By Susan Wilcox, CSJ
Sunday morning , I watched the CBS Sunday Morning show highlighting, Portugal as the first sea power. This segment is obviously being broadcast because Monday is Columbus Day. Prior to watching, I had just returned from Sunday Mass in which we heard once again about the healing power of love as embodied and preached by Jesus. As I watched the show I found myself feeling anger. The copy writing for the show used phrases like “height of power” and “Portugal’s Golden Era”. There were self-satisfied responses elicited in the interviews such as “maps meant power!”
For those who are Portuguese or of Portuguese descent, seeing this would easily lead to a flush of pride as Columbus does for Italians. I am also part of this group being of pre-revolutionary European descent. This is part of the history that brings me to where I am now and yet I find it totally disgusting. Disgust at both the holy genocide of the continent’s First People, culture and wisdom and the vane attachment to a history that puts violence and domination at the center.
Trying to recognize this sin, The National Council of Churches with a wide Christin presence created a resolution which termed the entry of Europeans to the New World, “invasion that resulted in slavery and genocide of Native Peoples”. So what is there to be prideful about on Columbus Day? How can we separate the pure hearted spirit of adventure and discovery from exploration which seeks supremacy financed by entities of extraction, power and domination? How do we separate our desire to share the Gospel of Jesus from it’s global spread through an evangelization tactic of declare or die.
Jesus teaches us that love is what triumphs and yet we still are urged even in our churches to rejoice in a power through domination as if it were righteous. This Columbus Day, need we be reminded once again that the early explorers were there to seek riches for the Christian 1% in Europe exporting not Jesus message but one of dehumanizing profit? Is it an accident that CBS which aired the show is the Columbia Broadcast Network? Columbia being a name borrowed from Columbus. Was the segment it’s way of showing it’s pride? The Council of Churches in it’s resolution on the 500th anniversary in 1992 asked that year serve as a year of “reflection and repentance”. How about every year on Columbus Day?