Happy Columbus Day

Today is Columbus Day. Not only that, this year Columbus Day falls on the actual day that Columbus discovered America, October 12, rather than just a three-day-weekend Monday in October. The Europeans have now know about what they called the New World for 517 years. This day is now celebrated by saying that Columbus really didn’t discover America, since the Native Americans were already here, and by saying that his discovering America was a bad thing. The mood seems to be not to celebrate it, except that there is no way federal workers would give up a three-day weekend. Is there any way of rehabilitating this holiday?

One thing we can all do, though, is fight the myth that in Columbus’s day people thought the earth was flat. In the Middle Ages and going back through the time of the Greeks, it was common knowledge that the earth was a sphere. It was the Enlightenment, which sought to discredit the past, that came up with the myth (along with others, such as confusing “the Dark Ages” with the “Middle Ages”). See this classic post for evidence.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Mary Jack

    That fact that as a society we can hardly celebrate adventurers and explorers anymore says something very clearly about what we really think about interacting with the larger world and learning about what is out there: we should stand still and shut up. No wonder so many children have underdeveloped imaginations. No wonder Americans are losing their creative edge.

  • Mary Jack

    That fact that as a society we can hardly celebrate adventurers and explorers anymore says something very clearly about what we really think about interacting with the larger world and learning about what is out there: we should stand still and shut up. No wonder so many children have underdeveloped imaginations. No wonder Americans are losing their creative edge.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Columbus’ discovery of America was a courageous and hugely important event in American as well as world history that ultimately led to the spread of European democratic civilization in the Americas.

    Yes, the Indians and black slaves suffered greatly from this discovery, though that doesn’t wholly negate the discovery. The history of most regions of the world is replete with dark tales of fallen men.

    Let the condescending Europeans and American leftists wring their paltry hands about Columbus, while we thankful Americans celebrate this great discovery.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Columbus’ discovery of America was a courageous and hugely important event in American as well as world history that ultimately led to the spread of European democratic civilization in the Americas.

    Yes, the Indians and black slaves suffered greatly from this discovery, though that doesn’t wholly negate the discovery. The history of most regions of the world is replete with dark tales of fallen men.

    Let the condescending Europeans and American leftists wring their paltry hands about Columbus, while we thankful Americans celebrate this great discovery.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    The position of the Left on this matter is rather sad, actually. They seem to be saying, “I enjoy all the benefits of the development of the New World, but I atone for that by criticizing the process by which that development happened. I repent–not my sins, but those of my ancestors.”

    Which is largely like saying, “I’m really, really sorry my father stole the money to build our family fortune, but I’m keeping the money.”

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    The position of the Left on this matter is rather sad, actually. They seem to be saying, “I enjoy all the benefits of the development of the New World, but I atone for that by criticizing the process by which that development happened. I repent–not my sins, but those of my ancestors.”

    Which is largely like saying, “I’m really, really sorry my father stole the money to build our family fortune, but I’m keeping the money.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01763924682909630509 Orianna Laun

    When I was in high school, a friend of mine invited me to join a mock-government group. In her explanation of what this group did, she included that they sometimes engaged in joke debates (why northern California should seceed from southern, which sometimes isn’t a joke anyway).
    I went to a conference and attended a debate which I thought was a joke: “Why Columbus Day Shouldn’t be Celebrated.” The reasons stated were as above: additionally, they argued that the ruin his discovery brought to the natives living here was more damaging than any positive aspect. I attempted to debate the other side, not having the proper information to debate, nor realizing the lack of listening on the part of the debaters who asserted by their tone that their opinion was the only opinion a well-educated person could hold.
    Maybe we should just wish the Canadians a Happy Thanksgiving, and continue to teach our children that without the discoveries of the explorers we would not have the country in which we live today.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01763924682909630509 Orianna Laun

    When I was in high school, a friend of mine invited me to join a mock-government group. In her explanation of what this group did, she included that they sometimes engaged in joke debates (why northern California should seceed from southern, which sometimes isn’t a joke anyway).
    I went to a conference and attended a debate which I thought was a joke: “Why Columbus Day Shouldn’t be Celebrated.” The reasons stated were as above: additionally, they argued that the ruin his discovery brought to the natives living here was more damaging than any positive aspect. I attempted to debate the other side, not having the proper information to debate, nor realizing the lack of listening on the part of the debaters who asserted by their tone that their opinion was the only opinion a well-educated person could hold.
    Maybe we should just wish the Canadians a Happy Thanksgiving, and continue to teach our children that without the discoveries of the explorers we would not have the country in which we live today.

