Daily Archives: October 14, 2008

Nothing to Do With Christianity: Chris Columbus reflects European Mindset of the Time

The Rev. Reed Braden over at Homosecular Gaytheist (and friends!) thinks that  he’s captured the Christian mindset with this quote from Christopher Columbus’s writings:

Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language. […] I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.

In its pure form, Christianity would tolerate no such mindset. This isn’t the mindset of a Christian; this is the mindset of a typical European of the 15th century.

Mentioning the conversion of the natives to Christianity is typical of what Lee Camp calls the “Constantinan Cataract” viewpoint: after the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity took on a rather militant manner of converting people. It tended to do conversions by force rather than allowing people to hear the gospel and pledge their lives to Christ of their own accord; trusting that God will draw his elect to himself as the Bible promises. Christianity by coercion isn’t Christianity. The apostles would be horrified. Jesus would be grieved.

I share the outrage of Mr. Braden, but I do not agree that it has anything to do with Christianity. Columbus’s mission was to evaluate foreign lands for conquering and bringing under Spain’s control. His primary goal wasn’t to be a Christian missionary. Sorry, Reed, you lose.