Miami's Blessed Airwaves

To learn more about Bush's victory, tune to 89.7 FM

If you're anticipating fire-and-brimstone preaching, you'll hear it there -- but only occasionally. The bulk of the station's programming is pop music, sugary songs that mimic chart-toppers from Sheryl Crow and Matchbox 20. Except that when the guitar-driven choruses swell, and a WMCU fave like Ian Eskelin croons, "I surrender as I fall into your arms again," it's no earth-bound paramour being embraced.

Christian rock crossover act Switchfoot, currently in heavy rotation on both Top 40 WHYI-FM (100.7) and WMCU, offers an example of the genre's spread, as well as an easy way in for the curious. And Miamians are making that discovery: This past summer's Arbitron ratings, the most recent available, show significant growth. WMCU draws an average of 117,000 listeners during the day from across its broadcast area, which stretches from West Palm Beach down to the Keys. By way of comparison, the similarly noncommercial WDNA-FM (88.9) averages 23,000 daily listeners while NPR affiliate WLRN-FM (91.3) attracts 253,000.

However, playing music is only part of WMCU's mission, and it's that other portion -- the evening talk shows anchored by the Rev. James Dobson -- where Kulchur's proffered olive branch becomes a bit thornier. Dobson's daily Focus on the Family radio program reaches more than seven million listeners nationwide, and while he may not possess the sputtering self-righteousness of a Rush Limbaugh, Dobson has become no less intent on wielding his devoted following as a weapon.

Ruthie J on the air at WMCU-FM
Jonathan Postal
Ruthie J on the air at WMCU-FM

Flexing his increased influence in the wake of the election, Dobson barely waited for the dust to settle on Bush's cabinet shuffle before taking to the airwaves and urging his audience to demand that the president nominate an antiabortion Supreme Court justice. Thanks to Dobson's lead, pro-choice GOP Sen. Arlen Spector's anticipated chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- once an inside-the-Beltway formality -- became front-page news and Bush's first policy showdown.

Dobson is just getting revved up, though. After overturning Roe v. Wade, he's already laid out his second act: a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage once and for all.

For Ruthie J, such a move couldn't come soon enough. Though she counts several gay people in her circle of friends, they've all learned to leave some topics alone. "You are not born like that," she says of gays and lesbians. There is no anger in her voice, only a firm belief. "The Christian community believes gay marriage is a special right. If you want to live peaceably as a gay person, fine. But don't tell me I have to accept that. Don't tell me my laws should protect their choice."

Forty years ago plenty of folks said the same thing about blacks and whites marrying each other. They even pointed to the Bible and said interracial marriage was immoral. Forty years from now the arguments against gay marriage may seem just as outdated -- and offensive.

"I don't think the church is going to let that go as easily," Ruthie J replies with a laugh. "The Bible doesn't say anything about blacks and whites marrying. But the Bible talks clearly about sexuality."

The more Kulchur suggests the moral soundness of gay marriage, the imperative of gays being treated as equals in the eyes of the law, the more Ruthie J insists on outlawing such same-sex unions, relying on identical logic. "Being gay is wrong," she repeats -- again, with no rancor, only a rock-solid conviction -- "and I don't want you to have the legal right to do wrong." As for Kulchur's own beliefs, Ruthie J counters, "Ultimately you can't change society through legislation."

On that, at least, Kulchur can agree. And for the same reason, Kulchur remains certain that gay marriage isn't only just, it's inevitable -- regardless of both James Dobson's machinations and Graydon Carter's thanks-but-no-thanks suggestions. Because for all the legal setbacks signaled by this past election, for all the despair its results created in the rural gay communities of Ohio and Michigan, it wasn't so long ago that the very phrase "rural gay communities" was inconceivable. Living an openly gay life once entailed moving to the coasts, the "blue" states. Fortunately life has a funny way of ignoring ballot results.

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