One of Trump’s Evangelical Defenders Wrestles With Flattening the Curve

The city used the example of a cinema in its statement. “You said that a cinema complex had thousands of people walking through it during the day, but no more than 500 gathered in different places at the same time,” said Jeffress. This was the green light of the church. (The cinemas in Dallas are now closed.)

Jeffress told me the Church also warned that anyone with symptoms and anyone over 60 with an underlying health problem “should seriously consider not coming and worshiping us online”. He said there was a record 166,000 people watching livestreams of the services.

I asked Jeffress if he was concerned about an outbreak of the virus in his church – where the membership is disproportionately older.

He thought about it for a moment.

“We made the best decision we could make at this point,” he said. “This is a very real threat that we have to take seriously. But the Bible has a good balance between belief and practicality. ”

He quoted St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “God has given us not a spirit of fear, but of strength, love and a healthy spirit.” In other words, he said, “God does not want us to be paralyzed with panic, but at the same time he expects us to practice a healthy mind in what we do.”

At the end of last Sunday’s sermon, Jeffress told the church he was not sure what the church would do next week. He announced that they would cancel the evening service and meetings on weekdays. But whether one should meet on the following Sunday – this Sunday – was still being examined.

Earlier this week, the city of Dallas closed bars and restaurants except take-out orders and told the theaters to close. On Monday, Trump proposed to limit meetings to 10 people or less. The virus was soon discovered in all 50 states and the number of positive tests and deaths seemed to reflect early growth in Italy, where there are currently more than 600 coronavirus deaths per day.

All of these factors played a role in the Church’s thinking. When I spoke to Jeffress on Thursday, he said he made his decision for Sunday.

“This will be the first time in the 152-year history of First Baptist Church in Dallas that we will not meet,” he told me.

On Sunday he will stand alone on stage in the sanctuary with a minimal camera and light crew. He will preach to an audience that he cannot see and hear. If people are moved by what he says, he won’t know, at least not immediately. This is the Church’s policy for the future: no plans to resume live worship. That is the new normal.

“It’s very scary,” he told me. “But I think we have a responsibility not only for the safety of our members, but also for the citizens of Dallas to help protect our city.”

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