It’s Not True

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020, was a sad day for Ohio. It was a sad day for our nation. The statue of Christopher Columbus that stood in front of Columbus City Hall has been removed. The 20 foot tall statue was a gift from the people of Genoa, Italy in 1955. There are two basic reasons given for its removal. First, the explorer was responsible for genocidal cleansing. Second, Columbus’ exploitation of the native people with whom he came into contact. It’s not true! I know it has become standard practice in recent decades to accuse Columbus of great atrocities. But it’s not true. How did we get to this point?

It seems to go back to a “historian” by the name of Howard Zinn. He is the inspiration behind doing away with Columbus Day. In 1980, Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States, which became a popular high school and college textbook. In Mary Grabar’s book entitled Debunking Howard Zinn, she points out a key passage in Zinn’s book about the Arawak people that Columbus encountered when he landed in the Caribbean Islands. “They have no iron. Their spears are made out of cane….They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Hmm, this makes it sound like Columbus does indeed have very sinister plans for these poor people. Ms. Grabar points out that there are some very important statements that Zinn conveniently left out (note the ellipses). He completely misrepresented Columbus and therefore distorts his words and his intentions. In reality, Columbus was expressing concern for the Arawaks. He had seen the marks of wounds on their bodies and asked what caused these wounds. They told him the wounds were from tribes that came from other islands who were attempting to capture and enslave them. Columbus’ is noting that the Arawaks were the kind of people who could be easily enslaved and that concerned him.
 
Columbus had no intention of making them his slaves. In fact, Columbus’ primary concern for them was for their salvation. He wrote in his log, “I want the natives to develop a friendly attitude toward us because I know that they are a people who can be made free and convert to our Holy Faith more by love than by force.” Furthermore, Columbus warned his men not to take anything from the people without giving something in exchange. Somehow Mr. Zinn left these things out of his book.
 
There were others who did treat the native people horribly—especially when the Spanish got into the picture. But that was not Columbus. For Zinn however, it was important to make it seem as if Columbus was the perpetrator. Why? He was trying to make it seem as if there was a theme of oppression in America from the beginning. He said, “What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortez did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.”
 
Howard Zinn establishes Columbus as being guilty of “conquest and murder” so he can establish that as the theme for the United States of America. A People’s History makes it a point to denigrate the Founding Fathers and pretty much every leading figure in our history as being just like Columbus. That is why it is so important that he take quotes out of context. He wants to give a depiction of Columbus that is radically different with how he has been characterized in previous historical works about him.
 
This purposely tainted historical narrative is a major contribution to the cultural Marxism that is so rampant in our nation today. It is consistent with the view of seeing all things from the vantage point of the oppressors versus the oppressed. It is consistent with believing that the victims of oppression find other victims and so carry on the problem for generations. It is consistent with believing that the victims of oppression cannot be held accountable for any crimes they commit—it is always the fault of the oppressor. It is also consistent with why we have rioters all over the country who want to vandalize and tear down statues of virtually any person in our nation’s history. And it is consistent with the belief that there is no hope for America because it was racist from the beginning, therefore it all needs to be torn down. We all know from personal experience that there is no such thing as a person who always does the right thing all the time. From what I have read of Columbus, I believe he was a genuine Christian—but not a perfect man. He definitely made some big mistakes. In spite of his imperfections, The Lord used him in some remarkable ways in history and I think it is right that we remember him. George Washington was not a perfect man, but there would be no United States of America apart from him and I think it is right that we remember him.
 
Abraham Lincoln was not a perfect man, but he gave strong leadership at a crucial time in our nation’s history and I think it is right that we remember him. Martin Luther King was not a perfect man, but the Lord used him mightily in the fight for civil rights and I think it is right that we remember him.
 
God has a good work, a gospel work that He is doing in the world and history is the outworking of His wondrous works. He uses imperfect people to accomplish His work—that should be encouraging to all of us. There are always things to celebrate and learn from, alongside mistakes that we want to avoid. Our great hope is that Jesus Christ is King and we are not. After giving Himself as the sacrifice for guilty sinners and satisfying the wrath of God on our behalf, He was raised from the dead. He was then raised to the right hand of God the Father where He rules until the Lord brings all His enemies into glad submission through the gospel. That is the truth of history that we must never forget.
 
Anno Domini 2020