Posted by secondchurch on October - 11 - 2017


“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

A couple of my congregants were surprised that I worked on Columbus Day, I guess because it’s a public holiday. I love ministry and often work on public holidays. But I worked on Columbus Day out of principle: Columbus and those who accompanied him did some pretty awful things to Indigenous Americans and enslaved West Indians, forcing them to convert to Christianity.

I did do some reflecting on Columbus Day that I normally would not have done. I thought about how, in school, we were taught that Christopher Columbus was a hero. In a sense, I suppose we wouldn’t be the country we are if it weren’t for him being saved by the Native Americans, and the discord, as well as the commerce, he unleashed. I happen to believe that we wouldn’t be the violent culture we are today if it weren’t for such a brutal beginning of settlement.

I pray that there is a day in the United States when we not only confess the Western sins of the slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, and more, but also make reparations. That is not likely to happen, though, until those of Northern European descent fall as the majority power.  That day is coming, but the odds are that most reading this will not live to see that day.

Walter Benjamin rightly said, “History is written by the victors.” One of the good things about living in the Information Age is that we have access to other truths. We don’t have to believe the history we are taught. We don’t have to believe the false narratives that this is a country where everyone is afforded an opportunity to advance. We can’t believe those narratives as long as powerful men are allowed to advance toward the highest office in the land while demeaning women. We can’t accept the false narratives that we are a post-racial nation while our prisons are over-populated with African Americans, many of whom did not commit violent crimes.

On Columbus Day, I took the day to lament and to confess my complicity, if only to God, in systems that oppress others. Some might perceive my attitude as unpatriotic. Others might perceive it as being negative. I did it to be faithful to the Truth and to disconnect from a false narrative of our history. I pray for the day when we figure out how to undo the wrongs without more violence and bloodshed. Until then, I feel it’s my duty to detach from the status quo that perpetuates harm, even when we know better.

Let me close with a quote from Shane Claiborne’s book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals so you understand where I am coming from: “Our [Christian] history is different from the history told by nations and empires—our heroes are not the pioneers of colonialism and capitalism like Columbus and Rockefeller, but the pioneers of compassion like Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero. And our holy-days are different from the holidays of pop-culture and the dominatrix of power.”

May the peace and power of Christ be yours no matter how you spent Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, or Just Another Day to Be a Child of God.

Re-posting a reflection from last year.

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