  • E-Raj

    Columbus’s “discovery” (I still credit the Vikings) was indeed important. It really bothers me when people speak so poorly about Columbus. The idea that pre-Columbian Native Americans were living together in some kind of Utopia is a joke. They were savagely murdering each other and taking other tribes into slavery left and right. This fact rarely gets mentioned in modern academic discussions. It’s always the evil white Europeans’ fault. If anything, the Europeans brought law and order to a native culture gone mad with blood lust. I’m not saying the Europeans brought peaceful solutions. Sinners are sinners, and the Europeans were overcome with greed. Still, I’ll take a culture based on Judeo/Christian principles running things over a bunch of pagans.

    All that aside, I’d trade Columbus Day in a heartbeat for Canadian Thanksgiving. Two thanksgivings in two months would be awesome. I could try something besides turkey on one of the days without feeling guilty.

  • E-Raj

    Columbus’s “discovery” (I still credit the Vikings) was indeed important. It really bothers me when people speak so poorly about Columbus. The idea that pre-Columbian Native Americans were living together in some kind of Utopia is a joke. They were savagely murdering each other and taking other tribes into slavery left and right. This fact rarely gets mentioned in modern academic discussions. It’s always the evil white Europeans’ fault. If anything, the Europeans brought law and order to a native culture gone mad with blood lust. I’m not saying the Europeans brought peaceful solutions. Sinners are sinners, and the Europeans were overcome with greed. Still, I’ll take a culture based on Judeo/Christian principles running things over a bunch of pagans.

    All that aside, I’d trade Columbus Day in a heartbeat for Canadian Thanksgiving. Two thanksgivings in two months would be awesome. I could try something besides turkey on one of the days without feeling guilty.

  • Joe

    The current reaction is just as silly as the past over glorification of the man. As a Lutheran I find it extremely easy to teach my kids about Columbus. He was (like us all) both saint and sinner. He did some wonderful things and some bad things. Both good and bad came from his discovery. It is really not that hard to teach a kid about such things – we don’t have to dumb it down to he was the second coming or he was the anti-Christ.

    Personally, I am glad he rediscovered the new world. I think the US has been a positive force in the world. Although there seems to have been much more trade between the new and old worlds than many are willing to admit. It is pretty obvious that the Indians of N.E. Wisconsin and the U.P. were mining and smelting more copper/bronze than they were using and that Europeans were using more copper and bronze than they had access to. There are a lot of recent archeological finds that seems to be pointing to a robust copper trade between the old and new worlds. Thus, I am always left to wonder how the Americas would have developed without the European colonies. What would the Indians have done with a strong trade to the old world, what kind of societies would have developed, what kind of political thought. It is all very interesting.

  • Joe

    The current reaction is just as silly as the past over glorification of the man. As a Lutheran I find it extremely easy to teach my kids about Columbus. He was (like us all) both saint and sinner. He did some wonderful things and some bad things. Both good and bad came from his discovery. It is really not that hard to teach a kid about such things – we don’t have to dumb it down to he was the second coming or he was the anti-Christ.

    Personally, I am glad he rediscovered the new world. I think the US has been a positive force in the world. Although there seems to have been much more trade between the new and old worlds than many are willing to admit. It is pretty obvious that the Indians of N.E. Wisconsin and the U.P. were mining and smelting more copper/bronze than they were using and that Europeans were using more copper and bronze than they had access to. There are a lot of recent archeological finds that seems to be pointing to a robust copper trade between the old and new worlds. Thus, I am always left to wonder how the Americas would have developed without the European colonies. What would the Indians have done with a strong trade to the old world, what kind of societies would have developed, what kind of political thought. It is all very interesting.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    There is also excellent circumstantial evidence (read Mark Kurlansky’s book on Cod) that the Basques and Portuguese had been fishing the Newfoundland banks for generations before Columbus sailed. They never left a written record of it, because they didn’t want their competitors to learn where the good fishing was. This argues, perhaps, an unbroken commerce between North America and Europe going back to Leif and the other Greenlanders.

