The Thomas Weeks Affair

Since this seems to be a week for tearing down Christian icons, I have another fall from grace to report: Bishop Thomas Weeks, founder of the international Christian ministry Global Destiny, was released on bond last week after turning himself in to face charges of brutally beating his estranged wife Juanita Bynum – herself a nationally renowned Christian evangelist and best-selling gospel singer, and co-founder of that same ministry.

The police report of the incident states that, during a hostile confrontation in a hotel parking lot following a failed reconciliation, Weeks choked Bynum, pushed her to the ground, then started to kick her and stomp on her until he was physically pulled away from her by a hotel employee. The police report also states that he threatened her life. Though Bynum is recovering, her bruises were sufficiently serious for the police to bring charges of felony aggravated assault.

All this would be bad enough. But then, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Weeks took the pulpit at his own church to blame the Devil for the charges against him. Unfortunately, the article does not say clearly whether Weeks meant that Satan tempted him to commit assault, or whether Satan had false charges brought against him to discredit him. In either case, Weeks’ congregation has apparently rallied behind him:

Member Maurice Adams, 26, of Atlanta said he was disappointed to hear the news but still considers Weeks his bishop.

“We all make mistakes. He deserves another opportunity,” Adams said.

Note to this parishioner: Shouting at someone you love in a moment of anger, or saying something rude or hurtful, might be classed as a mistake. Choking someone, pushing them to the ground, and then kicking and stomping on them until physically dragged away – that is not a mistake. It is an act of viciousness and brutality that necessarily reveals the vicious and brutal nature of the person who does it. There are times when forgiveness and second chances are appropriate, but something like this is not one of them. An act of such violence deserves harsh punishment, especially since the evidence shows that, absent radical behavioral intervention, most abusers will go on to abuse again.

This story is an ignominious ending to a match that must have once seemed made in heaven. Bynum and Weeks were married in 2002 in a televised ceremony that reportedly featured 1,000 guests, an orchestra and a 7.76-carat diamond ring, no doubt made possible by the trusting contributions of parishioners. Despite this incident, the two have never divorced, although it was plain that they were experiencing marital strife after a sermon earlier this month in which Weeks stated that Bynum would no longer join him in preaching sermons at their church.

What this story shows is that, for all its claims to transform people’s lives, Christianity often achieves nothing of the sort. It may inspire some positive change on occasion, as does any self-help program followed with sufficient dedication, but there is no magical power in it to change people’s character for the better. The only potential for positive change in this or in any other religion or belief system is what the believer can bring about in themselves through their own, non-supernatural will and effort.

On the other hand, Christianity, especially in its born-again and evangelical forms, does offer a very convenient way for scoundrels and evildoers to hide their true motivations. All they have to do is proclaim that they have been washed clean by Jesus – a claim which many believers, taught to expect the supernatural efficacy of their beliefs, will unquestioningly accept. The wrongdoer instantly has people’s good faith and trust restored without having to offer any solid evidence that they have changed their ways. (See Michael Vick, or any of the countless other convicts who’ve suddenly found Jesus at the jailhouse doors.) And this presumption of trust, coupled with the presumption that one should not question a servant of God, makes it very easy for the person to conceal whatever continued wrongdoing they may engage in. (See Ted Haggard.)

I hope at least some people who naively trusted in Thomas Weeks just because he was a minister have had that trust shaken today. Religious belief, however fervently professed, is absolutely no guarantee of whether a person is moral or can be trusted. Despite the many object lessons our society has received to that end, they all seem to be forgotten far too quickly. Hopefully, this one will stick at least a little longer, and inspire some skepticism toward the next charming con artist who claims to be trustworthy because he speaks in God’s name.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Dave

    A gem from the article:

    “There are three sides to every story,” said Clarkston’s Shannon Mayers, a frequent visitor. “Nobody has the right to judge anybody. God is in the midst of that and will work it out.”

    Actually, there is someone with the right to judge. They’re called a judge. I wonder if Shannon Mayers would like our legal system where (suspected) wife beaters receive a trial and possible punishment (in this world) with one where God takes care of everything.

  • Dave

    A gem from the article:

    “There are three sides to every story,” said Clarkston’s Shannon Mayers, a frequent visitor. “Nobody has the right to judge anybody. God is in the midst of that and will work it out.”

