Find a Better Hero than Columbus

Jason Micheli —  October 13, 2014 — 4 Comments

Today is Columbus Day. Well, it is in most states (where Native Americans aren’t very numerous). South Dakota, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii do not observe the ‘holiday.’ Since Christians are a people who confess sin, both ours and systemic sin the following seems appropriate for the day:


“They do not bear arms, and do not know them. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. They would make fine slaves. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” 

~ Christopher Columbus, Journal


“Thus the husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, seven thousand children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation. In this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk. In a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile, was depopulated. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and I now tremble as I write.”

~ Bartolomé de las Casas, Spanish Priest with the Columbus expedition

Find a better hero than Christopher Columbus—
Because in the end he did not live up to his name “Christ-bearer.”
Maybe you could replace Christopher Columbus with Francis Xavier.

~ Brian Zahnd


We hope you don’t mind. but we would
Like to talk to you. there are some
Things we need to straighten out. it’s
About these Christians. they claim to
Be from your nation. but man you
Should see the things they do. all the
Time blaming it on you

Manifest Destiny genocide. maximized
Profit sterilization raping the
Earth. lying. taking more than they
Need in all the forms of the greed
We ask them why say it’s gods
Will. damn god. they make it so hard
Remember Jesus. tell them not to kill
Him. rather they should listen
Stop abusing his name and yours

We do not mean to be disrespectful
But you know how it is. our people
Have their own ways. we never even
Heard of you until not long ago. your
Representatives spoke magnificent things
Of you which we were willing to believe
But from the way they acted
We know you and we were being deceived

We do not mean you or your Christian
Children any bad. but you all came to
Take all we had. we have not seen you
But we have heard so much. it is time
For you to decide what life is worth
We already remember

But maybe you forgot

~ John Trudell, Native American Poet

Jason Micheli


4 responses to Find a Better Hero than Columbus

  1. As a pastor, how would you respond to a member of your congregation who kept on confessing the same terrible sin from decades ago over and over again every year, but never changed his behavior today? How would you respond to one who had changed his behavior, but kept on confessing a decade’s old sin and was burdened with terrible guilt over it?

    • Hmmm…belated and brief thoughts, Gene, but I guess I’d wonder how easy it is to equate individual sin and systemic sin. Taking your analogy though I’d push back that the ‘congregant’ (i.e. America) hasn’t ever confessed their sin nor really is it taken seriously. I mean our local football team bears a slur of a name, my kids are told a white-washed ideological myth about Columbus in school and reservations are like little forgotten Haitis tucked away in obscurity all over the country- which I suppose gets at my reply to T’s comment. The genocide of Native Americans and continued suffering of them is a systemic, collective sin that wasn’t committed by others only but is one that I participate in in ways I can’t even comprehend.

  2. . . . or a centuries old sin committed by others?

  3. Jason, I’m a descendant of the very first slave brought to the colonies, a descendant of the first white child born west of the Appalachians, a descendant of the man who made the first European contact with Hawaii, a descendant of the one-time legal owner of all the land between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers (which was later stolen from him by the state of Virginia following the American Revolution) who hired Daniel Boone to open it up to settlement, a descendant of the farmer who had the first flush toilet in the state of Illinois, a descendant of Irish potato farmers, a descendant of Scottish kings, a descendant of the stereotypical country doctor who made calls by horse-drawn carriage, a descendant of the man who loaded the Enola Gay, a cousin to 2 US Presidents, and my great-grandfather and grandmother were the cover article for a LIFE magazine issue. I don’t know much about individual versus systemic sin. I only know that while some of my ancestors had it better than others, and all of them are a part of who I am today, that I don’t get vicarious credit for any of their successes, and don’t feel particularly responsible for any of their sins (some of which literally shaped the world). And all of these events were more recent and closely related to me than Columbus. So, I don’t know why I need to be confessing for what he did years ago — unless you folks in Virginia are prepared to give back the land you literally stole from my family less than 250 years ago.

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