Prophetess Juanita Bynum: Hardly “Redefined”

In late 2007, I penned an “Open Letter to Televangelist Prophetess Juanita Bynum.” The letter was in response to what many perceived as Bynum’s self-serving behavior after having been the unfortunate victim of domestic violence. My letter simply compiled and articulated the suggestions of many anti-violence activists at the time. Rather than fall back to the sensationalist proclivities of televangelists, which for Bynum included selling her story to the highest bidder, a guest spot on Divorce Court, and declaring herself the “new voice of domestic violence,” I suggested Bynum would do well to receive experienced domestic violence and awareness training while taking a sabbatical from the spotlight. Such a despicable act of violence, I argued, should never be turned into a consumer product for economic gain.

To my surprise, the letter created quite a stir across the blogosphere. Yet I am not surprised that Prophetess Bynum remained steadfast in her commitment to milking this story for all its financial worth. Currently the televangelist is selling video footage of her recent 50th birthday gala under the title “Redefined,” donning her wedding dress. In an interview with Essence.com Bynum expressed that she wore the gown to show the world that she had “stepped into my womanhood.” And since the Prophetess believes herself to be currently walking in her purpose she wanted to “give the dress the honor for which it had been made.” This is the reason she held a “sacred ceremony” before all her invited guests to show that, in her words, “I am married to my destiny and promise to remain faithful to her forever and always.”

Surely, I am in no position to determine whether Prophetess Bynum is married to her destiny. This may be the case. But I do think she ought to consider divorcing her delusions. Domestic violence is too serious a topic to be peddled as a product or commodified into a catapult toward increased fame and notoriety. And selling videos of herself in a wedding gown for $20 can hardly be considered “Juanita Bynum Redefined.” In fact, it is just more of the same self-absorbed silliness that her marching down the aisle in a televised million dollar wedding in 2002. The Prophetess rightly admits that she displayed lack of wisdom back then. Well, somebody needs to tell her that she is doing the same right now!

jonathan.walton@mac.com'

Jonathan L. Walton is assistant professor at Harvard Divinity School. His lastest book is: Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Religious Broadcasting (New York University Press).