Saturday, September 29, 2007

Charisma Article about

Bynum-Weeks situation

Wife Beaters and Abusive Preachers:

Let’s Arrest the Violence

by J. Lee Grady

What happened last month between Bishop Thomas Weeks III and Juanita Bynum raises serious concerns about both domestic and spiritual abuse. Quote: “We are not going to release God’s healing to a broken world with threats, hateful speech and a loveless gospel.”

I’ve been holding my tongue for a few weeks since I learned that Bishop Thomas Weeks III was arrested after being accused of kicking, choking and hitting his wife, prominent preacher Juanita Bynum, in a hotel parking lot in Atlanta on Aug. 22. We did not need another embarrassing display of religious hypocrisy played out in the national media. The incident gave the whole church a black eye and bruised our reputation.

When I first heard that Weeks excused his actions (the devil made him do it, he claims) and that his congregation cheered his return to the pulpit (after he fled from police and then posted $40,000 bail), I was riled. What was this guy thinking? It’s outrageous. A Pentecostal bishop beat his wife so badly she had to go to the hospital. Weeks, of course, says there is another side to the story. I guess we’ll hear his version in the courtroom, where he will face the possibility of jail time. Meanwhile, Bynum has announced she will divorce her husband, whom she married in 2003.

The romance between Weeks and “Prophetess Bynum” was compared to a fairy tale: A poor girl from the projects who was once on welfare becomes one of the most popular—and wealthiest—women preachers in America. When Bynum walked down the aisle with Weeks, she wore a 7.7-carat diamond ring in a ceremony that cost more than $1 million. The couple then started Global Destiny Church in suburban Atlanta and later hosted marriage conferences. Weeks even wrote a book called Teach Me How to Love You, in which he offered advice on sex and resolving conflicts.

It was not supposed to end like this. At a press conference Bynum convened a few days after the assault, she announced confidently that she is moving on. She said she would rebound and use her experience to galvanize awareness of abuse. “Today, domestic violence has a face and a name, and it is Juanita Bynum,” she said. That probably means she’ll write a book about her ordeal, and perhaps launch a speaking tour. No doubt this will appeal to the throngs of women who share her pain.

There’s no question that we need more advocates for battered women. Domestic violence is an ugly issue that has been ignored by the church, mostly because so many pastors don’t know how to counsel abused women or how to confront the men who hurt them. But I have another concern. Before Bynum starts her campaign, I hope she will examine her own spitfire preaching style. I’m all for rousing sermons, but what Bynum often offers her audiences is downright mean. Eleven days before the Atlanta incident, Bynum told women at a large conference that they needed to learn to become harsh. Shocking clips of her comments were then posted on YouTube. Bynum told of how she corrected an unnamed assistant for being too nice when carrying out her orders. “I’m trying to teach you to be a bulldog!” she declared with gritted teeth and a hateful expression. When women did not shout loud enough after her comments, Bynum threatened them too. “If somebody don’t start praising God right here, I’m gonna have to hit somebody with this microphone,” she said. She also implied that women who treat others with polite restraint are “too suburb” and need to learn the street-wise tactics of the ghetto. Is this the new face of domestic violence? An angry woman preacher who threatens to hit people? A “bulldog” who barks orders and treats subordinates rudely? Please. I agree that people need to learn to be assertive, but Bynum seems to think the fruit of the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary. We need to declare a timeout and demand some sanity before the American church is hijacked by carnality.

Bynum’s angry rhetoric is out of bounds. Her behavior behind the pulpit is not a good example for women or men. Somebody needs to lovingly but firmly challenge it before this turns into something even uglier. I’m not defending Weeks, who should spend time behind bars and be removed from church leadership if it is proven that he assaulted his wife. But before Bynum launches her anti-violence crusade, she needs to cool her heels and adjust her attitude. You can’t fight fire with fire, and you can’t heal a battered woman by training her to become vindictive. We should have zero tolerance of any form of domestic violence. But while we learn to address this huge social problem, let’s also crack down on verbal abuse in the pulpit. We are not going to release God’s healing to a broken world with threats, hateful speech and a loveless gospel.

J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma. He invites you to pray during the next 29 days for the evangelization of the Muslim world during the Islamic season of Ramadan. To access a daily prayer calendar, go to www.30daysprayer.com/muslim/2007.

4 comments:

Pastor Lisa said...

Excellent Word. I totally agree.

Pastor L said...

J. Lee Grady is one of my heroes...once again, well said!!!

Deanna Shrodes said...

He's one of my heroes too. Watch that video, I'm telling you, it will blow your mind. The camera doesn't lie.

Sharon said...

I too would hope that she would sit and let God heal her heart. Then with a healed heart filled with His compassion and love--let's see what happens.