Since today is Columbus Day and the United States is still mired in political partisanship, your social media feeds are likely to be clogged with memes both praising and criticizing Christopher Columbus. Possibly one like this:
Or maybe this one:
Columbus day became an official holiday in 1937, but it had been celebrated for quite a while before that. Columbus was a venerated figure symbolizing exploration, progress, and the history of the founding of our nation. It was in the late 20th century that historians began to research the details of his life and voyages that were less savory; the treatment of native peoples, the start of the Atlantic slave trade, etc. An established fact is that Columbus had been replaced as governor of the territory he explored due to accusations of tyranny. In 2006 a document was discovered in an archive. It had the record made by his successor that detailed those charges and the evidence discovered and boy, was it grim.
Rethinking Columbus Day as a holiday to venerate a man who was a brave and skilled explorer, but was also a flawed and maybe even terrible human being, is valid. We should question our choice of who we hold up as heroes for our kids. We should not sugar-coat our history to make the rise of the United States look better. In order to form this union, a lot of native peoples died. To say it was a genocide is not that wide of the mark. Asking questions and acknowledging the facts of our origins is not erasing history, it’s being truthful to it.
Today you may see a meme that makes you angry, or begs to be refuted. Maybe it’s a post that makes you want to pull one of these:
you’ll be tempted to argue one way or the other.
Was Christopher Columbus a Christian? Maybe. But the holiday isn’t for his faith, it’s for his exploration. Simply put, Christians do not have a dog in this fight. For far too long American Christians have taken the flag and wrapped it around the cross. We’ve defended traditional Americana as if it was the Gospel. It’s time to stop.
We have one main job on this earth – to spread the Good News that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us. His perfect sacrifice has atoned for us and all we need do is repent, place our faith in Him, turn from our sin, and follow Christ. Our secondary job is to love one another, love our neighbors, and even love our enemies. Don’t let the petty squabbles of today get in the way of sharing the Truth or actively loving the people that God has put in our lives.
You might have strong opinions about this, but what do they serve? Are you an authority who can bring clarity to the debate? Or is this another argument that will push your neighbors and friends who think differently than you further away? There are so many forces trying their best to pull us apart. Don’t rise to the bait. Let it go.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the early Christians. Ours was a faith derided as one practiced by and only fit for ‘slaves and women’. Those early believers traded their status for the Grace of God. They were about as counter-culture as you can get. When I find myself in the middle of a social media dust up, I think of them. What deserves my passionate defense? My energy? My time? They risked their lives to save children literally thrown away. They spent their time and energy promoting the Gospel. They ministered to the sick, the outcasts, the stranger, and the poor.
Putting that frame around the current discord has been helpful. I’ve found myself bowing out mid-argument because it’s not where I should be in the first place. And I’m a lot more careful with my tone. Christians do not mock. I don’t think we should be snarky or dismissive either. Christ saved his anger for the men turning his Father’s house into a temple of greed. He flipped tables and drove them out. But look how he dealt with sinners? He sat down with them and talked. He had dinner with them and talked. He traveled to their town and talked. We need to be careful in our rhetoric, to follow his example.
So, sit this one out. Enjoy the day off if you have it. Read a book (mine, maybe) and enjoy your friends and family. Spread a little love around and have a Happy Columbus Day.