Fear God, Not COVID-19: Is Conservative Protestantism Associated with Risky Pandemic Lifestyles?




Bartkowski, John P.
Klee, Katherine
Hill, Terrence D.
Garcia-Alexander, Ginny
Ellison, Christopher G.
Burdette, Amy M.

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Previous research has established attitudinal and behavioral health variations in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, but scholarship on the religious antecedents associated with these outcomes has only recently gained momentum. Rhetoric from some leading conservative Protestants in the U.S. has underplayed the threat of the pandemic and may have contributed to unhealthy pandemic behaviors within this faith tradition. Moreover, previous inquiries have revealed that conservative Protestantism's otherworldly focus can thwart personal and community health. We use nationally representative data to test the hypotheses that, compared with other religious groups and the non-religious, conservative Protestants will tend to (1) perceive the pandemic as less threatening and (2) engage in riskier pandemic lifestyles. These hypotheses are generally supported net of confounding factors. We conclude that affiliation with a conservative Protestant denomination can undermine public health among this faith tradition's adherents and may therefore compromise general health and well-being during a pandemic. We discuss the implications of these findings, offer recommendations for pandemic health promotion among conservative Protestants, and delineate promising avenues for future research on this important topic.



religion, faith, conservative Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist, health, disease, illness, coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, vaccine, lifestyles


Healthcare 11 (4): 582 (2023)