publisher's note
April 1, 2005


Dysfunctional America
by Bruce Rodgers

America is more dysfunctional than it is democratic.

It’s hard to mark a beginning point when the malady first seeded itself into the political culture. But the ascendancy of George W. Bush to the White House through the anointment of the U.S. Supreme Court is a good beginning.

Since Bush wears his Christian faith on his sleeve, it’s not surprising that beliefs in the absolutes of sin, doing God’s will over secular considerations and embracing self-responsibility as a redemptive solution to what ails the individual would seep into the body politic. Like cheap cologne attempting to mask sweat, radical Christianity spreads a fragrance of righteous from a bottle that is the bible.

Instead of constitutional principles securing the foundation of freedom in this country, we hear about Judeo-Christian traditions and what God wants and gave us. Instead of equal rights under the law, we hear about the will of the majority. Instead of respecting the quietness of the soul as one communicates with God over issues of life and death, we hear that the government should be involved.

Believing in a “culture of life” depends upon the political gain it may reap — the right to life means a feeding tube for one over universal health care; it means being against abortion but for the war in Iraq; it means giving the government the “freedom” to jail individual’s without charge; and it means protecting the institution of marriage by defining how love is expressed.

Outside of that definition, lies fear, and within fear lies the beginnings of hate. The Kansas constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, to be voted on April 5, was crafted by the frightened, those toying to become bearers of hatred for another.

“We are the only minority where it is okay to openly hate and discriminate against, “ said Dianna Kuhlman, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

The fear was evident and whiffs of hate lingered when Dr. Jerry Johnston, senior pastor of the First Family Church in Johnson County, said on KCUR March 30 during Steve Kraske’s Up to Date radio show: “The homosexual community wants to advance their agenda. Part of that (agenda) is the censorship of people who believe in the bible literally.”

Just how would married same-sex couples do that Rev. Johnston? How would an acceptance of commitment to another censor one’s interpretation of Scripture?

“Not passing this amendment and granting marriage to homosexuals has the propensity to go beyond marriage (than just for same-sex partners),” said Johnston. He fears adults marrying children and polygamy — behavior evident with a literal interpretation of the bible.

Johnston and other proponents like him talk of “special rights” for homosexuals yet fail to mention the special rights of churches in how the government exempts taxes, funds faith-based activities with public money and protects the confidentiality of church operations in legal proceedings.

Yet churches, like Johnston’s, seem unable to protect or defined the sacredness of marriage. “We must send a signal that marriage is a virtuous institution,” he said. “The homosexual community has highjacked this issue. Most homosexuals do not enter into long-term relationships.”

Long-term or not, “We want to be treated like everyone else,” said Kuhlman. “It’s the civil part of marriage we are after — the right to see your sick partner, make decisions for your partner, so your children can be both of your children, and the right of survivorship.”

Kuhlman, like many in the gay and lesbian community, are mystified by the messages of hate from ministers such as Johnston. “It increases the fear,” said Kuhlman, “and a lot of it comes from ministers who are suppose to be preaching love but instead preach hate.”

But at “Mayday for Marriage” — the title of a rally at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, KS on April 3 — scores of area religious leaders will celebrate what they believe are “faith and family values.”

Rick Fisher, executive director to the Heartland Men’s Chorus, one of 85 gay men choruses in the country, has both faith and family values. Fisher is a member of the Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe, KS. In terms of his faith in God and his religious beliefs, the proposed Kansas constitutional amendment is wrong.

“My response to their (the proponents) interpretation (of the bible) is that there are scholarly disagreements with those interpretations,” said Fisher.

To Fisher, passage of this amendment is a way to “enshrine discrimination into the state constitution” not a defense against the deterioration of the institution of marriage.

“My relationship with my partner does not affect anyone else’s marriage. If religious leaders are so concerned about marriage, they must deal with the topic of divorce and not worry about same-sex couples,” he added.

At the same time (4 p.m.) the Mayday for Marriage rally begins on April 3, the Heartland Men’s Chorus will open its second performance of All God’s Children at the Folly Theater. The original song and story production, conceived by the Chorus, will feature the Rev. Mel White, an ordained minister and founder of Soulforce, “a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.”

At which event do you think love and tolerance will more aptly unfold? At which event will the participants be more Christ-like?

Fisher said he was “discouraged” that a amendment outlawing same-sex marriages was being considered in Kansas. Kuhlman said she was “very sad.”

For me, it’s a dysfunction in America that we have to overcome.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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