Far-right evangelical Robert Jeffress slammed for hold large gathering on March 15 despite widespread calls for social distancing

Far-right evangelical Robert Jeffress slammed for hold large gathering on March 15 despite widespread calls for social distancing
Image by Gage Skidmore

By mid-March, many Americans recognized the importance of social distancing. But far-right evangelist Robert Jeffress wasn’t one of them. And on Sunday, March 15, according to Politico’s Michael J. Mooney, Jeffress insisted on holding a large gathering at the First Baptist Church in Dallas despite all the dire warnings against large gatherings.

On March 15, Mooney explains, “Most of the country was already being reminded to stay at home, to practice social distancing, to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak — which President Donald Trump, the man Jeffress supports at every turn, had just declared a national emergency. Every major sports league had suspended play. The City of Dallas had banned gathering over 500 people and canceled its beloved St. Patrick’s Day parade and party, scheduled for the same weekend. Most ministers, rabbis and imams in North Texas had decided it was safer to share the faith on camera rather than in person. But not Jeffress.”

Jeffress’ Dallas-based megachurch has 13,000 members. And Mooney notes that when he held the March 15 gathering, Jeffress was bombarded with criticism for it.

“Some messages thanked the church,” Mooney observes, “but the vast majority said things like ‘blood will be on your hands’ and ‘criminally negligent’ and ‘this is foolishness.’”

Subsequently, Jeffress was interviewed by Mooney and defended his decision to go through with the March 15 gathering.

“We made the best decision we could make at that point in time,” Jeffress told Mooney. “This is a very real threat that we need to take seriously, but the Bible has a great balance between faith and practicality.”

When Mooney interviewed Jeffress on Thursday, March 19, the evangelist said that he had decided that there wouldn’t be a gathering on Sunday, March 22 — and that he would be giving his sermon without a live audience.

“This will be the first time in the 152-year history of First Baptist Church of Dallas that we will not meet,” Jeffress told Mooney. The pastor went on to say, “It’s very eerie, but I think we have a responsibility not only for the safety of our members, but for the citizens of Dallas to do our part in trying to keep our city safe.”

As of Monday morning, March 23, the coronavirus pandemic had killed more than 15,400 people worldwide, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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