Was America Built on Stolen Land by Genocidal Racists? Er, Maybe Not …
Are you unlucky enough to know any liberal Christians, of the kind so eager to pass for elite, Mainline post-Protestants that they smear their already pasty skin with White Guilt™ Sunscreen (SPF 15,000)? If so, then you’re probably hearing about “de-colonization.” It showed up in the Black Lives Matter posts supporting Hamas, for instance. The term was used all over the place by people eager to ruin Columbus Day.
And so you likely have seen words like “settler” thrown around to sneer at everything leftists associate with Western civilization, from empirical science to punctuality, monogamy, and the work ethic. I actually saw someone on Twitter try to win a theological point by dismissing a biblical argument as linked to the “white colonial settler gaze.” No, don’t bother trying to work out such jargon. All it really means is, “I’m losing this debate. Time to yell ‘Nazi!’ and run.”
There are two ways to deal with this kind of sneaky, moral blackmail, which tries to erase an entire culture via suicidal guilt and self-hatred: the easy way, and the hard way.
Not Worth Persuading
Usually I choose the easy way, since most of the people who trot out this kind of argument simply aren’t worth persuading. They didn’t pick their ideas because they thought they were true. That’s not how they roll. Instead, they just absorb attitudes and parrot phrases because they are fashionable, and help them blend in with the rest of the Gadarene herd trotting gaily toward the cliff. Far be it from me to ruin such people’s joyride up the slope; the trip down will be short and nasty.
So I respond to folks like this by saying, “Oh, sorry. Maybe I wasn’t clear. I support colonial settler imperialism. I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about my ancestors and their conquests. Please explain to me, based purely on Darwinian materialism, why I should. You do accept Evolution, right? I mean, you’re not some fundamentalist … .”
That usually ends the discussion and saves vital minutes of your limited time on this earth from getting poured down a rathole. There are better things you could be doing, such as praying for Christians persecuted in Azerbaijan or China. Or … watching reruns of MasterChef Australia.
A Scholarly Response
Then there’s the hard way of responding to “anti-racist” jib-jab, which takes a lot more work. And I’m very thankful that other people are doing it. The scholar I have in mind is Jeff Fynn-Paul, a politically centrist historian and author of the fascinating, highly readable book about the settlement and founding of the Americas, Not Stolen. It’s essential reading these days.
Chances are that even sensible people, such as those who’ve read me thus far without flouncing off to clutch their pearls on a fainting couch, have unwittingly soaked in from the Zeitgeist a number of damning claims about America, the West, and even the Church. I know that I did, and it took reading Not Stolen to set me straight. It’s “common knowledge” that the settlement of the Americas by European, Christian countries was a mostly shameful episode in history, which we should all regret, repent, and if possible try to reverse.
As Christians, we’re told to rend our garments and hide our faces in shame for all the following reasons:
- Europeans came to the Americas and found the natives inferior, primitive, and repulsive.
- We purposely wiped out these natives, either through cruel mistreatment or intentionally spreading diseases such as smallpox.
- Those we couldn’t eliminate via genocide, we stripped of all their land.
- We introduced slavery to the continent.
- Our missionaries and churchmen cheerfully cooperated in this work of genocide and oppression, as did the governments back in Europe.
- We consciously and intentionally set about seizing two entire continents from the peaceful, egalitarian, ecologically conscious indigenous peoples, in order to launch rapacious capitalism that devastated the planet.
- The legacy of such racism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation lives on in the economic inequality we see today. This history of oppression explains the wealth gap between the races, and justifies reparations, massive wealth redistribution, and the discarding of such slaveowner artifacts as the U.S. Constitution.
Does any of that sound familiar? If you have kids who’ve come home from college, it doubtless does. That’s the kind of moralistic rhetoric getting taught in college classrooms — even at most Christian schools — instead of facts and principles of history, literature, art or even Classics.
A Festival of Slander and Virtue-Signaling
What Professor Fynn-Paul does in Not Stolen is patiently prove that each of the claims above is false. Not merely false, but grotesquely so, as honest academics actually realize. But such claims have moved from the fringe where Marxist activists have been wielding them as billy-clubs for decades. Now these conspiracy theories, historical slanders, and caricatures squat as the orthodoxy in most humanities classrooms.
Even liberal professors who know that these assertions are hideous exaggerations now fear to say so, lest angry, ignorant students on social media whip up violent controversies that will get those professors shunned, harassed, cancelled, and fired. So they clam up, and look forward to retirement.
Fynn-Paul showed astonishing courage in daring to write and publish this book, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s a sober, fair-minded, self-critical history which admits the many sins committed by the fallen men from Europe who explored and settled North and South America. This isn’t some jingoistic whitewash or civilizational victory dance.
But as a scholar (not a frustrated revolutionary with tenure), Fynn-Paul digs deep into the facts behind the Narrative. He puts the European settlement in the relevant context: That is, the story of how every other major area of land was settled, resettled, contested and conquered over the centuries.
Would the Ottomans Have Been More Tolerant? Or the Samurai?
The next time someone damns the United States as “stolen” from the Indians, you might want to ask him: “How did Asia Minor end up Muslim instead of Christian? What happened to all the churches in North Africa and Syria? Did the Turks and Arabs peacefully buy that land from the Greeks, the Copts, and the Syriac Christians?” Maybe also ask about the genocidal practices among the Aztecs and Mayans, who routinely captured thousands of people from neighboring nations, sacrificed them, and ate them. Which abuse by Christian Europeans comes to close to equaling that?
How would the imperial Japanese, or sex slave-trading Ottoman Turks, have dealt with native Americans if they had landed instead of Columbus? More humanely, as “people of color”? Or infinitely worse? Should we maybe, just maybe, hold people of different races to the same moral standards?
The Church Saw Natives as Equals Before God
Fynn-Paul shows how Christian morals in fact slowed down, restrained, tempered, and frustrated the rapaciousness of conquistadors and land-grabbers. Councils of bishops in Spain met, called by the Crown, to denounce the forced conversion of Indians and forbid their enslavement. The accounts we have of cruel abuses by Spaniards come from … Spaniards. From priests who lobbied Madrid to rein in crimes against a people whom they found beautiful, noble, and eminently worth converting to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Up until the genuinely ugly Indian removals of the mid-19th century, European settlers more often tried to buy land from local Indians, who’d very lightly settled enormous tracts, entire counties which they used only as hunting and fishing grounds. Puritans opened dozens of schools for Indians, primarily to offer them instruction in Christianity. Peaceful coexistence prevailed as often as warfare, for a very long period.
Compare that track record to the behavior of Mongols, or Turks, in countries which they conquered. But who in Mongolia or Turkey despises his homeland and his ancestors out of collective guilt? That seems to be a post-Christian illness.
Busting One Myth After Another
Evil as it is, slavery already existed among the Indians — as it has plagued the human race for its entire history. It took Christians of European extraction to invent the very idea of Abolition, then put it into practice. (Slavery still thrives today in the Muslim world, practiced by Muhammad and codified in the Quran.)
No, the Kings of Spain and England didn’t want to wipe out the Indians. They craved them as subjects and allies. Fynn-Paul documents how as soon as the first form of inoculation against smallpox was developed, the Spanish Crown was ordering that it be offered to the Indians before the whites, since the former were more at risk. And thousands of Indians took advantage of this offer. A weird way of practicing genocide, you’ll have to admit.
And so on. This book busts one angry myth after another. I think it should be given to every high school and college student in America, to vaccinate them against a civilization-killing virus of the mind.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”