Pastor Jim's Message

A Word From Our Pastor
November Message

For this month's newsletter column, I wanted to share a letter I recently wrote to address an issue from a T.V. show:

 

Dear Dr. Phil,

 

My wife, who is a Dr. Phil aficionado, invited me last week to sit down and watch your show called “You Can’t Say That.” She knew I would enjoy the conversation because of the work I do…and she was right. For the conversation you were trying to encourage on the program is the same one that I try to encourage in my congregation on a regular basis – talking across the aisle.

 

I am a pastor at St. Francis in the Foothills, a Methodist church in the Catalina Foothills of Tucson, Arizona. We are an open affirming, reconciling congregation that attempts to be a place for all people. We are active in the LGBTQ community and involved in many immigrant, civil rights, social justice, and advocacy efforts… arenas that in recent years have become the location of many of the culture wars in America.

 

Thank you so much for your courage in addressing the ways we so easily draw lines of separation between us and whoever we see on the opposite side of the rift. Your call to be in conversation rather than argument is essential in the divided America of 2022.

 

That’s why I want to bring two things to your attention because, in the midst of division, our messaging must contain as few ambiguities as possible.

 

Frequently throughout the show you used the term “cancel culture,” usually in the pejorative. As the mediator standing between two separated groups, you should understand that cancel culture is not a neutral term, but rather, one that has often been used as a term of derision by one side in your debate. I understand why you are standing in opposition to how that cancel culture has often played out in our country, but do you realize that you are repeating an all too typical pattern used against minority voices throughout history? It is so easy to sit in a place of relative ease and ignore the challenges present for others who lack some of that privilege (and the ones often caused by those advantages).

 

 

 

Jim at Gun Control walk_edited.jpg

This dynamic was epitomized by the young woman in the checkered blazer who said that people “need to grow a thicker skin.” You made a joke about that remark. Those to whom she was directing the comment would have heard it quite differently. Too often people of color, or of a different orientation or sexuality, or of a minority thought pattern, have been told lines like that in a way that essentially sounds like “Just sit down and relax. Everything will be okay.” And then their voices were ignored.

 

Reactions that seem to be “too much” to the dominant culture are often a result of too many years of having a thicker skin (and because of that, a silent voice), while those whose voice has always been heard are too easily offended by that “smaller voice.” Who truly needs to develop a thicker skin?

 

When that voice is finally discovered, it might come out at times in less functional ways, but being told to put up with additional offenses will rarely seem like a serviceable solution to that newly empowered individual or group.

 

Oftentimes those of us in power and privilege need to close our mouths and listen…even if the other voice feels offensive. It might just be the price we owe for years of not being present to that other person, culture, identity, or race.

 

Thank you once again Dr. Phil for encouraging this conversation. It is one long overdue in our society.

 

Pastor Jim Wiltbank

Pastor Jim's Message of Inclusivity