Friday, April 25, 2008

Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks: Would Jesus Go on Divorce Court?

People have asked me what I think about Juanita Bynum and her post, pre and intra-marital drama. In case you haven’t heard, Juanita Bynum is a well-known black evangelist who was allegedly beaten by her husband Bishop Thomas Weeks. The alleged incident took place in an Atlanta Hotel Parking lot, and received a great deal of media attention.

As one would expect from a woman who’s been recently beaten by her husband, Juanita Bynum held a press conference. No trial, no hearings, no indictment, no conviction: just a press conference. Bynum then declared herself to be the new face of domestic violence in America.

That was my introduction to the peculiar world of Juanita Bynum.

I am not sure what world Juanita Bynum lives in, but it can’t be my own. When hearing that she held a press conference after the alleged attack (along with appearances on Divorce Court and Essence Magazine), I immediately wondered if any good could come from this. I was hopeful that the goal was to truly fight domestic violence, thus empowering women around the world from her experience. I also wondered if this was Juanita Bynum’s version of Celebrity Pastors Gone Wild.

It is no secret that Juanita Bynum wants to be the next Oprah. Such lofty ambitions require you to sometimes sell your soul for success: Halle Berry shaves her head and signs a big movie deal. Vivica Fox gives oral sex on camera and then gets a new show. Rappers get shot on purpose.

That’s the celebrity fame game, and Juanita appears to be a part of it.

As a specialist in marketplace buying and selling, I quietly wonder if those responsible for saving souls should be so quick to sell their own. At the same time, there are many in the ministry who’ve made money and power their primary objectives, and spend a lot of time praying to the false God of capitalism. Anybody got a Dollar for the collection plate? How about some Taffi? Praise the Lord, amen.

I don’t consider Juanita Bynum to be a bad person. I just hope that she hasn’t allowed blind ambition to turn her into a spiritual Stevie Wonder. Mixing the idea of celebrity with service to God is a slippery slope, and if Jesus were among us in the flesh, I am not sure he would be appearing on Divorce Court. But spiritual leaders are the first to remind us that they can’t quite match up to Jesus. At the same time, one expects a higher standard from Juanita Bynum, TD Jakes and others who expect to preach to us every week.

I am a finance professor and a hardcore capitalist. I fully understand the drug of money. In some ways, I feel like the drug pusher who looks at the church going mother of 3 and says “Ma’am, you don’t want to smoke that crack pipe.” I know that addiction to the drug will cause the mother to abandon her children and destroy everything she holds sacred in order to get another hit. Hearing pastors (i.e. TD Jakes) referring to Jesus as a “product”, or seeing men and women of God speaking on money more than I do is beyond disturbing. It’s just downright crazy.

I don’t consider Juanita Bynum to be the face of domestic violence. Domestic violence has millions of faces of women who never held a press conference. But I certainly hope that she is working to use her newfound fame to support and protect those who are in abusive relationships. But truth be told, I haven’t seen much out of Bynum other than publicity stunts designed to promote the name, fame and wealth of Juanita Bynum.

If the leaders of the flock have been blinded by their own ambition, what does that mean for the sheep? I would hate to imagine that going to church might somehow jeopardize my salvation, since Jesus has been reduced to a product for sale. Perhaps it implies that we should cut out the middle man and find our own connection to God. What would Jesus do?

Dr. Boyce Watkins is an Assistant Professor of Finance at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” He makes regular appearances in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit

Video Below: Dr. Boyce Watkins Speaks on Juanita Bynum and Bishop Thomas Weeks

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