    On the other hand, I give Columbus full credit. He opened up the New World. After Columbus, the world was a very different place, for good and ill (but mostly, I’d say, for good).

    Can you imagine what would have happened in Europe (take Ireland as an extreme example) if there’d been nowhere to emigrate to when the hard times came?

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    There is also excellent circumstantial evidence (read Mark Kurlansky’s book on Cod) that the Basques and Portuguese had been fishing the Newfoundland banks for generations before Columbus sailed. They never left a written record of it, because they didn’t want their competitors to learn where the good fishing was. This argues, perhaps, an unbroken commerce between North America and Europe going back to Leif and the other Greenlanders.

    On the other hand, I give Columbus full credit. He opened up the New World. After Columbus, the world was a very different place, for good and ill (but mostly, I’d say, for good).

    Can you imagine what would have happened in Europe (take Ireland as an extreme example) if there’d been nowhere to emigrate to when the hard times came?

  • mary kruta

    I used to love studying the explorers when I was in school. Such bravery, such daring! Do the people who trash Columbus really think that this massive continent would have never been found if it weren’t for him? What if, say a muslim explorer got here and staked the claim for Allah? The world would certainly be a different place!

  • mary kruta

    I used to love studying the explorers when I was in school. Such bravery, such daring! Do the people who trash Columbus really think that this massive continent would have never been found if it weren’t for him? What if, say a muslim explorer got here and staked the claim for Allah? The world would certainly be a different place!

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    To dispel any PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives who inhabited the “New World,’ sit down and watch “Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s thrilling (if a bit bloody) telling of one man’s struggle to survive the collapse of his civilization.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    To dispel any PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives who inhabited the “New World,’ sit down and watch “Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s thrilling (if a bit bloody) telling of one man’s struggle to survive the collapse of his civilization.

  • E-Raj

    +1 on “Apocalypto.” Peaceful native cultures, my foot.

  • E-Raj

    +1 on “Apocalypto.” Peaceful native cultures, my foot.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Lars Walker in his latest novel, West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith. gives a fine, unvarnished account of the bravery and faith of the Norse adventurers whose history has been sadly overlooked.

    Lars gets to the essence of the New World project with the following:

    “Tis a pity about Vinland though.”

    “How so.”

    “My New Land . The land with no king but the law and no thralldom. I suppose it will never happen.”

    “I suppose not,” said I. could have told of him of my dream about the dying man but only fools take stock in dreams.”

    On this thread, Lars is being generous to Columbus, given his great interest in the Norse discovery of America. Fortunately he extends his understanding of the discovery of America to Columbus.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Lars Walker in his latest novel, West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith. gives a fine, unvarnished account of the bravery and faith of the Norse adventurers whose history has been sadly overlooked.

    Lars gets to the essence of the New World project with the following:

    “Tis a pity about Vinland though.”

    “How so.”

    “My New Land . The land with no king but the law and no thralldom. I suppose it will never happen.”

    “I suppose not,” said I. could have told of him of my dream about the dying man but only fools take stock in dreams.”

    On this thread, Lars is being generous to Columbus, given his great interest in the Norse discovery of America. Fortunately he extends his understanding of the discovery of America to Columbus.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think we should celebrate Columbus Day by discussing how crappy the pre-Columbian cultures were, making sure to paint them all with a broad brush and confusing them, because they all look(ed) the same, am I right?

    I mean, surely Gibson’s documentary taught us what all of those brown-skin people somewhere on one of the American continents were like, right? Mayans, Lucayans, Aztecs, Taínos, Arawaks … the point is not whatever silly name they went by, but they were murderous thugs, one and all.

