1. notleia says:

    I vote we ditch Columbus for another explorer dude with less scum attached to his legacy: Neil Armstrong. And whatshisface that everyone forgets because Neil is the name we’re supposed to remember.

  2. I too would hesitate to compare Columbus with Abraham, not least because of Columbus’s legacy of horrific tyranny and cruelty to the people he encountered in the New World, and the greedy way in which he exploited them and sold them into slavery. Even some of Columbus’s Spanish contemporaries were appalled by the reports of the things he had done, so while I would certainly encourage Christian writers to display courage, fortitude, endurance and an adventurous spirit, and to show the same faith and obedience as Abraham did, I don’t think invoking Columbus as an example reflects well on us as believers.

  3. Maybe a little balance about Columbus is needed. From the well-documented article “Honoring Christopher Columbus” by Warren H. Carroll, PhD.:

    Columbus was a flawed hero—as all men are flawed, including heroes—and his flaws are of a kind particularly offensive to today’s culture. But he was nevertheless a hero, achieving in a manner unequalled in the history of exploration and the sea, changing history forever. For some strange reason heroism is almost anathema to our age, at least to many of its most vocal spokesmen. But heroes and the inspiration they give are essential to uplift men and women; without them, faceless mediocrity will soon descend into apathy and degradation. Heroes need not be perfect; indeed, given the fallen nature of man, none can be perfect. It is right to criticize their failings, but wrong to deny their greatness and the inspiration they can give.

    Christopher Columbus is the discoverer of America, and by that discovery ultimately responsible for America’s evangelization; and for this we should forever honor him.

    The article is well worth the read.


    • I don’t think the fact that Columbus’ discovery led to the evangelization of the Americas really helps his case.  God can use anybody to accomplish His purposes … “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  That doesn’t mean we should honor the person doing the evil.  I mean, we don’t call Judas a hero for inadvertently advancing God’s plan of redemption, or call Pharaoh a hero because his hard heart became a reason for God to show His glory in the deliverance of the Isrealites.  The fact that God used them doesn’t mean they weren’t nasty people, or that they deserve any credit for the good results that God brought out of their legacies.  The evidence of Columbus being a practicing Catholic doesn’t really impress me either, by itself.  The members of the Inquisition were devout Catholics as well, after all!  I’m just as interested in whether the *actions* of historical figures showed them to be true followers of Christ, as I am in their professions of faith.

      The most interesting question raised by the article you linked, I think, is the question of how much Columbus was really to blame for the heinous things that took place under his jurisdiction, and how many of them were perpetrated by other people that he was not strong or competent enough to reign in.  It doesn’t answer all of my questions, however.  It doesn’t really refute other material I’ve read, which alleges that Columbus himself gave orders to disfigure natives who would not provide him with gold.  I realize that history is complex and easy to misrepresent, and I haven’t had time to do extensive research myself, so I’m not prepared to make a final conclusion … but IF everything I’ve read about Columbus is true, he wasn’t a flawed hero.  He was a thief and oppressor — more of a villain with a few admirable qualities than a good guy who made mistakes.  (Every villain has admirable qualities, I think; they don’t gain the power to be memorably villainous without some strengths.)

      I do value Columbus Day as a celebration of the spirit of exploration.  No one intends to honor oppression, genocide, etc. — the sanitized Columbus that is being honored is more of a myth or symbol than a real person.  But when the whitewash is peeled away and reveals ugliness underneath, maybe it’s time to move on.  It would be nice to make sure we aren’t attaching the mythic spirit of the holiday to someone who was not merely flawed, but blatantly evil.

What do you think?