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  • Renata Joseph

A Post-Columbian Lament


This day, across the Americas, has historically been celebrated. In Canada it's Thanksgiving. In the US it's Columbus Day. In Belize it's called Pan-America Day. We celebrate Columbus for "discovering" new lands and peoples to subjugate under foreign power.


The discovery of the “New World” allowed European countries like Portugal, Spain, France, The Netherlands and Britain to have global empires. It opened doors for soldiers, pilgrims, con-men, slave owners and slave traders to invade and take over entire civilizations. It brought the "Good News" encased in imperialism, violence and genocide. Somehow that doesn't seem like something I should be celebrating.


There has been growing sentiment that Columbus Day should be taken out of the American calendar, or renamed Indigenous Peoples Day. This renaming puts the focus not on those who came to steal, kill and destroy, but those who were subjected to the violence and destruction they wrought.


Rather than celebrating, can we commemorate? Rather than overlooking the pain or forgetting the sacrifice, can we lament what happened on this land that wasn't ours?


No matter where you go in the Americas, the crippling effect of colonization on indigenous peoples can be seen and felt. In each location, disease accompanied the explorers, then came war, tearing apart families, shipping them off to residential schools or reservations, the denying of their lands, culture, language...the list goes on.


History is rarely told by the oppressed. The conquest of the "savages" was only written by those who were educated, wealthy and holding the power. Unfortunately, many of those people professed to be Christians.


It galls me when Christianity becomes synonymous with nationalism, oppression and violence. The Good News is about freeing those in bondage, forgiving one's enemies, feeding and clothing the poor; none of which are the hallmarks of a colonizing force.


Today I take inventory. I ask the Lord to seek my heart, my motives and actions. Find in me the ways that I've confused national identity with kingdom culture. Show me if I have misrepresented the Good News as something that hurts, rather than liberates. Forgive me when I have walked over people who are vulnerable.


Proverbs 14;31 says, "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,

but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."


I can't turn back time and undo the pain that Columbus wrought when he set sail in 1492. My role is to be a modern-day disciple; someone that follows Jesus into the streets and boroughs. Someone who extends a hand and offers a cool drink. Someone who will lay down her rights and power in service to others.

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