Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Jerry Newcombe

Guest essay by Jerry Newcombe 

Political correctness infects virtually every aspect of our culture, our thinking, our heritage. 

When I grew up (and I was born in 1956), Christopher Columbus was a great hero. Now, to some, he has become a villain. He is blamed for many unjustifiable things, most of which followed in the wake of his voyage. Meanwhile, most of us have lost the Christian side of Columbus. 

Just days ago, the Seattle School Board voted unanimously to replace Columbus Day, a federal holiday, with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” celebrated on the same day in support of the people allegedly plundered and wiped out by Columbus and his heirs. 

Contrast this view of Columbus, which has gained currency recently, with a statement by one of the nation’s first great historians, George Bancroft (1800– 1891). His six-volume series (final version, 1888) on the history of the United States was a standard for a couple of generations. When I began to study America’s roots in earnest years ago, I invested in getting those six volumes. What a treasure trove. Although Bancroft was a nineteenth-century Unitarian, at least he didn’t edit out the G-word (God), the C-word (Christian), or the B-word (Bible) in his quotes. Bancroft said that Columbus’s voyage was certainly “the most memorable maritime enterprise in the history of the world.” 

Modern authors George Grant (The Last Crusader) and John Eidsmoe (Columbus & Cortez) confirm Bancroft’s excellent information with their own scholarship on the explorer and his Christian faith. 

In 1892, the City of Chicago elaborately honored Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his voyage. I understand that the genesis of the Museum of Science and Industry (a phenomenal place) came out of that anniversary celebration. But jump forward a hundred years to 1992. By then the politically correct elites in our culture had already begun reviling. Columnist Gary Wills captured that sentiment well, saying: “A funny thing happened on the way to the quincentennial observation of America’s discovery: Columbus got mugged.” 

It is true that Spanish and Portuguese explorers who followed Columbus’s voyage greedily sought gold, not God, in the New World. They significantly mistreated the indigenous peoples here, especially in South America. But should we lay all the blame at the feet of the Genoan sailor? Listen to what Columbus himself wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain on February 15,1493, during his return voyage: “I forbade that they [the Indians] should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and lace points…. I gave them a thousand good, pleasing things which I had bought, in order that they might be fond of us, and furthermore might become Christians and be inclined to the love and service of Their Highnesses and of the whole Castilian nation [Spain], and try to help us and to give us of the things which they have in abundance and which are necessary to us” (Federer 2000, 113). 

In 1505 he finished writing his Book of Prophecies, where he laid out the Christian motivation of his enterprise. He viewed his voyage as helping to hasten the Second Coming. He took to heart these words of Jesus Christ: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). 

Although a sinful man like all of us, he still stands as a hero. Why did he persevere for at least seven years requesting funding for his voyage? Why did he suffer repeated rejections of his proposal and even ridicule? Why did he defy death and risk mutiny to sail west into unknown waters? He tells us in his own words: “It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) to sail to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures” (Federer 2000, 120). 

Under Columbus’ leadership, the sailors on the three ships began each day of the voyage with a prayer: 

Blessed be the light of day, 
And the Holy Cross, we say; 
And the Lord of Verity 
And the Holy Trinity. 
Blessed be th’ immortal soul 
And the Lord who keeps it whole 
Blessed be the light of day 
And He who sends the night away. (Moore 2008) 

Columbus named the places he landed in a way reflective of his Christian faith. These include the first island (in the Bahamas), San Salvador (“Holy Savior”). Other lands he named are Trinidad (“Trinity”), Vera Cruz (“True Cross”), and Navidad (“Christmas”). 

He was a study in endurance. I’ve heard that he repeatedly wrote in his journal, “And this day we sailed on.” Of course, even the missionary enterprise itself is suspect in our day, when each of us is expected to invent and live by “our own truth.” But Columbus was a man, like all great men, who believed in real truth—and worked as hard as he could to spread it far and wide. 

Although politically incorrect today, Christopher Columbus is still a hero in my book.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Newcombe’s Nordskog Publishing title American Amnesia.

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. Dr. Newcombe is the author of NPI The Book that Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation, and wrote or co-wrote thirty other books including The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, Doubting Thomas (w/ Mark Beliles, on Jefferson), and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) and the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback).  @newcombejerry

© 2019 Used by Permission

Nordskog Publishing (NPI) provides articles and essays by select guest authors which we believe have much to offer the Christian community—to motivate Biblical thinking and action. We believe in the market place of ideas within the context of God’s Word. However, we may disagree at points.  Publishing an article does not mean absolute agreement. Therefore, please understand that opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NPI, nor of its editorial staff.

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2 Responses to Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

  1. Karl Priest October 15, 2019 at 8:37 pm #

    So-called “indigenous” people were not native to this continent. They migrated here.

    Also, before whites arrived the red people were enslaving and killing each other.

  2. Lawrie Sikkema October 16, 2019 at 4:20 pm #

    I am sick and tired of the Social Justice warriors and/or politically correct (ha!) people who are attempting to rewrite our History. Revisionist History is being taught in public schools across the country. We cannot allow this to keep happening. What was once wrong is now right, and what was right is now wrong. We need common sense to reign again, in my humble opinion. Better yet, remove your children from the government schools and place them in a private school or homeschool. They will be much better off.

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