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BOOK REVIEWS671 Columbus, Confrontation, Christianity: The European-American Encounter Revisited. Edited with introductions by Timothy J. O'Keefe. (Madison,Wisconsin : Forbes MLU Press. 1994. Pp. viü, 248. Paperback.) This volume gathers together papers presented at the Santa Clara University Columbus Quincentennial Institute held in the autumn of 1992. As Timothy J. O'Keefe explains in his balanced and perspicacious editor's introduction, the intention was both to provide "a wide variety of approaches and interpretations " and to understand "Columbus, the Spanish conquerors, and the indigenous peoples ofthe Americas, and aU historical personaUties and events, within the context of their own times." Given the contentious atmosphere during the Columbus Quincentenary, these were worthy scholarly goals and, though a bit uneven in quaUty, these essays largely Uve up to the editor's ideals. Everyone now recognizes that, as John Paul II told a Mayan audience in the Yucatán at the time of the anniversary: "The shadow of sin was cast over America , too, m the destruction of many ofyour artistic and cultural creations, and in the violence to which you were often subject." The other large question, however , is what to make of the immensely complex and uneven mixing of the indigenous and European cultures that continues to this day. Given the lack of consensus and confidence in the developed world about its own moral and cultural status, the Encounter often became a kind of Rorschach blot onto which various contemporary concerns were projected, greatly distorting both the European and indigenous record. The two opening sections, "Europe and the Encounter" and "The Americas and the Encounter," try to establish some soUd historical fact over against mere polemical assertions. In one essay, Thomas Turley usefuUy re-examines the use of large characterizations such as "medieval" and "Renaissance" to arrive at a more detaUed picture of the world Columbus and the early explorers came from,and how, as individuals, they reflected it or differed from it. The section on Native America makes a case in feminist, ecological, and mere human terms for the value of our indigenous peoples but, unfortunately, contains no serious critique of native shortcomings. This is a serious lacuna that reflects a contemporary inteUectual problem: native cultures, like aU human cultures, were a mix of good and bad, virtue and vice. Human sacrifice, cannibalism, perpetual tribal warfare, and low material culture are only the most conspicuous of the darker parts of that history. Serious reflection on the static nature of some native cultures , tending toward ossification, and ecological and human rights abuses in native systems would better clarify what has been gained and lost in native cultures over the past five hundred years. Such truth telling need not merely dismiss, as often occurred m the past, people deemed inferior to European culture. In fact, it would show far more respect for indigenous peoples to deal with diem as we do widi European peoples, understanding them in their own contexts, but seeking to evaluate specific practices as weU. 672BOOK REVIEWS TeUing the missionary history is perhaps the most dtfficult part of this subject , because die intervening years have made us aware of the cultural imperiaUsm that often accompanied evangeUzation. We beUeve that we have a more nuanced approach to inculturation of the Gospel than did previous ages. Sensitivity , however, has often been paid for with a loss of zeal. The Spanish missionaries to the Americas in the first centuries displayed a heroism and energy—alongside their blind spots—rare in missionary activity today. David. J. Weber and Iris H. W Engstrand in separate essays provide particularly weU balanced accounts of mission activities in North America, noting the successes, faUures, flaws, and genuine virtues of the remarkably smaU numbers of Franciscans largely responsible for that work. This volume closes with some wishful thinking on the part ofRobert McAfee Brown that the example ofthe Encounter may provide us with some new principles of evangelization for the future. Better as a cautionary tale for historians are the historiographical essays by Bishop Pierre DuMaine and Frederick P. Bowser, and brief representative views from 1892 and 1992, that point to the need for humility and patient effort Ui the unending approximation to historical truth. Robert Royal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 671-672
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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