Cureton: Columbus Motivated by Christian Faith to Enslave People

Family Research Council Vice President Dr. Kenyn Cureton tried mightily to defend Columbus against critics who point out, accurately, that he committed genocide and enslaved native people to force them to search for gold (and sent slaves home to Spain as well). Let’s just say his defense fell a bit short:

On “Washington Watch” yesterday, Cureton said that Columbus had good intentions since he was trying to find gold to fund a potential war with Muslims over control of Jerusalem and spread the Gospel to indigenous peoples.

He argued that Columbus only enslaved native peoples instead of killing them because he was a merciful leader (and he needed them to search for gold to help defeat the Muslims). He also said that Columbus defended the Arawaks from cannibals, a contested claim. Columbus also enslaved the Arawaks along with thousands of others.

“So he did do some things that weren’t right but his motives overall were, number one, to get gold to free Jerusalem but secondly to share the Gospel,” Cureton said. “He was very much motivated by his Christian faith and I think that is what is behind this effort to wipe his name out from history.”

So let me get this straight: He was motivated by his Christian faith to take people as slaves and that makes what he did not so bad. That’s quite a surprising admission for a Christian right leader to make, don’t you think?

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  • erichoug

    It’s always dangerous to judge historical figure by modern moral standards.

    But in the case of Columbus, I think that there is absolutely no doubt that he was a terrible person by nearly any standard of any age. His treatment of the natives and his absolutely wretched motives were wrong even in the time he lived in.

    I want to start a petition to eliminate Columbus day as a national holiday.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Well, it was a necessary preparation for converting millions of slaves from their African heathen religions to the Christianity that they learned from their owners and passed on to their descendants today in the Americas.

    So, when you consider the eternal torment that millions of savages were spared by slavery, it’s all good.

  • erichoug
  • eric

    He argued that Columbus only enslaved native peoples instead of killing them because he was a merciful leader

    Hey, the man is at least being theologically consistent. Columbus is merciful the same way God is merciful.

  • John Pieret

    He was motivated by his Christian faith to take people as slaves and that makes what he did not so bad. That’s quite a surprising admission for a Christian right leader to make, don’t you think?

    That a Christian right leader would think that abusing brown people to fund a war against other brown people is ultimately okay? Not so surprising … except for the caveat that it wasn’t completely okay.

  • Alex Symczak

    @1: Based on Spain’s actions during their conquest of the America’s, I’m not sure you could say that his contemporaries would have thought anything was wrong with his behavior.

  • dingojack

    Why didn’t Chris just introduce Ebola? Works for Obama, just ask Mr Stockton.


  • dhall

    Talk about revisionism . . . Columbus insisted on aristocratic titles and rank for sailing to the Indies. He wanted gold for the same reasons–he was a greedy opportunist seeking wealth and power, and he overreached. Even Isabella, his main supporter, turned against him after awhile. “For God and glory”–the first is a cover, the second the truth.

  • psweet

    At least one of his contemporaries ended up finding problems with it. Check out Bartolome de las Casas sometime.

  • erichoug


    I really don’t think that’s true. We tend to forget how limited information was before our current internet age. A lot of people only had the word of the people who had actually been over there as to what was going on. But, even in his own time, Columbus had a lot of detractors.

    There is quite a bit of historical evidence that people who were familiar with what was going on in the new world were horrified by much of it. did a great job of presenting Bartolome de las Casas. And there were quite a few more.

  • Alex Symczak

    If I understand correctly, Bartolome de las Casas criticized what the Spanish were doing in general, which is my point. When Spanish colonists followed Columbus they had many of the same polices of enslavement and forced labor. This would seem to indicate to me that most of his contemporaries we’re of a similar mindset. I’m sure there was opposition to a degree, but not so great it effected Spanish policy.

  • Modusoperandi

    He’s right. Columbus wasn’t bad. He only enslaved people, instead of killing people. And also he killed people.

  • abb3w

    So, how does Columbus trading in sex slaves fit into Christianity?

    No, wait; I can re-read Deuteronomy 20:12-14 for myself, thank you.

  • blf

    He was fired as governor in 1499. Even the Spanish of the time thought he was an arsehole.

  • Big Boppa


    When you consider that he especially traded in 9 & 10 year olds you have to admit that his intentions were quite priestly indeed.

  • Sastra

    Even if Columbus’ motives had been good, this excuses nothing. It explains, maybe. But it doesn’t absolve.

    Most people think they’re the good guys. They’re fighting for God or justice or love or the liberation of humanity or a perfect state of … something or other. Good intentions in an irrational framework = evil. The Nazis framed the extermination of the Jews in terms of purging toxins from a weakened body so that it might be healthy and happy again. They meant well. They just didn’t like questioning the framework.

    “The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Those good intentions are not necessarily discarded along the way: they’re often beating the drum up the path.

  • Alex Symczak

    After further review, it would appear that I am mistaken at least in part. Columbus was not well liked, but this would appear to be because of his policies of governing and his treatment of the colonists. Insofar as his treatment of the natives is concerned, It still seems as though the Spanish colonists’ actions shows general agreement with many of his policies.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    dhall @ # 8: “For God and glory”–the first is a cover, the second the truth.

    Nope, that was just Colombus’s typo. The “l” in the fourth word actually belongs in the second.

  • Larry

    And I suppose the chopping off the appendages of disobeying slaves and the forcing of the women in to sexual slavery for his men were just a courtesy detail?

    As far as spreading the gospel to the natives, I think we’ve all seen pretty much how that has gone in other circumstances. It’s certainly nothing that a normal person would want on their resume.

  • Artor

    @ Alex Symczak, Don’t make the mistake of conflating what the rich and powerful do with what everyone else does. If you judge today by the standards of corporate CEO’s and Pat Robertsons, we are the most avaricious fucks in history. But that’s just a tiny percent of the population, and most of us detest those amoral motherfuckers. Many of the Spanish colonies were developed by people scrambling to become the next filthy rich aristocrat. If your goal is to exploit a new land and squeeze resources out of it, of course you’ll approve of Columbus.

  • anubisprime

    That’s quite a surprising admission for a Christian right leader to make, don’t you think?

    Not really, given the religious rights deification of twisted theistic apologetics, and William Lane Craig in particular.

    Next week the claim will be that Chris was an advocate for the abolition of slavery, and a really cool dude, and he was successful because, well no slavery today don’t ya see?

    Of course his campaign inspired and was later joined, by the early xtian missionaries to the new world and how they later all fought together tooth and sceptre to free imported Africans from the atheists and teh gheys, and won, it all makes sense really!

    All is good in theistic ‘fistikated feelology’ land cos it covers a multitude of sins, and they indeed have a multitude of sins to cover up!