Sunday, May 25, 2008

Open Letter to Juanita Bynum

I received this in an email from one of my friends and I felt the need to share it with you all. So read it and tell me what you think. I personally think the person made some interesting points.

Dear Juanita Bynum:

My theology causes me to align with those on the underside of a society. As Matthew 25 teaches, wherever we can identify the poor, the abused, the marginalized, and those living under the weight of structural and systemic injustice, we can find God working on behalf of the "least of these." This is why my heart goes out to you. Credible reports corroborate your story of being a victim of domestic violence. And, if this is true, you have experienced a heinous act that all too many women are forced to live with and endure on a daily basis.

Having said this, I now must express my concern. I am scared that your actions in recent weeks are rendering you about as credible to the cause of fighting domestic violence as O.J. Simpson. Let's begin with your, er, umm, performance on TBN. While I can appreciate the efficacious dimensions of prayer and praise, there is also a time for well thought action and spiritual sobriety.

For instance, I did not understand your illogical and irresponsible assertions such as "on that ground that night I slipped into my purpose." You were a victim of domestic violence, period! There was nothing atoning or redemptive about what happened to you. And all that rhetorical jargon about not breaking the covenant with your husband and being spiritually submissive only recirculates the very notions of power and abuse that fosters domestic violence in the first place. Rather than doing the "Harlem Shake" to Byron Cage that night, why didn't you use your platform to present the phone numbers to domestic abuse hotlines and women's shelters? Or how about providing resources for women who currently find themselves in violent relationships. Say what you will about Bishop Jakes' response, or lack thereof, to your situation, at least he didn't turn tragedy into a praise-a-thon.

But to be fair, I know you may have gotten caught up in the moment. It was a highly emotional time for you. But this is why you need to be careful. There are real forces that seek to dismiss the issue of domestic violence in the church in general and discredit you in particular. You should know this. So wouldn't you think that making statements such as "Juanita Bynum will be for domestic violence what Martin Luther King, Jr. was to civil rights," just might come across as a little self-serving and solipsistic? Moreover, what is up with not being able to discuss your story during an interview on Tom Joyner last week because you had already sold the exclusive rights to Essence magazine? These sorts of comments and actions only add fuel to the flames of skepticism for those who already believe that you are more of a Profiteer than a Prophetess.

But all is not lost, Sister Bynum. Not yet at least. There is still hope that you won't have to go out like Britney Spears. So allow me to offer a few suggestions that may help you regain both your focus and perspective: First, rethink your desire to be the "new face of domestic violence." You say this with pride as if you are on a season of America's Next Top Model. This is neither a popularity contest nor a time to exploit the situation. Rather, this is a time that you can use your status to introduce America to the almost one million women that are victimized annually who cannot hold a press conference at posh hotels nor recover from their wounds with a deluxe spa package. Lift them up. Tell their story.

You missed what could have been a powerful, informative and educational moment on TBN. What if you had told the story of a 35 year old Haitian immigrant that was beaten, raped and sodomized along with her son in the Dunbar Housing Projects of Miami while neighbors closed their windows to her screams for help? This is the face that America needs to see in order to indict us concerning our culpability and complicit silence. Or try lending your support to the case of Megan Williams in West Virginia that was senselessly raped, tortured and maimed by six white supremacists earlier this month. While we have googled you and Bishop Weeks to keep up with your drama, these are the stories that need to be discussed and written about. So shame on us for being all too consumed with you. And shame on you for not redirecting our attention to the suffering of others.

Second, suspend your mentoring class and go get mentored yourself. If you are sincere about your interest in being a victim's advocate, obtain real anti-violence and awareness training from specialists in the field. Learn the litigation procedures that are already in place and even the appropriate language that should be used. There is no need for you to call your own session of Congress to introduce the Juanita bill, when you can sign your name and support legislation that advocates are already pushing forward. Moreover, to be frank, your hyper-spiritual cliché phrases and homiletic tropes that "move the crowd" on TBN may prove contradictory and quixotic outside of the very insular world of televangelism. I would hate to see you on Oprah trying to jump up and get your whoop on because the "anointing got so' thick up in here." And if you are going to be a credible domestic violence counselor, you can't encourage women by tel! ling th em that you got "beat down to get your breakthrough." If you are going to extend your influence Juanita, you are going to have to do better than falling back to your familiar.

Finally, take a sabbatical from the media. We know that you are a gifted televangelist. And we know that you are trying to make ground on Paula White (trust me, I am cheering for you). But everything in your life does not have to play out in front of a microphone. You have twisted, flipped and spun this event in every way possible. Your credibility and integrity are both on the line, my dear sister. And times like these call for decorum and tact not a whoop and a homily. Be still and know that God is still God. And if you handle yourself accordingly, others will rise up to fight your battles in public. There are too many who find what happened to you horrible and despicable. And, more importantly, there are too many who realized long before your unfortunate occurrence that domestic violence just can't be talked about, it must be fought against.

Be blessed, Juanita.

One Luv,


P.S. Please scrap the book idea!

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