    Actually, there is someone with the right to judge. They’re called a judge. I wonder if Shannon Mayers would like our legal system where (suspected) wife beaters receive a trial and possible punishment (in this world) with one where God takes care of everything.

  • Cindy

    a “ceremony that reportedly featured 1,000 guests, an orchestra and a 7.76-carat diamond ring, no doubt made possible by the trusting contributions of parishioners”

    I believe most parishioners are happy to see their minister well-to-do. It makes them proud (one of the 7 deadly sins!) that their church is doing well enough to provide for him.

  • Cindy

    a “ceremony that reportedly featured 1,000 guests, an orchestra and a 7.76-carat diamond ring, no doubt made possible by the trusting contributions of parishioners”

    I believe most parishioners are happy to see their minister well-to-do. It makes them proud (one of the 7 deadly sins!) that their church is doing well enough to provide for him.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Ahhh yes, those wacky Pentecostals! Always blaming the devil for anything that goes wrong.

  • anti-nonsense

    unfortunately you know this guy isn’t going to lose the “faith” of his followers. It seems that religious leaders can get away with saying and doing just about anything and nobody blinks an eye. Just one more example of how religion is treated with such intense and unwarranted respect. If a judge or other secular authority did something like that the public would be screaming for his blood for a long while to come. But when a religious leader does it, all they have to do is “repent” and most people will forgive them anything.

  • anti-nonsense

    unfortunately you know this guy isn’t going to lose the “faith” of his followers. It seems that religious leaders can get away with saying and doing just about anything and nobody blinks an eye. Just one more example of how religion is treated with such intense and unwarranted respect. If a judge or other secular authority did something like that the public would be screaming for his blood for a long while to come. But when a religious leader does it, all they have to do is “repent” and most people will forgive them anything.

  • Brock

    I wonder how much of an offense this actually is in the minds of his parishioners. After all, the wife is supposed to be subservient to the husband, and Xianity has a long history of condoning abusive behavior towards women, who after all are considered to be little more than children, who also are subject to correction. Witness the recent incident in Texas where the pastor for a Christian youth camp disciplined a wayaward teenager by dragging her behind his vehicle(!!!) and by all accounts, was welcomed back to his church with open arms. His congregation even seemed to be puzzled as to why this sadist had even been arrested.

    In the larger arena of international politics, is it any wonder that our “godly’ president has such massive support for his policy of chastising the heathen Iraquis? This is just child abuse writ large.

  • Kay

    There are “three sides” to every story and it’s not a Wacky Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic or any other denomination that blames the devil. The devil is seeking whom he may devour. Being an ex-wife to an abusive ordained minister, I can only imagine how she feels. NO WOMAN should ever have to be beat down, bruised and then hear her husband say, “WE’RE GOING TO RECONCILE”….What if Weeks anger would have taken Evg. Bynum’s life? That enemy wanted to take my life, but God allowed me to walk away with a testimony and much blame that it was “my fault”. God will be the ultimate judge and God will have the last say. The devil is defeated and She will preach out of this pain too!!!

  • Kay

    There are “three sides” to every story and it’s not a Wacky Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic or any other denomination that blames the devil. The devil is seeking whom he may devour. Being an ex-wife to an abusive ordained minister, I can only imagine how she feels. NO WOMAN should ever have to be beat down, bruised and then hear her husband say, “WE’RE GOING TO RECONCILE”….What if Weeks anger would have taken Evg. Bynum’s life? That enemy wanted to take my life, but God allowed me to walk away with a testimony and much blame that it was “my fault”. God will be the ultimate judge and God will have the last say. The devil is defeated and She will preach out of this pain too!!!

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    And Kay goes right ahead and proves my point for me.

    I blogged about this several days ago, and linked to two articles about it on newsday.com. If you click on the comment threads for both articles, they are filled with supportive messages from true believers who urge praying for God to heal Weeks and Bynum’s marriage and that the devil is responsible for their problems.

    There is no devil. There are two flawed human beings who probably do not belong together in a marriage.

    But Kay is right about one thing, no woman deserves to be beaten by her husband.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    There are “three sides” to every story and it’s not a Wacky Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic or any other denomination that blames the devil. The devil is seeking whom he may devour.

    Kay, if you really believe in these superstitious medieval demonologies, then I suggest you ask yourself: why does God let Satan roam free?

