Faith in the backdrop

Amidst this country’s discussion on race, the subject of religion appears more often than not, but not always in the appropriate context. The importance of churches, religious groups and faith in the civil rights movement cannot be overstated. A striking area that should not be forgotten is the effect race has played, particularly in the south, in scholastic athletics.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines program profiled an amazing story Sunday morning of how race plays an invisible role today due to a horrific incident that happened 93 years ago and how faith helps heal those wounds:

You’re Marty Cann, and you told the reporter from the Columbia paper that the accused murderer must have been some other Cann. You know your dad, and you knew your granddad, and you know yourself, and a Cann simply couldn’t kill a man, let alone lead a lynching. But the reporter showed you his research, and you were crushed. Then it got much worse: A great-grandson of the victim, Darrell Crawford, is also a coach at Abbeville High. You soul-searched for weeks, months, now years, as you and Darrell saw each other every now and then without really talking. What does it mean to be a Cann? Your dad doesn’t want you talking about it. But part of you wonders why he didn’t talk about it with you. “I was never told about this,” you say. “I got a great mom and dad … but I never have been someone that has shared with them how I feel. And so this is an emotional-type thing and so, you know, I just …” You don’t know how to finish that thought. Who could?

The story is about love and the role of forgiveness. Although the article doesn’t mention religion much, other than the fact that Darrell Crawford is a preacher in addition to his role as a high school track coach, the television version of the story did explore some of the religious issues that go to the heart of the story today. The narrator of the show described Crawford’s preaching as “a message of compassion to a community that was once torn by racial conflict” and talks about how Cann still prays about it.

As for the relationship between Cann and Crawford today, the Outside the Lines interview described it in this manner:

“Forgiving the ones who are here now is like laying blame on them, and they didn’t do it. So I’m at peace with it,” says Crawford. …

Knowing Coach Cann as a Christian man, and one who loves the children and one who works with all children no matter what their race is, I couldn’t hate Coach Cann because of something that happened in the past. You have to endure hate with love. Instead of hating, my family has always dwelt in love.

Unfortunately, the print version of this story seems to ignore the topic of sin and the fact that Crawford is a pastor. Here is a snippet of the article that does discuss the role Crawford’s status of a preacher plays in this story:

You are Darrell Crawford, 39 years old, and you weren’t expecting to run into Marty Cann here. But Abbeville doesn’t have a lot of gas stations, so it’s not exactly a shock. You are still struggling with the fact that your family tragedy has become a public discussion, but you’re a preacher, so you’re used to having people watch you.

Overall, the Outside the Lines version of the story does a much better job discussing the religious issues at the core of this story. Perhaps that is because the television version allowed the individuals speak more in their own voices. Overall, these are the types of stories that must be told. The role of religion must be reported for the simple reason that it is part of the story.

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  • Jerry

    Overall, these are the types of stories that must be told. The role of religion must be reported for the simple reason that it is part of the story.

    I’m glad to see this story highlighted here just for that reason.


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