    Look, I’m as tired of the elite Native Americans that rule our culture as you are. It’s time white Christians took them down a notch for once, instead of constantly sucking up to the Indians.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think we should celebrate Columbus Day by discussing how crappy the pre-Columbian cultures were, making sure to paint them all with a broad brush and confusing them, because they all look(ed) the same, am I right?

    I mean, surely Gibson’s documentary taught us what all of those brown-skin people somewhere on one of the American continents were like, right? Mayans, Lucayans, Aztecs, Taínos, Arawaks … the point is not whatever silly name they went by, but they were murderous thugs, one and all.

    Look, I’m as tired of the elite Native Americans that rule our culture as you are. It’s time white Christians took them down a notch for once, instead of constantly sucking up to the Indians.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    On a less sarcastic note, I think Joe (@6) has a reasonable response to this matter.

    I personally celebrate the advances in (European) cuisine that were made possible by Columbus’s voyages, the result of which is a slew of “traditional” European dishes that are oddly dependent on food not found on the continent until after 1492.

    I’ve eaten at a restaurant that served pre-Columbian food (in Czesky Krumlov, for what it’s worth), and while it was good, it was surprisingly foreign to me, even compared to the rest of the Czech cuisine.

    So on this Columbus Day, let’s celebrate these things: Corn, peanuts, many kinds of beans, agave (okay, tequila), potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, avocados, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, (black) walnuts, pecans, and chocolate, among other things. (My list is only as accurate as the Wikipedia article I cribbed it from, but I think it’s pretty good.)

    Which brings up an interesting point. While Lars notes (@7) that America gave the Irish a good place to emigrate to, one should also note that they chose to leave because of a dependence on a New World crop that had failed due to blight. So there’s a bit of both problem source and solution, at least for the Irish.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    On a less sarcastic note, I think Joe (@6) has a reasonable response to this matter.

    I personally celebrate the advances in (European) cuisine that were made possible by Columbus’s voyages, the result of which is a slew of “traditional” European dishes that are oddly dependent on food not found on the continent until after 1492.

    I’ve eaten at a restaurant that served pre-Columbian food (in Czesky Krumlov, for what it’s worth), and while it was good, it was surprisingly foreign to me, even compared to the rest of the Czech cuisine.

    So on this Columbus Day, let’s celebrate these things: Corn, peanuts, many kinds of beans, agave (okay, tequila), potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, avocados, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, (black) walnuts, pecans, and chocolate, among other things. (My list is only as accurate as the Wikipedia article I cribbed it from, but I think it’s pretty good.)

    Which brings up an interesting point. While Lars notes (@7) that America gave the Irish a good place to emigrate to, one should also note that they chose to leave because of a dependence on a New World crop that had failed due to blight. So there’s a bit of both problem source and solution, at least for the Irish.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Thank God for Christopher Columbus.

    Without him our postal workers would have to toil for an extra day during the year.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Thank God for Christopher Columbus.

    Without him our postal workers would have to toil for an extra day during the year.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    tODD: It is not the case that the Irish became dependent on potatoes simply as a matter of fashion, and then starved because the potatoes failed and they hadn’t bothered to cultivate indigenous crops. The indigenous crops failed first. The Irish were saved, in the first place, by American potatoes (which prevented an earlier famine), and secondly by America itself, which provided a haven when the potatoes subsequently failed. There is no way the absence of America would have left the Irish better off (unless, in a Malthusian sense, you consider human depopulation a practical solution to ecological problems).

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    tODD: It is not the case that the Irish became dependent on potatoes simply as a matter of fashion, and then starved because the potatoes failed and they hadn’t bothered to cultivate indigenous crops. The indigenous crops failed first. The Irish were saved, in the first place, by American potatoes (which prevented an earlier famine), and secondly by America itself, which provided a haven when the potatoes subsequently failed. There is no way the absence of America would have left the Irish better off (unless, in a Malthusian sense, you consider human depopulation a practical solution to ecological problems).

