The Impact of COVID-19 and Racism on Faith at Work

The purpose of this study (which is a supplement to our ongoing “Faith at Work: An Empirical Study” project) is to examine the impact of two urgent pandemics – COVID-19 and racism – on the relationship between faith and work for U.S. adults. Specifically, we will examine how these separate, yet related, pandemics are affecting how faith may be a resource for workers, businesses, and churches in times of crisis.

The global health pandemic of COVID-19 has massively disrupted the lives and livelihoods of workers around the globe. With businesses closing, unemployment rates skyrocketing, and communities and individuals experiencing economic hardships, the many implications of the COVID-19 virus have become central to our ongoing examinations of faith at work. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed a beaming spotlight on the grave racial and ethnic disparities that persist in systems of health and employment, contributing to protests and conversations about racism (specifically anti-Blackness) in this country and globally. While health disparities are complex, there is no doubt that decades of systemic discrimination against Black Americans has moderated the relationships among race, employment, and health outcomes. Further, the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement has been so pervasive that one would be hard-pressed to find an employer or organization that has not been impacted by its outcry.

Through the study, we will conduct a new population survey of at least 1,000 adults on the ways that COVID-19 and conversations (and actions) centered around racism and racial justice (particularly anti-Blackness) are influencing the way people think about and integrate their faith at work. Additionally, we will collect 50 in-depth interviews to explore the nuanced implications – including the social, economic and spiritual realities – of these pandemics in the lives of Christian workers and the faith leaders who work and serve among them, with a particular focus on the lives of Black and brown workers. In addition to the generation of survey and interview data, outputs from this project will include three academic articles focused on COVID-19 and/or racism, curriculum materials integrated into our existing curriculum that address racism and anti-Blackness as related to faith at work, and the inclusion of findings in the “Faith at Work” books (currently under development), allowing us to generate and share a more complete view of faith at work in the U.S.