Many of us grew up with at least some annual notice of Columbus Day. Now, we are invited to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on that date. Before you hurriedly leave this page, in a huff over “political correctness”… have you ever stopped to consider how the actions of Christopher Columbus— and the thousands of European colonizers who came after him— fit with the values of Jesus Christ ?
In the summer of 2013, the United Church of Christ Synod meeting in Long Beach, California asked us to reconsider what the Conquistadors and colonists did in the past 500 years, and to repent of the un-Christ-like attitudes that produced horrible, racist genocide (killing of entire ethnic groups of people) here in the Americas.
“Many Americans grow up learning that this continent was ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus. The concept of discovery, as if the land was empty prior to arrival and its indigenous inhabitants were somehow “less than” the explorers is, at its heart, racism and cultural superiority.
The doctrine of discovery, a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, originated from various church documents in Christian Europe in the mid-1400s to justify the pattern of domination and oppression by European monarchies as they invasively arrived in the Western hemisphere. It theologically asserted the right to claim the indigenous lands, territories, and resources on behalf of Christendom, and to subjugate native peoples around the world.
The U.S. Supreme Court used the doctrine to assert that the United States, as the successor of Great Britain, had inherited authority over all lands within our claimed boundaries. This decision allowed our government to legally ignore or invalidate any native claims to property and resources. To this day courts continue to cite this legal precedent. It is still being used by courts to decide property rights cases brought by Native Americans against the U.S. and against non-Natives.
The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by General Synod 29 provides an invaluable teaching moment for our congregations to understand systemic and continuous impact of racism on the daily lives of indigenous peoples in the U.S..”
(source: http://www.ucc.org/justice_racism_doctrine-of-discovery )
The United Church of Christ General Synod 29 resolved that we as followers of Jesus ought to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.
The word, “repudiate” means to clearly state, “I don’t believe in that: that does not represent me.”
If we look into the shameful and racist ways that our European ancestors treated the people who were on this continent first, the question now confronts us: Do I approve of what my ancestors did; that I would do the same thing if I were in their shoes ?
If we learn about the genocide and slavery and cruelty that our ancestors inflicted on the Natives and feel like “repudiating” what they did, … What can we do about it now ? That is all in the past, isn’t it ?
No. Racism toward Native Americans is still rampant in the United States, and this racism has profound effects on them.
One thing we can do is to tell our elected officials and those running for office that it is important to us that our Commonwealth of Virginia and our United States do concrete things to make up for the wrongs that have been done in the name of Christendom and European culture. This includes treating Native tribes with justice and respect and honor. People are not mascots.
Another thing we can do is examine our attitudes toward non-European peoples of the world, making sure to share the best of God’s love with everyone with whom we have any dealings, regardless of their ethnicity.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Amos 5:14
Hebrews 1 & 2