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I can’t help but feeling that you’re being terribly unfair here. As has already been mentioned, Columbus was a human being guilty of great evil, but also responsible for one of the greatest innovations in history–i.e., bridging the Old and New. The discovery itself was intermingled with good and evil. I think the suggestion that pre-Columbian cultures were not dwelling in a utopia that was sadly shattered by the arrival of Europe is merely a contribution to the argument that the “progressive” version of history also overlooks the good and evil which can be found in all aspects of human history. No? Some native cultures were terribly primitive, savage, and brutal–as were some Old World cultures at the time (perhaps the Mongols or Slavic cultures come to mind) and some were relatively advanced and peaceful. Obviously, none of them were as advanced as the European cultures that arrived.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I can’t help but feeling that you’re being terribly unfair here. As has already been mentioned, Columbus was a human being guilty of great evil, but also responsible for one of the greatest innovations in history–i.e., bridging the Old and New. The discovery itself was intermingled with good and evil. I think the suggestion that pre-Columbian cultures were not dwelling in a utopia that was sadly shattered by the arrival of Europe is merely a contribution to the argument that the “progressive” version of history also overlooks the good and evil which can be found in all aspects of human history. No? Some native cultures were terribly primitive, savage, and brutal–as were some Old World cultures at the time (perhaps the Mongols or Slavic cultures come to mind) and some were relatively advanced and peaceful. Obviously, none of them were as advanced as the European cultures that arrived.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Lars (@15), I have not read of the claims you’re making. What “indigenous crops”, exactly, “failed first”, that led to dependence on the potato?

    In the reading I’ve done (and I’m not claiming to be an expert, by far), most of the problems that led to Irish dependency on the potato had to do with British (mis)rule, from everything from the Corn Laws (which precluded the possibility of cheap grain for the Irish, furthering reliance on the potato), to British grazing practices (to satisfy British taste for beef, the best pastures in Ireland were used for cows, while the Irish were forced to farm smaller, more marginal land, in which the potato was the best possible food crop). And so on. In general, a lot could be said about how the British bungled that whole, sad period.

    But I have yet to read about how previously preferred Irish crops had failed, forcing a dependence on the potato. So now you tell me what you’ve read.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Lars (@15), I have not read of the claims you’re making. What “indigenous crops”, exactly, “failed first”, that led to dependence on the potato?

    In the reading I’ve done (and I’m not claiming to be an expert, by far), most of the problems that led to Irish dependency on the potato had to do with British (mis)rule, from everything from the Corn Laws (which precluded the possibility of cheap grain for the Irish, furthering reliance on the potato), to British grazing practices (to satisfy British taste for beef, the best pastures in Ireland were used for cows, while the Irish were forced to farm smaller, more marginal land, in which the potato was the best possible food crop). And so on. In general, a lot could be said about how the British bungled that whole, sad period.

    But I have yet to read about how previously preferred Irish crops had failed, forcing a dependence on the potato. So now you tell me what you’ve read.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@16), I don’t know whom you think I’m being unfair to. I thought it was pretty obvious that my comment (@12) was directed to Andy (@9) and E-Raj (@10), who seem to think that Apocalypto is (1) some kind of documentary, or at least a decent primary source, and (2) that the Mayans depicted in that film have anything to do with the indigenous cultures that Columbus came into contact with.

    I have no doubt that some pre-Columbian indigenous cultures were brutal, primitive, and so on. But the suggestion that, just because the Mayans were, that the Lucayans, Taínos, and Arawaks were also necessarily brutal, savage, etc., is just ridiculous. It’s painting the whole lot of native cultures, from the whole of the American continents, with one insanely broad brush — a practice not unknown among white (and, sadly, Christian) people in times past. Sad to see it still around.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@16), I don’t know whom you think I’m being unfair to. I thought it was pretty obvious that my comment (@12) was directed to Andy (@9) and E-Raj (@10), who seem to think that Apocalypto is (1) some kind of documentary, or at least a decent primary source, and (2) that the Mayans depicted in that film have anything to do with the indigenous cultures that Columbus came into contact with.