  • Alex Weaver

    More accurately, no person deserves to be beaten, especially by a spouse.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Yes, you’re right Alex. Though I don’t mind if my wife spanks me once in a while!

    ;-)

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Yes, you’re right Alex. Though I don’t mind if my wife spanks me once in a while!

    ;-)

  • rob

    Sadly, many religious people seem to believe that while faith is no guarantee of someone being a good person, it is an adequate substitute for being a good person. Hence statements that boil down to “The worst works of faith are better than the best works of faithless,” or “You can’t be good without religion.” Some of them seem to think that their ministers, and even politicians or other people of power, are due some kind of blanket pardon by the law simply because they claim to fervently believe. It’s another one of those bizarre gaping holes in modern fundamentalist “logic.” Non-religious people are supposed to be punished by the courts for the protection of the community (and sometimes simply out of bloodlust and anger). Religious people are meant to be mildly chastised and let off as long as they promise to be nice from now on, because, hey, that’s what Jesus would do.

  • rob

    Sadly, many religious people seem to believe that while faith is no guarantee of someone being a good person, it is an adequate substitute for being a good person. Hence statements that boil down to “The worst works of faith are better than the best works of faithless,” or “You can’t be good without religion.” Some of them seem to think that their ministers, and even politicians or other people of power, are due some kind of blanket pardon by the law simply because they claim to fervently believe. It’s another one of those bizarre gaping holes in modern fundamentalist “logic.” Non-religious people are supposed to be punished by the courts for the protection of the community (and sometimes simply out of bloodlust and anger). Religious people are meant to be mildly chastised and let off as long as they promise to be nice from now on, because, hey, that’s what Jesus would do.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Rob –

    To your point, it is a tenet of most forms of Christianity that “works will not get you into Heaven”. Only faith will. Read that as: “You must talk the talk, whther or not you walk the walk.” How pathetic is that?

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    Thumpalumpacus (and Rob):

    And yet Jesus said, “Not everyone that sayeth unto me Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven.”

  • lanier

    Let me start off by saying being a christian is not a religion, but a lifestyle. Christ died so we can all have a personal relationship with God our creator. There is also an anti-christ(satan)that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the enemy to all of God’s children. Satan tried to destroy this marriage. “No weapon form against Juanita will prosper.” Isaiah 54:17 Thomas Weeks is still a child of God and will be delivered from the spirit of abuse.

  • OMGF

    Let me start off by saying being a christian is not a religion, but a lifestyle.

    Rubbish.

    re·li·gion /rɪˈlɪdʒən/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[ri-lij-uhn] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
    2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
    3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
    4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
    5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
    6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
    7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
    8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.

    Sorry, but you don’t get to make up definitions for words. (Note that I could also be petty and note that your lifestyle seems to show a penchant for beating, dehumanizing, and oppressing women, but I’ll refrain.)

    Thomas Weeks is still a child of God and will be delivered from the spirit of abuse.

    Well, it’s a relief that your god is wise enough to see that my sin of disbelief is worthy of eternal torture in hell but can forgive Weeks for beating the crap out of his wife and then acting like it is her fault.

  • lanier

    OMGF: Why do you care you don’t believe in my God anyway, right? If you give your life to Christ, you will spend eternity with the Lord, but you choose not too. God is a forgiving God. He loves all of His creation. :) I will keep you in my prayers so that someday you will BELIEVE.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Well, I for one care because so many people look at the damnable doctrine of hell and call that justice — because thinking that something horrible will justly happen to nonbelievers seems to me likely to make you less likely to sympathise with nonbelievers (to sympathise would be too painful, surely) — because you believe that God will help Thomas Weeks rather than realising that sometimes the help of human beings is all the help there is — and because in focusing on the idea that Thomas Weeks sinned and will be forgiven rather than on the fact that Weeks did terrible damage to another human being you pull the focus away from the central problem, which is the harm done which deserves our sympathy.

  • OMGF

    One reason I care is because your god seems to aid and abet the horrible actions of people like Weeks.

    I have to take umbrage at your assertion that god loves all of his creation. How can that be if he sends the majority of his “children” to hell?

