IN HONOR OF COLUMBUS (A play with tongue in cheek for Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Minneapolis)


(A play with tongue in cheek for Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Minneapolis)
Copyright Philip E. Friesen

SCENE I,  Somewhere in Spain
Bishop (B) & Monk (M)

Monk:  I just heard some news!

Bishop: Yes, what news?

M         (In a hoarse, excited whisper) This Italian guy, Columbus, is asking the king for ships and men to sail to India.

B         What a crazy idea!  They’ll fall off the edge of the world.  What did King Ferdinand say?

M         He’ll give an answer tomorrow


M         Are there people in India?

B         (Slightly irritated) Of course there are people in India.

M         Are there Christians in India?

B         There are NO Christians in India! (Getting more irritated) Why are you so interested in India and this crazy Columbus?

M         Jesus said we are to make disciples of all nations.  If Columbus goes to India, then we should send the Indians a Bible or something.  Maybe a priest should go along.

B      Columbus will never get to India, and I doubt that Ferdinand will give him any ships (emphasize) OR MEN!.  You go on.  I’m busy.

King, (K) Queen, (Q) & Columbus (C) at court

K         So you want me to give you ships and men to bring gold from India.

C         That’s right.  If we don’t get to India soon, the British or the French will develop the technology to get there, and they’ll get all the gold.  It won’t be so long until they have steam ships and sophisticated navigation that will put India just a few weeks away.  I’m sure that you want to get there first.

K         Where do I get men who will join such a voyage?  Such risks are not taken without high salaries.  Even with a million dollars in life insurance and long distance medical coverage, I doubt anyone will go.

Q         (Hesitantly) I,  I  know where you can get men.

K & C             Where!!!?

Q         From the jail house.

(Excited)  That sounds like a brilliant idea!  (doubtful)  But will it really work?  After all, the queen thought of it.  (brightens)  Never mind.  We’ll do it, even if it was the queen’s idea.

K         (Loudly)  Empty the jails!  Let them serve their sentences at sea.  And may they all drown.  What a break for the tax payer!

Monk (M)  & Bishop (B)  seated with the King (K) somewhere off stage.  Strangely, there is a telephone on a table next to the bishop’s chair.

M         I just heard some news.

B         Yes (slightly bored and disinterested).  What news? (B speaks as though thoroughly wearied with interruptions)

M      Ferdinand gave Columbus ships and men to sail to India.  He’s going west across the Atlantic until he gets there.

B         What a crazy scheme!  They’ll fall off the edge of the world.  Where will Ferdinand get the men?

M         He’s going to empty the jails, and send all the prisoners with Columbus.

B         Ha! Ha! Ha!  Too bad we don’t have more Columbuses.  Send all the crooks to sea, never to return.  I think I like this scheme.

M         Shouldn’t we see whether there might be one priest in jail who could go and convert the Indians?

B         NONE of MY priests are in jail!!

M         (Hesitantly) You, you could ordain me to go.

B         You’re not a priest yet, and besides, I’m not sending any of my priests to drown on some crazy voyage with this Columbus.( If Columbus is played by a female, this line can read, “You’re not a priest, and never will be, not even if you wait another 700 years for Vatican III)

M         Oh please.  The Indians should be allowed to hear the good news about God’s son.  Couldn’t we send someone?

B         OK.  I’ll talk to the king and see what can be done.  The king should be reminded of his Christian duties.

The bishop picks up the phone and dials

B         Hello, is this the king?

King answers from off stage

K         This is King Ferdinand.

B         O Hi Ferd!  I hear you’ve got an expedition going to India.

K         Yes, I’ve employed Columbus to lead an expedition.

B         Well, I’ve called to inform you that as king, you have a responsibility to have Columbus preach the gospel to the Indians.  I expect that Columbus will be instructed to treat them decently, pay them fairly for their gold, and make sure they hear the gospel.  If Columbus makes it back for a second voyage, I’ll send my assistant here (looks over at the monk) to go and baptize all the converts.

K         Wait a minute.  This is not a missionary voyage.  This is a bunch of mercenaries I’m sending.  You don’t want them representing the church, do you?

B         They were all baptized, weren’t they?

K         Yes.

B         So, they are all Christians, and they still have Christian duties.

K         You really are interfering with the duties of the state.  Why don’t you just stick with forgiving sins?

B         The Indians need forgiveness too, and your men are the only means we have to reach them.  In fact, I talked with the pope about it yesterday, and he agrees.

K         OK, just don’t tell the pope anything more about me than you have to.

B         Oh sure.  I’ll keep silence about your other activities.  Just make sure Columbus does as I say.

K         If you insist.

B         I insist.


Columbus (C) , four or five sailors (S)  with guns, one sailor holding a book, and a small group of natives.The sailors are standing together on the right, one of them holding a book.  The natives are standing together on the opposite side, looking curiously at the sailors

C         (Speaks directly to the sailor with the book)  Go ahead. Read them the message.  You are supposed to preach the gospel to them like the bishop said.

S 1       OK (Reads in any language other than English, preferably Latin from 1 Corinthian 15: 3-7).

At this point the natives curiously come a bit closer.

S2        What are they doing?

S3        Who knows?  I can’t see them repenting.

S1        (Loudly)  Do you believe?


S 1 & 2  (Together)  Do you believe?


S 1,2,3,4,5 (in unison, louder, and slower)  Do you believe?

Silence: Indians look puzzled and confused.

S 3       (Looks at sailors 1 & 2) I don’t think they believe.

S4        Of course they don’t believe.  (Impatiently)  Can we start shooting now?

S5        ( Gently lays the book down, then shouts)  Take all their gold!  Let’s get it now and be off back to Spain!

All sailors open fire and the natives run for their lives.  One native falls, the others leap over his body and race off the stage while the sailors huddle around the fallen native, rummage his pockets, take his wallet, and race off in the opposite direction.

Discussion questions

What are your feelings about the play you just saw (read)?  Are you afraid to witness for Jesus because people might associate you with people like the sailors in this play?

Do you think the bishop honestly cares about the gospel?  How does he handle the balance between risk and opportunity?  Is he motivated more by fear of the risk involved or by hope presented in the opportunity?

How do you feel about the way in which the bishop uses the king to advance his religious agenda?  What might the bishop have done differently to get a better outcome?

Have you ever felt you were in a situation similar to that of the monk in the story?  With  this particular bishop as his mentor, what do you project to be the monk’s future so far as his career is concerned?  What do you project for his future so far as service to God’s kingdom is concerned?

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