    I have no doubt that some pre-Columbian indigenous cultures were brutal, primitive, and so on. But the suggestion that, just because the Mayans were, that the Lucayans, Taínos, and Arawaks were also necessarily brutal, savage, etc., is just ridiculous. It’s painting the whole lot of native cultures, from the whole of the American continents, with one insanely broad brush — a practice not unknown among white (and, sadly, Christian) people in times past. Sad to see it still around.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Uh-oh looks like I need to defend myself!

    I don’t think I suggested that “Apocalypto” was a documentary. If so, let me be clear, it is historical fiction.

    However, I don’t think its grim depiction of the human sacrifice rituals that were practiced among the Mayan and Aztec civilizations is fantasy. Do you?

    Your suggestion that the movie (and myself as well I guess) stereotype “brown-skinned” natives because they all “looked alike” is a bit over the line.

    Indeed, Apocalypto provides a quite nuanced and balanced view of these tribes, something you would probably know if you had actually seen the movie.

    Even though it is fiction, I think it provides a nice counter-point to the people who are really painting with a broad brush to depict all native peoples as eco-friendly pagan pacifists (i.e., 21st century liberal academics) wiped out by the greed, bloodlust, intolerance and disease of Western white males. Thus, my suggestion for celebrating Columbus Day and swinging the pendulum back a bit.

    BTW, the movie is entertaining and moving. It also explores some deep themes, among them: environmental stewardship, the strength and importance of fathers, and what happens when a culture comes to worship death. I believe it is also a movie that depicts a deeply Christian sentiment–”be not afraid.” This is what Jaguar Paw’s father tells him before his village is wiped out by invaders.

    Finally, putting aside Apocalypto, I think its also reasonable to take Columbus Day to reflect on the fact that it was Columbus and his crew that showed up one day off the coast of an island in the Bahamas.

    It was NOT an Aztec or Mayan ship that showed up off the coast of Spain, Portugal, England or France.

    It’s worth pondering why it turned out one way and not the other.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Uh-oh looks like I need to defend myself!

    I don’t think I suggested that “Apocalypto” was a documentary. If so, let me be clear, it is historical fiction.

    However, I don’t think its grim depiction of the human sacrifice rituals that were practiced among the Mayan and Aztec civilizations is fantasy. Do you?

    Your suggestion that the movie (and myself as well I guess) stereotype “brown-skinned” natives because they all “looked alike” is a bit over the line.

    Indeed, Apocalypto provides a quite nuanced and balanced view of these tribes, something you would probably know if you had actually seen the movie.

    Even though it is fiction, I think it provides a nice counter-point to the people who are really painting with a broad brush to depict all native peoples as eco-friendly pagan pacifists (i.e., 21st century liberal academics) wiped out by the greed, bloodlust, intolerance and disease of Western white males. Thus, my suggestion for celebrating Columbus Day and swinging the pendulum back a bit.

    BTW, the movie is entertaining and moving. It also explores some deep themes, among them: environmental stewardship, the strength and importance of fathers, and what happens when a culture comes to worship death. I believe it is also a movie that depicts a deeply Christian sentiment–”be not afraid.” This is what Jaguar Paw’s father tells him before his village is wiped out by invaders.

    Finally, putting aside Apocalypto, I think its also reasonable to take Columbus Day to reflect on the fact that it was Columbus and his crew that showed up one day off the coast of an island in the Bahamas.

    It was NOT an Aztec or Mayan ship that showed up off the coast of Spain, Portugal, England or France.

    It’s worth pondering why it turned out one way and not the other.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Andy (@19), no, you didn’t use the word “documentary” as such to describe Apocalypto, you just said (@9) that the movie was useful for instructing people about the “natives who inhabited the ‘New World’”. Which implies that the movie is more than it actually is. Even Gibson himself only described the movie as having “some authenticity”, while the production designer made it a little more clear: “We wanted to set up the Mayan world, but we were not trying to do a documentary.”

    It’s a bit like suggesting that, if you want to learn about the sinking of the Titanic, you should rent James Cameron’s Titanic. Rather a paltry source, isn’t it? In what other situation would you recommend historical fiction as the best way to learn the facts about a culture’s history?

