Battle Scarred
January 24, 2012, 12:18 PM

It was the old parsonage, white clapboard, probably built in the ‘20’s.  Since it was right next to the church, it was the perfect place for the adult Sunday school classroom when the new brick parsonage was built catty-corner to the sanctuary.

My class met in the living room.  Donated couches, and grey folding chairs created a circle within the space.  It was musty and stark and didn’t feel like a home anymore.

That summer Sunday morning I came by myself to join the fellowship.  My new husband was off attending a Nation Guard drill.  I came to church to fight my battles.

Closer in age to the teenagers down in the church basement, but feeling like a real adult, I sat comfortably among my classmates, most of whom were probably twenty years older than me.  The lesson was about love.  The message seemed simple enough to me, love one another.  I decided to share a troubling scene I had witnessed at a choral clinic that pass January.  In a huge auditorium filled with high school singers, the conductor instructed the choir members to turn to their left and massage the shoulders of the person in front of them.  Sitting near the back unobserved I noticed that one girl on the last row hadn’t raised her arms to massage her fellow singer.  Standing next to her stood an African American boy.  She was white with long blonde hair.  A surge of pain went through me as I realized she was refusing to touch him because he was black.  I thought, “How sad and cruel!” I was sure she didn’t give the massage because of his color.

I don’t know if I was right about that conclusion, but that is what I passionately shared with my fellow Christians. Then I asked, “How could she do that?”

After I spoke the room was uncomfortably silent.  Finally one man tried gently to explain why the girl might have been just too uncomfortable to participate.

Then suddenly, another man from across the room lashed out, “I’d die before I’d let my daughter touch any black man!”

Incredulous, I responded, “but I thought Jesus taught us to love everyone.”

His eyes flashed as he said, “You don’t have to touch someone to love them.”

I grew up a giant step that day.  My battle was fought close to the heart.

I share this story with you as we prepare for our Annual Charter for Racial Justice Event- Sing a Rainbow Event.  The story “Battle Scared” is an important part of my life.  It was the first time I had encounter angry, hate-filled racism in the church.  Want to know what happened after that incident?  Well, I was so upset I walked home.  I didn’t go to worship. I needed the walk.  I didn’t cry during Sunday School, but as soon as I walked out of the building, I couldn’t stop crying.  I cried for two days.  The man came over to my house to tell me he was sorry he’d upset me, but it was too late.  I had seen it.  I had seen the hate of racism.  And from that day on I’ve tried to be intentional about reaching out and “touching” the “others” in my life.  I think we do have to touch someone to love them. One of the reasons I’m a member of United Methodist Women is the intentional effort we make to end racism.  My scars remind me of the work we still have to do. 

Come to Sing a Rainbow on February 18 in Waco at Woodway UMW to continue this work of ending racism.  With God’s help we can do it- one touch at a time. For more information on Sing a Rainbow click here.


03-13-2012 at 10:21 PM
Cynthia Rives
Eva, hopefully we can love everyone. But we don\\\'t have to love all the things people do. Part of the scars I have from this encounter was from seeing my Christian friend, a member of my church family, as a racist and struggling with how to continue to love him, but also fight against racism. What good is it to hate the hater. Doesn\'t that make us what we hate?
02-09-2012 at 3:03 PM
Eva Mancuso
That surely was a tough battle. I was more fortunate on Long Island, NY. Several blacks in our school and church and working with a couple at my Dad's business. We're not supposed to hate, but I definitely hate racial injustice.
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