Coronavirus can bring Americans together, Bishop TD Jakes says

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As many religious services are being canceled in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus, Bishop T.D. Jakes said Friday that pandemic safeguards can be an opportunity to unite against “a common enemy.”

Jakes, who leads The Potter’s House, a 30,000-member megachurch, told "CBS This Morning" that despite government orders forcing Americans to stay indoors and practice social distancing, it is still possible to maintain a sense of community.

“We have the extreme advantage of technology so, whether we’re streaming, whether we’re checking on people through Facebook, or Instagram or Twitter . . . we’re able to establish a sense of some level of community we didn’t have before,” he said.

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Jakes’ remarks come as houses of worship are taking unprecedented actions to protect the faithful from the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 11,000 people worldwide as of March 20. Many services across the country are reportedly being canceled, including funeral Masses, baptisms and weddings.

“I think we have to be intentional about being connected spiritually, even if we’re not connected physically,” Jakes said. “I think it’s very important that a lot of people are hunkered down and with their families, and we don’t spend a lot of time with our families. And I think it’s a great time to re-instill your core values and have some devotional or meditation during this time.”

Jakes also reminded people to check on loved ones, “whether you do it by phone or text.”

Jakes said that while it’s important for houses of worship to lead by example, and follow the shutdown rules and mandates from federal, state and local governments as they come down, it does not mean that we cannot “express love, that we cannot maintain some level of connectivity and then be cognizant of the fact that this is going to pass over.”

“We have to look beyond the breach of where we are right now and remember who we are as a people,” Jakes said.

He continued: “We have to be intentional about readjusting our values and our priorities because we’re shut down from work or what have you, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to do. And to take this opportunity as a time to engage with people intentionally that we don’t normally get to spend quality time with is very important.”

Jakes spoke to CBS of the financial strain on churches like his, which has 30,000 members, now that it has temporarily closed its doors. He said he and his team are getting creative in finding ways to continue to fund the food kitchens and other services that benefit vulnerable populations.

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Jakes also shared a light-hearted moment when “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King asked him how people can keep from getting on one another’s nerves now that everyone is holed up together.

“That’s when you use [social] distancing as an excuse to retreat into your cave and come back out when you’re feeling better,” Jakes joked.

'We have to look beyond the breach of where we are right now and remember who we are as a people.'

— Bishop T.D. Jakes

Jakes said he believes the coronavirus is “waking us up,” causing everyone to rethink the tribalism that has been “pervasive in our society.”

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“We have fought just about anything imaginable and now we have a common enemy. There’s nothing like a common enemy to bring about unity.”