    But that wasn’t my main point. My main point wasn’t about the movie at all. It was about the fact that you think a movie dealing with the Mayan civiliation is relevant at all to the discussion of Columbus and the indigenous cultures he came into contact with. … Which didn’t include the Mayans.

    And yet, you suggest that we can learn about the “innate goodness” of the Lucayans, Taínos, and Arawaks Columbus did come into contact with by watching a historically fictional movie about the Mayans. Which is logically akin to suggesting that, if you want to learn about the warring nature of the Estonians, you should watch Downfall (aka Der Untergang). Or that, if you want to learn about Polish food, have some pizza.

    Do you see how you conflated these different (and rather distant) cultures, merely because they both happened to be indigenous to some part of the American continents? Can we learn about the Quebecois today by visiting Panama?

    “It was NOT an Aztec or Mayan ship that showed up off the coast of Spain, Portugal, England or France.” Perhaps. But Joe, who clearly knows more about this than I do, suggests (@6) that there was at least trade between North American and European cultures well before Columbus. Maybe part of the reason “it turned out one way and not the other” is that history has emphasized more of the one way than the other?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Andy (@19), no, you didn’t use the word “documentary” as such to describe Apocalypto, you just said (@9) that the movie was useful for instructing people about the “natives who inhabited the ‘New World’”. Which implies that the movie is more than it actually is. Even Gibson himself only described the movie as having “some authenticity”, while the production designer made it a little more clear: “We wanted to set up the Mayan world, but we were not trying to do a documentary.”

    It’s a bit like suggesting that, if you want to learn about the sinking of the Titanic, you should rent James Cameron’s Titanic. Rather a paltry source, isn’t it? In what other situation would you recommend historical fiction as the best way to learn the facts about a culture’s history?

    But that wasn’t my main point. My main point wasn’t about the movie at all. It was about the fact that you think a movie dealing with the Mayan civiliation is relevant at all to the discussion of Columbus and the indigenous cultures he came into contact with. … Which didn’t include the Mayans.

    And yet, you suggest that we can learn about the “innate goodness” of the Lucayans, Taínos, and Arawaks Columbus did come into contact with by watching a historically fictional movie about the Mayans. Which is logically akin to suggesting that, if you want to learn about the warring nature of the Estonians, you should watch Downfall (aka Der Untergang). Or that, if you want to learn about Polish food, have some pizza.

    Do you see how you conflated these different (and rather distant) cultures, merely because they both happened to be indigenous to some part of the American continents? Can we learn about the Quebecois today by visiting Panama?

    “It was NOT an Aztec or Mayan ship that showed up off the coast of Spain, Portugal, England or France.” Perhaps. But Joe, who clearly knows more about this than I do, suggests (@6) that there was at least trade between North American and European cultures well before Columbus. Maybe part of the reason “it turned out one way and not the other” is that history has emphasized more of the one way than the other?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, Andy (@19), “be not afraid” is hardly a “deeply Christian sentiment” when divorced entirely from Christ and all that we have in him, as it was in Apocalpyto. It’s just an exhortation to bravery, for bravery’s sake.

    Christians don’t have to be afraid because they know that God works all things to their good. They know that he loves and provides for them, like the perfect Father that he is. That they don’t need to worry about tomorrow, or about what they will eat or wear, because God will provide, and only the pagans worry about such things.

    Tell me where all of that is in Apocalpyto. Or is it just about being brave, irrespective of Christ and all that he taught?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, Andy (@19), “be not afraid” is hardly a “deeply Christian sentiment” when divorced entirely from Christ and all that we have in him, as it was in Apocalpyto. It’s just an exhortation to bravery, for bravery’s sake.

    Christians don’t have to be afraid because they know that God works all things to their good. They know that he loves and provides for them, like the perfect Father that he is. That they don’t need to worry about tomorrow, or about what they will eat or wear, because God will provide, and only the pagans worry about such things.

    Tell me where all of that is in Apocalpyto. Or is it just about being brave, irrespective of Christ and all that he taught?

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    tODD,

    Why do you insist on putting words in my mouth? Here is my original post in its entirety:

    To dispel any PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives who inhabited the “New World,’ sit down and watch “Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s thrilling (if a bit bloody) telling of one man’s struggle to survive the collapse of his civilization.

