News of a colleague, a fellow woman in ministry, battered savagely by her husband in a hotel parking lot forces me to get back online here on Thursday, a day when I’d planned to rest from blogging and thinking and bleeding out loud. But every three minutes a woman is battered…and Thursday is no exception.
Well-known television minister, Juanita Bynum, became the victim of domestic abuse after her husband savagely beat her in a hotel parking lot this past Tuesday night. Our prayers go out to Evangelist Bynum as she heals and struggles to find her way back physically, psychologically and spiritually from the dark places such an attack can hurl you into as a woman. It is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that you love a man who is capable of stomping you into the ground.
“How did I manage to fall in love with a batterer?” more than one woman has asked herself.
No woman is safe. Not even those of us who preach the gospel. Women in our congregations know this already. Some of us in pulpits, as well as in corporate and academic offices, know this as well. We just have not wanted, or known how, to talk about it. We have shied away from confronting the topic of domestic violence in our sermons – for fear of appearing too radical or of upsetting the men. In our worst moments, we have sided with the batterer. We read the story of Hosea’s wife Gomer and do not question Hosea’s presumption to use God as an excuse for tracking down his wife and beating her into reconciliation. Whores deserve to be beaten, we tell ourselves, not wives. But no woman is safe from becoming a victim of domestic violence, not even submissive women.
Remember Ntozake Shange’s “With No Immediate Cause” poem of years ago?
every 3 minutes a woman is beaten
every five minutes a
woman is raped/every ten minutes
a lil girl is molested
yet i rode the subway today
i sat next to an old man who
may have beaten his old wife
3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago
he might have sodomized his
daughter but i sat there
cuz the young men on the train
might beat some young women
later in the day or tomorrow
i might not shut my door fast
every 3 minutes it happens…
i spit up i vomit i am screaming
we all have immediate cause
every 3 minutes
every 5 minutes
every 10 minutesevery day
women’s bodies are found
in alleys & bedrooms/at the top of the stairs
before i ride the subway/buy a paper/drink
coffee/i must know/
have you hurt a woman today
did you beat a woman today…
It shouldn’t have to take big news stories like this one about Evangelist Juanita Bynum – whose sermons advocating women’s submission and men’s headship have made her the darling of conservative religious broadcasts –to makes us face the truth.(Remember her storybook wedding ceremony a few years ago which was broadcast throughout conservative circles, reinforcing the image of the black Cinderella and black Prince Charming?). Did I mention that Bynum’s husband, Thomas W. Weeks, is a bishop and minister himself?
If faith in God does anything for you, it ought to make you face the truth so that you can get the clarity you need to make connections. Once you get clarity, your faith ought to give you the courage as a thinking woman of faith to do something about what you now know. Believing in wholeness, self-worth, independence, respecting other people’s boundaries and teaching others to respect your boundaries does not betray a woman’s faith in God. Self-love honors all that is good, sacred, holy and powerful within you.
Finally, we do not honor God by letting shame get in the way of our seeking the help that we need. We’ve got to do a better job as women in the ministry and as people of faith about speaking up about the way traditional theology — “love, honor, and obey”– has kept us bound to relationships that maime us. Men who curse us, beat us, disease us, and leave us for dead are not our Prince Charmings. They are definitely not our gift from God.