“I’m sorry, but now that you’ve told me how you saw things, I understand where you were coming from. Do you see where I was coming from?”
Have you ever been in a conversation like that? I’ve been wrestling with the legacy of Christopher Columbus. Traditionally we’ve honored him on Columbus Day for discovering America, although there’s doubt he was the first. Italians use the day to celebrate their ethnic heritage, although Columbus sailed under the Spanish flag. But today more and more cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. I see where they’re coming from. In his journal for October 11, 1492, Columbus wrote, “They should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them. And I believe that they would become Christians very easily, for it seemed to me that they had no religion.” (Online, “Fortune” on “Smart News,” October 7). Columbus took six natives of Haiti as his slaves. He’d tell you his words and actions were common conduct for the time, but if you asked the slaves how they saw things… I presume the two sides never talked. Power won.
More and more we see demonstrations against this, that or whatever. Some are peaceful, others not. Public officials are harassed at restaurants and at home. Protesters block roads. Personal phone numbers made public. If you’d ask the protesters, they’d say they’re totally justified in their disruptive behavior, but if you ask the persons and families harassed… Intimidation is a power-play but doesn’t make for civil conversation. It’s symptomatic of our “me-first” culture, not unlike Columbus taking slaves. It was acceptable in his circles.
It’s different when true followers of Jesus have conflicts. They talk about it in a context of forgiveness. You know I’ve come predisposed to forgive you, and I talk knowing that you’re ready to forgive me. Being ready to forgive makes those conversations much easier than the power play “You’re wrong and have to apologize.” That’s law, not Gospel. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The constant question for a follower of Jesus: Am I predisposed to forgive?