    I think you have made a mountain out of a mole hill. Instead of admitting your overreaction, you insist on building it up further. Be my guest, but my words stand as they are.

    Regarding your comment about “be not afraid” hardly being a deep Christian sentiment, I must admit to being puzzled. Matthew 10:31? Mark 5:36? John 14:27? Who else can be fearless but a Christian who is assured of his salvation?

    Apocalypto is about much more than bravery for bravery’s sake. Again, I think you would know this if you had actually seen the movie. If you have, then I am sorry you missed it.

    A movie can explore or suggest Christian themes without being explicitly about Christ. For recent examples, see “Gran Torino” or even “Man On Fire” for two very strong examples of redemption through sacrifice.

    Again, Apocalypto is a good movie AND a great way to dispel PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives inhabiting the “New World.”

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    tODD,

    Why do you insist on putting words in my mouth? Here is my original post in its entirety:

    To dispel any PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives who inhabited the “New World,’ sit down and watch “Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s thrilling (if a bit bloody) telling of one man’s struggle to survive the collapse of his civilization.

    I think you have made a mountain out of a mole hill. Instead of admitting your overreaction, you insist on building it up further. Be my guest, but my words stand as they are.

    Regarding your comment about “be not afraid” hardly being a deep Christian sentiment, I must admit to being puzzled. Matthew 10:31? Mark 5:36? John 14:27? Who else can be fearless but a Christian who is assured of his salvation?

    Apocalypto is about much more than bravery for bravery’s sake. Again, I think you would know this if you had actually seen the movie. If you have, then I am sorry you missed it.

    A movie can explore or suggest Christian themes without being explicitly about Christ. For recent examples, see “Gran Torino” or even “Man On Fire” for two very strong examples of redemption through sacrifice.

    Again, Apocalypto is a good movie AND a great way to dispel PC notions about the innate goodness of the natives inhabiting the “New World.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Andy (@22), again, the point isn’t so much the movie, but rather that you think that a movie — a historically fictional movie, at that — is instructive for “the natives who inhabited the ‘New World’”. What, all of them?!

    Apparently so, no matter how different their cultures were. Want to learn how savage the cultures that Columbus actually came into contact with were? Watch this film about a group Columbus didn’t come into contact with! And these are the words from your mouth!

    There is no sense in which that is logical, except perhaps the perverse sense in which one thinks of all the pre-Columbian cultures as being equivalent. If one was savage, they all were savage. So goes your not-so-implied logic.

    As to “be not afraid”, it’s really a tangential point, but did you read my response? I said it’s not a Christian concept when it’s divorced from Christ. Mongol warriors being brave weren’t doing so as a Christian concept, they were just being brave. Now, unless you’re going to tell me that Jaguar Paw was a Christian, and his bravery stemmed from a knowledge that God loved him and provided for him and would not forsake him, then it’s not about Christian bravery, any more than, say, a Hong Kong action film in which someone is brave.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Andy (@22), again, the point isn’t so much the movie, but rather that you think that a movie — a historically fictional movie, at that — is instructive for “the natives who inhabited the ‘New World’”. What, all of them?!

    Apparently so, no matter how different their cultures were. Want to learn how savage the cultures that Columbus actually came into contact with were? Watch this film about a group Columbus didn’t come into contact with! And these are the words from your mouth!

    There is no sense in which that is logical, except perhaps the perverse sense in which one thinks of all the pre-Columbian cultures as being equivalent. If one was savage, they all were savage. So goes your not-so-implied logic.

    As to “be not afraid”, it’s really a tangential point, but did you read my response? I said it’s not a Christian concept when it’s divorced from Christ. Mongol warriors being brave weren’t doing so as a Christian concept, they were just being brave. Now, unless you’re going to tell me that Jaguar Paw was a Christian, and his bravery stemmed from a knowledge that God loved him and provided for him and would not forsake him, then it’s not about Christian bravery, any more than, say, a Hong Kong action film in which someone is brave.


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