  • KD

    It’s unfortunate that this occured as I believe that Bishop Weeks is a man of God. However, you must understand that being a Christian does not instantly change your old nature. The only thing has been perfected in a believer is their spirit nature which is from God. Evil is always present, ESPECIALLY the evil within ourselves. As children of God we are to stay in His presence, so that we would be transformed into the image of Christ. However, we will NEVER be perfect. Yes, Bishop Weeks, has to repent not only to God, but to his wife. The bible tells us that the Gift and Calling of God are IRREVOCABLE….YES, even if you beat your wife does not discount your call and your gift.

    However I will say that counseling is much needed. What the Body of Christ should be doing now is praying for both Bishop Weeks and his wife. BTW – Regardless of Men and Women of God falling…JESUS IS REAL!

  • OMGF

    KD,

    However, you must understand that being a Christian does not instantly change your old nature.

    That kinda depends on which sect you are, correct? Either way, I find this notion to be rather hateful. Why do Xians hate their fellow human beings?

    Yes, Bishop Weeks, has to repent not only to God, but to his wife.

    Good thing he did that…oh wait no he didn’t. He forgave her. I guess he got over being angry at her for her hitting her face against his fist over and over.

    The bible tells us that the Gift and Calling of God are IRREVOCABLE….YES, even if you beat your wife does not discount your call and your gift.

    1. There are many former Xians on this blog which put the lie to your “IRREVOCABLE” comment.
    2. I’m glad to hear that your god will take wife beaters into heaven instead of people who don’t do anything wrong except disbelieve. Your god seems like a great judge of morality.

    BTW – Regardless of Men and Women of God falling…JESUS IS REAL!

    Based on what evidence?

  • mary ann

    I find it interesting that most of the posted comments are so judgemental from all of the PERFECT PEOPLE regarding this situation with Pastor Bynam and husband. No he should not have beat her and he will not be blessed for that act.Those without sin let him or her cast the first stone or forever hold his or her peace.Pray for both of them because as some have said there are two {three] sides to every story. We need to practice restraint to keep from talking too much to cause peace.Nothing is solved through arguing,NOTHING!

  • Mrnaglfar

    Mary ann,

    Nothing is solved through arguing,NOTHING!

    That’s nonsense – all discourse can be solved through debate (which is of course an argument I can assume you will not be listening to because it solves nothing).

    so judgemental from all of the PERFECT PEOPLE regarding this situation with Pastor Bynam and husband

    I don’t think you need to be perfect to judge a guy for beating his wife. Just a thought.

    No he should not have beat her and he will not be blessed for that act

    Hey, didn’t you just say not to judge? Anyway, it’s good to know he will not be blessed for beating his wife; I’m glad you speak on god’s behalf, since god seems to be not talking on the subject himself. Now if the church can call that miracle and with certainty attribute it to some long dead leader, we can add another saint to that long list of people you can pray to.

    Pray for both of them because as some have said there are two {three] sides to every story. We need to practice restraint to keep from talking too much to cause peace.

    Prayer has no effect on anything; that has been scientifically tested.

    I don’t even understand that last setence. How will not condemning a man who rightfully deserves our condemnation bring about peace? Are you seriously suggesting we just leave wifebeaters alone because if we did, everything would be more peaceful?

  • OMGF

    Mary Ann,

    Those without sin let him or her cast the first stone or forever hold his or her peace.

    You do know that the story where Jesus says this was added to the Bible, right? IOW, Jesus never said it (if he indeed said anything in the Bible or even existed).

    I see your point, however, and I have to say, “What?” Are you serious? Do you really think that I can’t condemn a man for beating his wife? What other side is there to this story? Did she nag him or something? Were her actions worthy of a beating? I tend to think that violence is over the line in just about every situation that doesn’t involve self-preservation, so I’m confident that he stepped over the line. So, I have to wonder why you think that speaking out against violence and hypocrisy doesn’t lead to peace.

  • kristin

    Junnie offered forgiveness and said she was willing to work through it which he rejected, i guess she had to apologize for getting beaten. But hey he had other plans, what a great opportuity for divorce so he could start a reality show looking for woman 21 and up to come and marry him him. Weeks is a shallow womanizer who writes books on god and relation ships and lets not forget his faamous speaach where you should be cussing at your woman in bed because woman like is ruff…right. This guy needs to get his face out of porn, enter into a retreat where they deal with reality then quit trying to pretend he is sent by god.


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