With Gratitude to Columbus
Would we be alive without him?
I’m doing a little something different today and sharing an article I wrote this summer for our family newsletter.
What I wrote then has been on my mind this week as this new annual battle rages online while folks discuss the merits of a man from whom we are over 500 years removed, not to mention from the first and second-hand witnesses and accounts of his deeds or misdeeds, as the case may be.
I confess I have never read a first or second-hand account of Christopher Columbus’s life. All sources I’ve read are third-hand at best and I feel confident that is the case for 99% of Americans now that we have the attention span of gnats. Third-hand sources, especially, should always invite discernment for bias. Social media “historians” ought to be discounted entirely.
So I will leave the job of passing judgment on his works to Columbus’s Maker, knowing 100% without a doubt that he was indeed a sinner, as are you and I, and that His judgment will be righteous. Knowing 100% without a doubt that none of us, when we are memorialized, hope our sins are the only deeds recounted from our life.
There is one thing that I do know about Christopher Columbus without ever having to crack a book. And that is that the vast majority of us living on the North American continent wouldn’t be alive without his contribution to history.
With the exception of some first-generation immigrants, whose ancestors’ bodies came together in different lands, unaffected by North American history, it’s not even that we wouldn’t be living on this continent today, it’s that we would never have come into existence. Our children would never have come into existence.
Ought we not to express a shred of gratitude to his bravery & daring at least for that?
When we debate the merits of our place here and how we came to inhabit this land, we argue over the validity of our own presence. It’s the utterly ridiculous fruit of bored intellectuals who are in love with their own minds and have nothing better to do in our soft, decadent culture than to navel gaze.
Beginning about two hundred years after Columbus’s discovery, unveiling the existence of this land to the world, my ancestors began to trickle from foreign nations, crossing the same seemingly endless expanse of water to discover a new life. On these banks stepped families from Norfolk, Shropshire, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Yugoslavia, and Croatia. Over the years, these families were knit together in marriage, in unions that otherwise could never have come to pass on other shores.
The following are my reflections on God’s Providence in bringing all of those people together in a unique time and place, all the little events that had to have happened in order for us to be here. I hope that it will help you pause to consider history with more care and grace, knowing that any change from the biggest waves of history, such as Columbus’s travels to an unknown hemisphere, to the smallest ripple of a shy glance between a man and a woman 900 years ago would affect the course of your history.
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