Columbus day is upon us again. So instead of celebrating by purchasing a mattress at the Macy’s Columbus Day Mattress Sale, I thought it might be more meaningful to actually talk about the man who made the first step toward establishing what we enjoy today as America.
It’s all the rage today to condemn Columbus as an evil white guy who killed Indians for gold and conquered territory for his own gain. And while he did, indeed, commit some horrible acts, that’s not the whole story. And despite what you may read in annual Columbus-bashing posts, it was no secret, either.
He was a fallible human. Incidentally, so were the “indigenous people” who share this holiday. So let’s examine the entire story.
Christopher Columbus’ name means “light bearer.” Much has been said in modern times about Columbus’ greed and sin. But in his early years he felt that he had been truly called by God to take the light of Christ to the remote parts of the earth.
It was his great desire to find a trade route to the Indies (which is what they called Asia) by water. This would be harder to accomplish than he realized.
He would need ships and funding, and he needed God on his side. Through a series of miracles, and after several years of waiting and praying, Columbus was finally granted everything he needed.
He set sail with three ships in 1492. This trip was also fraught with difficulty, and again, the need for God’s intervention. One of my favorite stories of God’s hand leading Columbus took place after many weeks at sea.
The sailors were all sailing into a new territory. The Atlantic was not by any means a well-traveled ocean yet, and they were looking for land they weren’t even sure existed.
So it is understandable when the captains of the other two ships came to Columbus with grumblings and threats if they didn’t turn back soon. The sailors were tired of sailing nowhere, and were ready to go back to Spain. Columbus assented, on one condition: that they sail for three more days. If they hadn’t sighted land by the third day, they would go home.
You can imagine the prayers that Columbus lifted to heaven that night. Years of dreams and plans would come to nothing if they did not find land soon. Was it all to come to nothing?
God was listening. Suddenly, after many days of calm, the wind picked up and sped the three ships southward at alarming speed. Every sailor was aware of the incredible change in the weather.
At dawn on the third day, guess what they saw? Land! God had granted Columbus his dream! As the sailors went ashore, the first thing they did was to erect a cross and kneel in thanks to God Almighty. They named that island San Salvador (which means Holy Savior).
The Truth About Columbus
What happened after this is a sad tale in the life of Columbus. He was overcome by power and greed. He made slaves of some of the inhabitants of the islands he discovered. He refused to keep some of the terms of his agreement with the King and Queen of Spain. He demanded more and more money for his explorations.
What I find most important in the life of Columbus (and in many other tales throughout history) is that God is able to use anyone, whether they remain true to Him or not. Columbus had his heart in the right place to begin with, and like all mankind, he succumbed to self. But God used Columbus to play a mighty part in the history of America, and in the history of the world.
If you’d like to read a great account of God’s hand on Columbus, and in the founding of America in general, read The Light and the Glory : 1492-1793 (God’s Plan for America) by Peter Marshall and David Manual. The authors address Columbus’ life and voyage with truths straight from Columbus’ journals. He had a gran plan with a pure motive, but allowed greed and power to influence what happened later.
Or better yet, read his own words in his own writings, entitled The Four Voyages: Being His Own Logbook, Letters, and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives, You’ll be surprised to see that Columbus was aware of his great sin and failure, and his need for God’s redemption. The end of Columbus’ life was a sad picture of loss, illness, and despair, but also of a man who realized his need for forgiveness.
“Indigenous People’s Day”
All over America, in public schools, universities, and even municipalities, Americans have been convinced that Columbus was so evil that we must “reimagine” his holiday and instead, celebrate indigenous people’s innocence. All down through history, civilizations have risen and fallen while others conquered or were conquered. It’s the story of all mankind. Columbus and the Indians were no exception, and they certainly were not the first.
What the fact-ignorers don’t mention is the rampant human sacrifice, cannibalism, and slave-torture that were a way of life among the North and South American Indian tribes. Slavery was practiced among the tribes (as it has been throughout human history). Archaeologists have confirmed mass child sacrifice in the Aztec culture (as in, bearing children just for the purpose of sacrifice to their gods). This evil behavior is well-documented in these indigenous “heroes.” They were not civilized. They were not peaceful. They were practicing some of the most heinous evil that history has ever witnessed. So no, I don’t think they need a special holiday.
History is a Story
It’s so important to remember (and to teach our children) that history is not good or bad. It’s a story of people and events. Some people were good, and some were evil. Some were both in one lifetime. Some events were wonderful, and some were incredibly heinous. Re-telling stories to suit a narrative does not change what actually happened. Further, it’s extremely dangerous to alter what future generations know by leaving out all the facts.
Columbus was booth good and bad. He desired good things and he did evil things. But his part in the story of America is very important and is definitely worth a special day each year.
The best way to learn history is to read the original writings of the people who lived it. Scour the library and the bookstores for as many original sources as you can find. Compare them to each other. Find the truth.
Now, you can get the story of Columbus’ life AND his journals, plus a free study guide! This book is part of my Knowledge Keepers Home Library Series, which includes books that have gone out of print and that contain firsthand accounts of our true history. These are the texts that teach history, and should be preserved in print, in every home.
- If you want some good recommendations for children’s books on Columbus, read my post here.
- See how we learn history with real book and hands-on fun here.
- Read my post on Six Great Children’s Authors for History here.