Did You Hurt A Woman Today?

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.

9 Responses to “Did You Hurt A Woman Today?”

  1. Fal Says:

    Ashe!!!

  2. Katherine Says:

    This morning, I read the online version of this incredible story in the Washington Post. A flash back to a few days earlier when I passed by the televsion and heard Evangelist Bynum vaguely mention to the audience of 800 women “trouble with her marriage”, but that she was going to preach and teach on. In my mind the two pieces of the story come together and within moments I feel the tears. My tears come as my eyes use lacrimation as an attempt to clear up the news I have just read. I weep at this real-time testimonial that the genesis battle between men and women painstakingly perists in the church and the world. At the same time I am outraged at this particular ineffable act between two people in ministry that took place as an outsider looking on was compelled to phyisically dislodge the attacker from Evangelist Bynum.

    Yes, another person witnessed the attack — now there is the sign. You see from where I sit (mainly the pew) I am sure that the witness will make all the difference in this case. From what I know of women, ministry and women in ministry, silence is the tradition, especially today where the stakes are high. Millions are at stake here, millions of lives and dollars and the media seems to be well aware of the this fact. What happens next? The law may likely have its hand in exactly the correct place to expose the truth. What will we be compelled to do? We will have to stand and bear with our sister (while some will stand with this brother) in faith and look to heaven. Here is a yet another opportunity to examine justice because somehow when he hit her, it felt like he hit me. My own vulnerablity is exposed here as I had come to appreciate the journey of this woman of faith even though she is so caught up in the conservative world of christianity. My heart is heavy, yet my mind is clear and sober. What will we be compelled to do? I pray for her healing and ours in this age to come, a work that must done.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    It is a great shame the way we commit to a conspiracy of silence against ourselves and our own sisters, when we neglect to speak the truth about abuse. We mumble under our breath and exchange knowing looks at each other around the “submission” statements. After all we don’t want people to think we hate men or are lesbians. We don’t want to make the male pastors preach about ‘lesbi-ism.’ We don’t even insist that they say it right. My fear here is that women will say things like ’she must’ve really made him mad.’ or ‘the devil goes after the head which is why he made the bishop beat his wife.’ I fear that it will be like a month or two ago when a well known young black preacher in Baltimore impregnated one of the young parishioners and she outed him during Sunday morning service. He gets called ‘anointed’ while she gets to be the slut.

  4. Kesha Boyce Williams Says:

    Dr. Weems I was waiting for you to respond to this one. Thank you for taking the time on your day off from blogging to respond to such an important issue. I am so grieved by this that I just wrote my own quick blog on the issue. We have become so numb to violence in our community that we don’t see how something like this impacts the entire community. This news story has been the subject of many listserv coversations, e-mail forwards and talk radio today. First, people want to say “I told you so.” Second, people want to attack people in ministry for not being as perfect as we claim to be (and who by the way ever said we were perfect..). What’s missing is that people need to realize that when a man beats his wife or a woman beats her husband (or partner) it impacts the ENTIRE community (Christian, African and other wise). We are really made up of families and when one family is in peril - we should all be praying. Following up with your last post, this is not one of those “WHY GOD WHY?” moments, this is one of those “WHAT SHOULD WE DO NOW?” moments. What we should do now is tell people exactly what you are saying - that abuse is not of God and being in broken and battered relationships is not part of a our spiritual inheritance or a cross we should bear.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I find it ironic that just a week ago I ran across your article “Sanctified and Suffering” in an old copy of Essence, and now this. Something has to change. –alucas

  6. Melissa Says:

    Thank you Dr. Weems for your insight on this troubling issue. It is unfortunately an issue that keeps showing up, which for me is a clear message from the Holy Spirit that we must change. I am so tired of people spiritualizing our own moral flaws or the character flaws of others. We need to have the courage to recognize things for what they are. If a man beats his wife or is abusive in any way, the devil didn’t make him do it; but rather he (or she) has made a choice. And when we make poor choices, we need to understand why we made them and learn how to do something different. It is clear that Juanita Bynum’s husband needs to learn how to do something different; but the greater challenge is for Juanita Bynum and the countless other women who suffer in silence and consider it an honorable sacrifice for the Lord. Ladies, it is high time for us to do something different. That is our reasonable service to God.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you, Pastor. Thank you.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Dr. Weems,
    Where do I start? First thank you for your sermon on Sunday 8/26/07. Did you hurt a woman today? That is the question that I would like to ask many of our “prominent” at least most visible televangelist who groomed, employed and help to elevate Evangelist Juanita Bynum to the status that she has achieved publicly. Where is their response? This is not just about Bynum this is about the many women who give money, attend conferences and sow seeds to be loosed and empowered and who suffer in silence. Waiting for a word from the man or woman of God that will change their situation and give them hope.

    It hurts my heart that there has not been a public response from the televangelist. This is an opportunity to take a stand, to reach the masses, for all people not just to advance your personal addenda. Good, bad or indifferent too many people base their Christian views on what these men and women have to say. I just want to ask these leaders is this you really think about women and women’s issues. Or is it just that as women we are only good enough to support you and advance you ministry but we are not good enough to be publicly defended. Taking a stand against domestic violence is not something you have to pray about before you speak. You don’t need to hold an inner circle meeting to come up with a statement. I should not have to go to a conference, by a CD, DVD or become a partner to hear a sermon telling me that it is wrong for a man to hit a woman. The most disturbing fact is that many women will continue to live under a blanket of misinformation and confusion, go to conferences and sow seeds into ministries that do not seek to truly seek to deliver them.

    R. Simone

  9. Anonymous Says:

    As an African-American Male and A pastor, I am sorry about this tragic situation and the continual abuse of our incredible women by we men. I do believe the church in America is entering into a time of great purging, burning and broom sweeping. Domestic Abuse is never good. It is a national epidemic which is also in the church of Jesus Christ. In my state(indiana) the levels of domestic abuse are castastrophic. I believe a loving God sees all this and will no longer allow this or other sins to be swept under the carpet by his leadership. My prayers go out to sister bynum, brother weekes, and Randy and Paula white. I think it is past time for we the body of christ reevaluate how we present the gospel as well as live it out. We are so angry at the sins of our society yet it seems we as leaders and laity laugh off our own problems. We want America to come back to God, yet his own people are too far away to hear his voice. May god have mercy upon us all, and may we begin to possess the courage to know god for ourselves, rather than wait for the voices on christian tv and media to tell us.

    Rev M. Lee
    Indianpolis,Indiana

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