The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gaper's Delay

“The fact is that gossip, rumors, mythmaking, and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a causal chain.” -- Chaim Potok My Name is Asher Lev

How absolutely providential for me to begin reading Potok’s novel on the day when Bishop Thomas Weeks III held a press conference to fire back at his wife Juanita Bynum with his opening salvo in the public relations war that has become the end of their marriage.

Before I wax indignantly poetic about the disingenuousness of both Weeks and Bynum who purport to respect the privacy of their marital covenant even as they continue to make it a public spectacle, I need to remember their history. There’s no earthly reason to be surprised that the end of their marriage would be a PR extravaganza, since from the beginning they have publicized it on cable television, first with the announcement of their engagement and then with The Wedding, a million-dollar production rerun periodically in a TBN schedule that includes innumerable other B-movies.

For those who missed it, in a press conference in Atlanta, Weeks read a statement in which he detailed the series of events, beginning in early June 2007 that led to the altercation on August 21st. What he wanted the audience to know, especially those in his local congregations (pointedly referred to as the “Global Church”), was that every story has two sides. His side, at least the part that his attorneys have permitted him to speak about, is a story of Juanita Bynum’s heartless and decidedly un-pastoral severing of her ties to her husband and to the ministries/congregations that they founded together. His side is that Bynum is far from a saint.

This latest installment of the Juanita and Tommy Show is fascinating, not so much because of the star players whose statements frankly lack originality, but because of the audience responses. Weeks called the press conference because he knew he had an audience, predominantly female like the church itself, waiting with bated breath for the explanation that would make his actions make sense. He must have known that his marriage has become a car wreck and that a whole nation of (black) church people is hanging its collective head out of their car window trying to get a better look and perhaps to see some blood.

The problem with all of this is that it is a distraction. What kind of wife or pastor or even person Bynum was is tangential at best to the central issue of the violence witnesses say Weeks unleashed in that parking lot. I haven’t met a person yet, male or female, who did not have a difficult or even impossible side to their personality. Who isn’t a real pain to live with sometimes? Who doesn’t have irredeemably selfish, thoughtless, cruel and maybe even heartless moments? I find it disturbing that Weeks would design a defense for the public that amounted to character assassination. Of course, the events he narrated might have a role in his criminal defense as mitigating circumstances, but it is a sign that he thinks very little of his (I repeat, mostly female) church audience if he believes that portraying Bynum as a nasty or insensitive person will redeem him in our sight, especially without his taking responsibility for his own loss of control.

With all of that said, there is an even bigger distraction that is a part of this scene. We have collective, ecclesiastical “gaper's delay.” We the public need to understand is that no press conference, sound bite, television appearance, or even memoir is ever going to give us the insight or knowledge that will make this make sense or reveal the truth that is hidden by the public relations machines. What we really need to do is to allow the judge(s) – both in Atlanta and in heaven – to sort out the Bynum-Weeks affair. We have places to go and things to do for the kingdom of God. So let’s get our eyes back on the road that leads to life everlasting and stop holding up traffic.

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