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La Navidad, the Intersection that Wrecked the World

The view from La Navidad Beach, Haiti. It’s here, in the place where Africans were once made to arrive involuntarily, that I hoped the voluntary presence of my black friends would, in some small way, help bring healing. 

When Christopher Columbus wrecked at La Navidad Beach, on Christmas Eve, 1492, on the Northern shores of Hispaniola, now referred to as Haiti, it effectively wrecked all of us. 

It was the beginning of the end of the indigenous people of Hispaniola. 
It was the beginning of the end of some 12,000,000 Africans. 
It was the beginning of the end of the last vestiges of our innocence. 

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

When the Santa Maria ran aground on these shallow Caribbean waters 525 years ago, it revealed the shallowness of our intentions. See us march up the royal-palmed-mountain, our conquering disguised as exploration. Hear us talk up the king of bronze and henna, our manipulation disguised as evangelism. Feel us mount up the queen of beige and sienna, our entitlement disguised… with no disguise at all. 

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

It was here, in the violent collision of wave upon sand, of new world upon old, of wealth upon poverty that the white man was exposed for what he was: a slave to power. For what do you think drove us to make slaves of the powerless, if not our own enslavement to power? Am I looking for an excuse? No, of course not. What we did was inexcusable. Am I trying to lessen the effect? Absolutely not. The repercussions of our actions cannot be diminished. I’m simply pointing out the insanity... only slaves make slaves. And La Navidad is where once and forever, the truth of the white man’s slavery has been brought to light.   

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 
Ah, Christopher Columbus’s La Navidad Beach. So named because ship-wrecking here on Christmas Eve, he lacked the creativity to call it anything other than Christmas. But, the contrast between his Christmas and the real Christmas, couldn't have been sharper. One landed with swords; the other in peace. One funded by kings and queens; the other in poverty. One exercised complete sovereignty; the other arrived in complete vulnerability. One grabbed all it could; the other let go of everything. One represented a specific people group; the other represented all people. One acted presumptuously; the other acted in humility. 

Oh, that our European ancestors could have arrived as humbly as Jesus. But they did not. They would not. They arrived deceiving. They told us new land was discovered, but in retrospect, we realize new land was stolen. They told us order was established, but in hindsight, we realize it was only ordered for those in power. It was, for the powerless, a legalized system of oppression. It’s true, thievery, and oppression, existed in other places, and in other times, and within tribes devoid of Caucasians, but it’s at La Navidad, where the sins of the modern day white man seem most infamous. This place, this water, this ground. Abused.

La Navidad, the intersection that wrecked the world. 

I could have sought forgiveness anywhere, I guess, but there is something about this place, the abuse, the echoes of exploitation… that called me, that invited me to invite my black friends and visit. I cannot imagine a more appropriate geographical location to seek reconciliation. The whole idea probably appears foolish, dramatic, expensive, and maybe a bit naïve to others. I freely admit I felt all of those things a hundred times or more leading up to, and even during our trip. More than once I thought, “What in the world am I doing? How does this help anything? I am only one man. I cannot speak for others. I am not an official mouthpiece. By what authority would I even attempt to address such atrocities?” 

But, the ghost of La Navidad wouldn’t let up. 

To attempt to instill a measure of humility and sanity now, at the very spot where so much arrogance and insanity once poured out then, is, I admit, ridiculous. But, if it’s completely ridiculous, I’m not sure why I feel so honored. If it’s so foolish, I’m not sure why I have felt authority. Maybe it lies in the upside down approach of Jesus. Maybe it’s in the laying down of authority that one gains authority. Maybe the foolishness of God truly is wiser than the wisdom of man. Maybe it’s the letting go of power that one gains a platform of love. I imagine this must be. I think, by faith, that ultimately, the voices nagging me about how preposterous this was will be silenced by the authority of love. Yes, love is the authority by which I speak. For I no longer speak as one driven and enslaved to power. Ironically, I speak as one freely enslaved to love. 

Slavery to power has had its day, but the new day belongs to those enslaved to love.
Slavery to power has wounded, but healing comes through those enslaved to love.
Slavery to power has spoken, but the last words belong to those enslaved to love. 

Ha! Yes, this is it! If I’m a fool for answering the call then so be it.

May love enslave me.
May love conquer me.
May love chain me up.
May love break me down. 
May love freely take all of me.
So that, in all things, we all may freely love. 

May the oppressors repent, and may the oppressed forgive. Yes, La Navidad is the intersection that wrecked the world. But, the cross is the intersection that wrecked the world too! It’s a wreck of love. May we all be wrecked in love. 

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