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Is it still okay to commemorate Columbus Day?

Posted By Connie Moody, Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013

"The determination of the people of the United States to celebrate fitly the great discovery which has advanced civilization and changed the face of the world, makes it certain that a new interest has arisen in the life of the great man to whom, in the providence of God, that discovery was due.”

Edward E. Hale, Roxbury, Mass., June 1st, 1891.
Preface to The Life of Christopher Columbus From His Own Letters and Journals, 1891.

Columbus Day is established to commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. Officially established as a federal holiday in the United States in 1937, it was unofficially celebrated in many cities and states as early as the late 1700’s. In recent years, controversy over the "worthiness” of the man and a day dedicated to the significance of his achievements has prompted individuals and communities to institute alternatives—holiday revisionism, if you will.

Christopher Columbus holds a place on the Chain of Christianity® as a key individual used by God in the westward move of the Gospel. His legacy is admittedly a mixed one; Columbus, after all, was human. In our current postmodern milieu, rather than being studied and understood in light of Providential purpose and history and Christian character, Columbus, the man, is often discounted, derided, and debased. For instance, he bears the disdain of many moderns who attribute to him the personal responsibility for the decimation of native populations from small pox. Clearly this was not his intent and would have been the likely consequence of the inevitable intersection of the Old World with the New through whichever agent and in whatever year it was introduced.

The real debate is between absolutes and "relativisms"—between the presupposition that God in His Sovereignty moves men and nations, sets their boundaries, orders their steps, and numbers their days, so disease epidemics must also be consider in light of the Gospel purposes of Providence, and its relative counterfeit that there is no supernatural Creator-God that brings good out of destruction and that the "noble savage” of the Indies and his indigenous values and behaviors were as worthy, if not more so, than any other. Post-moderns argue that the Native American civilizations encountered on the islands of the Caribbean in 1492 require reconsideration, no, reconstruction, in the cause of cultural egalitarianism and social justice, and history must be rewritten to reflect this.

As Gai Ferdon points out in her book, A Republic If You Can Keep It (2008),

Traditional scholarship, which required rigorous interaction with primary sources and the search for authorial intent, is replaced with a type of literary iconoclasm typically deployed in the service of the "oppressed,” whose ranks have swelled to include almost all groups except white Anglo-American heterosexual males. Though cultural relativism requires that no nation’s past be narrated more prominently than another, postmodernism tends to elevate the histories of so-called oppressed non-western [or indigenous] cultures. National narratives are re-written for purposes of social justice as an attempt to equalize the political, economic, and social aspects of societies.

Ferdon goes on to quote Alvin J. Schmidt from his book Menace of Multiculturalism (1997) with this declaration, "Multiculturalists often damn the facts of history … by publishing ‘noble lies’ that will make minorities and ethnic groups feel good, as well as make their cultures appear equal, or perhaps even superior, to the Euro-American….”[1]

Why not use this Columbus Day to engage in "traditional scholarship, which required rigorous interaction with primary sources and the search for authorial intent”? Why not read the words of Columbus to discover for yourself that "the Bible was the principal source of inspiration for the great Columbian enterprise”[2] by reading Columbus’ own testimony in his Book of Prophecies (El Libro de las Profecias in the original Spanish language, c. 1501-1505)? An excellent companion to this primary source document and worthy your effort is Christopher Columbus, His Life and Discovery in the Light of His Prophecies by Kay Brigham, an author who also compiled an English translation of his Prophecies. Another valuable primary source for study is the English translation of The Log of Christopher Columbus.

Columbus’ convictions and dependency on the Word of God didn’t make him perfect and as Washington Irving pointed out in the chapter "Observations on the Character of Columbus” in his history The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, "These remarks, in palliation of the conduct of Columbus, are required by candor. It is proper to show him in connection with the age in which he lived, lest the errors of the times should be considered his individual faults. It is not the intention of the author [Irving], however, to justify Columbus on a point where it is inexcusable to err [human slavery]. Let it remain a blot on his illustrious name and let others derive a lesson from it.”[3]

Today is Columbus Day. What lessons will you derive from the legacy of this man? How will you commemorate the Hand of Providence as it moved and God set His early stepping-stone for a new frontier for Liberty on an unknown land that lay across the "Sea of Darkness"?  Today IS Columbus Day.

[1] Gai M. Ferdon, A Republic If You Can Keep It, America’s Authentic Liberty Confronts Contemporary Counterfeits (Chesapeake, VA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 2008), 41.

[2] Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus, His Life and Discoveries in Light of His Prophecies (Barcelona, Spain: CLIE Publishers, 1990), 53.

[3] Washington Irving, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus to which are added those of His Companions, Vol. II (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1871), 562.

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Tags:  character  Christopher  Columbus 

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Kendra Harnden says...
Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013
Nicely written, thank you for the references and recommended reading :)
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