On Wednesday, Dec 21, Cindy and I laid low in the morning, and then shortly before noon headed over to an “accidental find” – the De Soto National Monument. The picture below is appropriate, I think – an Indian Blanket. The National Monument marks the location where Hernando De Soto came ashore in May of 1539, starting his four year expedition of devastation through what is much of the southeastern United States.
While the monument grounds are lovely, and very interesting, the historical movie shown in the visitor center and the signage along the 3/4 mile nature walk saddened both Cindy and I, almost to the point of tears. De Soto’s objective was gold and riches, and he was apparently willing to sacrifice anything – including his own expedition members and especially, and especially cruelly, the native populations he encountered along the way. He cut off hands and limbs, and “set the dogs upon” guides he had enslaved if they didn’t live up to his expectations. To “set the dogs upon” meant death – the dogs were trained war dogs which would tear the body of their victim apart.
Amongst the things that caused our sadness was that these expeditionaries called themselves “Christians” – and that one purpose of the expedition was to provide priests “for the instruction of the natives of that Province in our Holy Catholic Faith.” This Christianity professed and lived by De Soto was apparently a Christianity of personal gain, and not the true Christianity of the love of Christ our Saviour. As we are nearing Christmas Day, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded now with the greed and commercialism we face every day, as well as with the greed of Hernando De Soto, that many things bearing the “Christian” name demean rather than glorify Christ the King.
This is trite but true – let’s remember to put Christ in Christmas, and let’s also remember that true Christianity is not about personal gain.