The marital troubles between superstar couple Juanita Bynum and Bishop Thomas Weeks III have received little coverage beyond the straight news stories one would expect about people at this level of fame. There have been no New York Times think pieces or Newsweek analyses. This is not an easy story to cover. Bynum and Weeks are popular Pentecostal preachers who seemed to make a nice living telling other married people how to have strong relationships. They were married in 2002, in a massive wedding that broke the bank, proclaiming that they had found their true love. Bynum's backstory is a conversion involving Texas preacher T.D. Jakes and a televised confession of sin that made her famous.
Little mention has been made in the news coverage of the message this couple preached, other than now cringe-inducing talk of how God can make your life -- and thus your marriage -- simply wonderful. Fully exploring the supposed irony of this case would require more attention to the entire message, not just what they are famous for or the highlights.
Weeks is facing felony charges of aggravated assault after Bynam says he attacked her in a hotel parking lot in Atlanta. As we should expect, reporters are looking at the ironies in these stories and are failing to see the big picture that is already starting to emerge. Here's Gary Soulsman of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del.:
One of the ironies of the whole affair is that the pastors shared a ministry to couples that was a blending of Pentecostal fire with the psychology of Dr. Phil and the sexual straight talk of Dr. Ruth.
"What makes this a huge story is the irony," says William G. Mc Cray III, an Atlanta-based columnist whose work appears in more than 40 African-American weeklies. "This is not behavior that you expect of a bishop who comes across as a polished gentleman.
"And it's not something you expect to happen to Juanita Bynum, who is so strong and forceful behind the pulpit. You don't expect her to be jumped."
Because of these ironies, the Aug. 21 incident outside the Renaissance Concord Hotel has been one the most written-about items on American blogs.
I am not sure irony is the right word to use in this situation. What's so ironic about all of this? Soulsman seems to acknowledge the deeper message that, despite this message's promises of hope, happiness and fulfillment, there is always the opportunity for failure and there's really no return policy.
At the end of the piece we get a hint of this:
And Bynum is so gifted at using her life that whenever she musters the strength to surface, she'll craft the parking lot incident into a powerful testimony, Mc Cray said.
"Will it catapult her to a new level?" he asked. "Let's just say, if she was preaching tomorrow, you wouldn't be able to get in."
Is this entire story about just fame and money?
Covering tragic stories like this shouldn't make reporters get all sympathetic and mushy. This is a nightmare for the couple involved, and is likely difficult for those who listened to their teachings. Here are two questions I would like answered from the perspective of a guy who doesn't know much about this couple's ministry: Did their message include anything about the failings of humans? Did they preach that Christians believe all humans are sinners and will fail? If not, then that's part of the story.