to iron out misunderstandings.
To capture the comprehensive breadth of religious responses to the spread of COVID-
19, Assistant Professor of Teaching within the Miami University Comparative Religion
department, Hillel Gray, and his spring 2020 semester students have launched an
innovative research initiative, Preaching Goes Viral.
Preaching Goes Viral is a student engagement initiative in which undergraduates
enrolled in Gray’s Introduction to Religion and Global Jewish Civilization
courses are compiling and cataloguing religious responses to the novel coronavirus.
Through training in critical distance, research team members are applying qualitative
research and non-judgmental analysis skills to material produced by religious voices
and institutions at a time of global public health crisis and social distress.
As an extension of Gray’s ongoing “Empathy and the Religious ‘Enemy’” project, the
initiative will build a crowdsourced database that will be made publicly available to
journalists, religious groups, scholars, and others seeking to track and understand the
religious responses to the pandemic.
We Need Your Help:
Gather and contribute content
Congregants, clergy, representatives of religious institutions and movements,
religion scholars, and members of the public can help us collect relevant material
by sharing religious responses now, while they are still readily available and
whole — before they are selected and edited in secondary sources.
Please go to our digital archive to submit:
● Adaptations in religious law or moral views
● Policy statements with theological or religious moral content
For guidance in finding and downloading religious documents and recordings,
see: Preaching Goes Viral: Guide to Submit Content
Spread the word!
Please share our invitation to participate, using #PreachingGoesViral, with
individuals or groups that might be interested in supporting the initiative. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!