“Through the collection and analysis of hundreds of virtual worship service videos, this project sheds light on how the 113 largest churches in America responded to the killing of George Floyd and uprisings that followed, revealing how racism is both rebuked and reproduced in the American Church. ”
Amid the unprecedented recognition of racial injustice by white individuals and institutions sparked by the killing of George Floyd, we propose to study how America’s largest churches responded. Capitalizing on the availability of recorded virtual worship services when societal attention to racial inequality was high, we propose to analyze the services of 113 gigachurches (10,000+ members) across five weeks in Summer 2020. We will innovatively combine classic qualitative data analyses and computational text analyses. We will also conduct interviews with 30 gigachurch pastors to examine how they view their roles and what they believe they are conveying about race. Our findings will bridge a gap between (1) survey- and interview-based studies demonstrating that individuals’ racial attitudes vary by religious affiliation and race, and (2) ethnographies showing how congregations’ internal processes reproduce racism, to demonstrate widespread patterns in the communication of racial ideology in worship services that are reaching a combined audience of 1.7 million or more Americans weekly. We will examine differences by congregational affiliation and racial composition, as well as pastor race/ethnicity. Our findings will suggest strategies for the American church to avoid perpetuating racial hierarchy and encourage positive social change in their congregations and beyond.