As much as we hate to do it, we're about to give First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress more of the thing he loves more than anything else in the world: attention.
If you've driven through downtown Dallas or made the rounds on the internet in the last week or so, you've probably seen the announcement from Jeffress on First Baptist Dallas marquee. "Is the coronavirus a judgment from God?" the sign asked, before giving out the times for First Baptist's Sunday worship services.
Locals likely saw it coming. Jeffress is nothing if not an opportunist, as willing to hop on Fox News and call President Donald Trump America's most Christian friendly president in history as he is to turn his Sunday worship service over to Sean Hannity or Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Nothing like the threat of a pandemic to put butts in the pews of his $130 million Baptist Bellagio.
Those from outside Dallas, including Monica Lewinsky, were a little more surprised by Jeffress' teaser.
*coRonavirus ...— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) March 4, 2020
Jeffress took time at the beginning of his service Sunday to mock Lewinsky, who was in Dallas earlier in the week to speak at SMU. He wondered aloud who on his staff followed Lewinsky on Twitter, and promised his congregation that he was investigating.
Then the windup began.
Natural disasters, Jeffress said, all occur, in one way or another, because of sin. Sometimes there's a specific sin that causes the disaster, sometimes not, but all natural disasters are people's fault, the pastor said.
"All natural disasters can be ultimately traced to sin," Jeffress said. "Whether we're talking about earthquakes, floods, whether we're talking about sicknesses like influenza, cancer. All maladies that we experience can ultimately be traced to sin. Not to a specific sin necessarily, but to sin in general."
Then Jeffress went after one sin in particular, one he's already blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"I can say without any hesitation that America is in danger of God's judgment because of abortion," Jeffress said. "The reason I can say that is because of what's already in the Bible."
Jeffress did not mention or consider any other sins of which the United States might be guilty.
"What I can't say is that the coronavirus is God's judgment against America for the sin of abortion. ... God hasn't said that. He hasn't spoken that to me," Jeffress said. "We cannot speak what God has not spoken."
He's not saying it is, but he didn't say it isn't, either.
Has to be reassuring to China, Italy and Iran to think, "Hey, maybe this is all America's fault."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.