From the Pastor’s Pen – Bringing Christ’s Kingdom

There is a couplet I learned in elementary school:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus crossed the ocean blue

It’s one of few mnemonic devices that has stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it this week, as we’re approaching Columbus Day, and I wondered why I’d never learned any more of the poem from which the couplet is extracted.

Then I wondered if there was, in fact, a larger poem. So I did some internet digging, keeping in mind that old adage of Abraham Lincoln, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

A larger version of the poem begins this way:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

It continues on for several stanzas, roughing out the story and some of its significance. It turns out that’s not original, though. An older version in a widespread children’s book that predates the Civil War begins this way:

Image by AndPon from Pixabay

Columbus was a sailor brave,
The first that crossed th’ Atlantic wave.
In fourteen hundred ninety-two,
He came far o’er the ocean blue,
Where ne’er a ship had sailed before,
And found a wild and savage shore, –
Where naked men in forests prowled,
And bears and panthers roamed and howled.

It’s probably fair to expect language describing pre-colonial America as wild and savage, and for heavily garbed and elaborately decorated Europeans to see indigenous peoples as essentially naked, but I’m sure glad we’ve moved beyond those stereotypes. At least, I hope we have. The cultures that precede us on this continent are rich and deep with faith and tradition. It is tragic that we have sought, for several hundred years, to minimize and degrade them.

This Columbus Day, I’d really like to invest some attention in the cultures of the indigenous peoples of this continent. I think we have a lot to learn from them about stewardship of each other and of the earth. I think we need to recognize what we have done, as people of European descent, to erase their history and replace it with ours. I think we need to recover what we can and make steps to rectify the violence and theft we have brought upon them.

I suspect it’s time to move away from Columbus Day. His importance as an explorer should not be minimized, but neither should the violent colonial expansionism he embodied.

This year, I’d much prefer to focus on a day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples. That is much more respectful and closer to the kind of peace and goodwill we’re responsible for as bringers of Christ’s Kingdom.

Image by Albert Dezetter from Pixabay

So have a beautiful Indigenous Peoples Day, y’all. Go and share the good news.