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Saints Informed by Science

Dr Franziska Kohlt

Since the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, church responses have sought guidance in scripture and church history, invoking multiple framings of the novel coronavirus: punishment, a test, satanic temptation, a lesson in which isolation becomes the essence of the Passion, a war for the chosen people to fight – narratives that personify the virus in a conditional moral and spiritual framework, in which Religion has a performative role, as this paper will show. However, these narrative patterns have been just as commonly utilised outside religious circles, in which they have a long history.

This paper will, first, provide a structured overview of these narratives’ use in religious, scientific and political journalism. A case study on the use of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘war’ narrative, will, secondly, suggest in more detail the functions and pitfalls of this rhetoric. Finally, a comparison with how these same narratives operated, historically, in the highly influential ‘Cholera Sermons’ of Charles Kingsley. Thus, the paper will show productive narrative techniques in action, crystallising techniques for faith communities to enable them to communicate productively, and with confidence, in a scientific and social crisis.

 

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