Character Trumps Accomplishments

Why we let tyrannical people rule and will continue to do so.

Here it is up front, than I will explain in detail below.

It’s because we worship accomplishments over character.

We worship accomplishments over character. 

I read an article from the Huffington Post today that really grabbed my attention.  The Post did a retrospective look at one of America’s heroes, Christopher Columbus.  I had heard that he wasn’t that great of a guy, though I had no idea he was tied into sex slavery:

“Shockingly, Columbus supervised the selling of native girls into sexual slavery.  Young girls of the ages 9 to 10 were the most desired by his men.  In 1500, Columbus casually wrote about it in his log.  He said: ‘A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.'”

I also hadn’t heard the details about how he actually treated the slaves he took by force to work in his mines:

“On his second trip to the New World, Columbus brought cannons and attack dogs.  If a native resisted slavery, he would cut off a nose or an ear.  If slaves tried to escape, Columbus had them burned alive.  Other times, he sent attack dogs to hunt them down, and the dogs would tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were still alive.  If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs, Arawak babies were killed for dog food.”

I know the accuracy of this is controversial and the Post is known for exaggeration, but we also know from Columbus’s very own journals he was no saint!  The culture of Columbus’ day was characteristically crass and open to slavery, but Biblical instruction for bondservants was still very different than what Columbus was doing! Any culture, any day and age, he was absolutely mistreating people.

I guess what bothers me most is we really haven’t progressed out of the human tendency that allows for this to happen.  We STILL worship accomplishments over character. 

History teaches us that history itself belongs to the victors, and much evil is tolerated when “progress” is made.  Even Christian history is littered with people who are deemed heroes not for their character, but for their accomplishments.  Even in the Christian world today we all follow leaders who “win” our agenda, not necessarily those who have good character.

This is why I love Jesus!  You don’t see him slaughtering those who opposed him on the battlefield.  His whole approach was different.  His goal was the heart, not forced obedience.  HOW a leader accomplishes their goals matters as much as the goals they are trying to accomplish.  Character matters!  I plead with you!  Please don’t follow people because of their accomplishments alone, pay attention to their character!

We must choose to celebrate character over accomplishments, or these types of stories will continue to plague our history books. 

For all you leaner thinkers let me put it this way.  Mother Teresa> Christopher Columbus.

So whom do you follow?  Who do you admire?  Do you stand with the ones who just “win” your agenda or do you pay attention to character?

References and a thought:

Please note the core of this blog isn’t primarily about the history of Columbus or the debate that surrounds it.  We could easily use many other examples from history.   Don’t miss the central theme.  We worship accomplishments over character. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-kasum/columbus-day-a-bad-idea_b_742708.html last accessed October 14th 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/04/opinion/l-slavery-and-colonialism-make-up-the-true-legacy-of-columbus-866089.html last accessed October 19th 2014

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus last accessed October 19th 2014 (There are a lot of links.. check them out if you are interested.)

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3 thoughts on “Character Trumps Accomplishments

  1. I would like to see a LOT more education on this. These kind of thoughts become agreeable platitudes when exposition stops with choosing between Jesus and any other man. How do we discern between men who have a continuim of character in their lives when we decide on leadership? How do we balance such conflicts between leaders? There is much to explore on this topic…

    1. Agreed Dan!
      There are two reasons this is so hard. 1) God clearly uses flawed people to do amazing things! 2) It’s literally impossible to find someone with perfect character other than Christ. I think this is why we should always point people back to Jesus! Though this wasn’t written specifically about Christian leaders, I believe the best Christian leaders are those that point the clearest to Christ.

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