The Good Ship Jesus
What has come to be referred to as "The Good Ship Jesus" was in fact the "Jesus of Lubeck," a 700-ton ship purchased by King Henry VIII from the Hanseatic League, a merchant alliance between the cities of Hamburg and Lubeck in Germany. Twenty years after its purchase the ship, in disrepair, was leant to Sir John Hawkins by Queen Elizabeth.
Hawkins, a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, was granted permission from Queen Elizabeth for his first voyage in 1562. He was allowed to carry Africans to the Americas "with their own free consent" and he agreed to this condition. Hawkins had a reputation for being a religious man who required his crew to "serve God daily" and to love one another. Sir Francis Drake accompanied Hawkins on this voyage and subsequent others. Drake, was himself, devoutly religious. Services were held on board twice a day.
John Hawkins Coat of Arms
A bound slave adorns John Hawkins' coat of arms.
Off the coast of Africa, near Sierra Leone, Hawkins captured 300-500 slaves, mostly by plundering Portugese ships, but also through violence and subterfuge promising Africans free land and riches in the new world. He sold most of the slaves in what is now known as the Dominican Republic. He returned home with a profit and ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar. Thus began the British slave trade.
On his return to England Queen Elizabeth, livid, assailed Hawkins charging that his endeavor, "...was detestable and would call down vengeance from heaven upon the undertakers." When Elizabeth became fully aware, however, of the profits to be made she joined in partnership with Hawkins and provided him with the "Jesus of Lubeck," a.k.a., "The Good Ship Jesus."
A later slaving expedition in 1567, consisting of five ships and the "Jesus of Lubeck," met with resistance from the Spaniards at St Juan d'Ulloa in Mexico. Since the slave trade was illegal Spanish colonists usually required a charade of force from British ships, after which they would buy slaves at a discount. This time, however, the Spanish attacked the British ships and the "Jesus of Lubeck," cumbersome and difficult to maneuver, was sunk and the crew slaughtered. Hawkins escaped with Drake on a smaller ship.
Hawkins, his piratic ambitions dashed, returned to England and remained there in the service of the Queen. He gained distinction for his pivotal role in defeating the Spanish Armada and was knighted in 1588.
Fort Jesus | A Holding Area for The Slave Trade
Island City of Mombasa - Fort Jesus
Fort Jesus was the original name of the island city of Mombasa, the current capital of Kenya. In the 16th century the city was known as Kisiwa ya Mvita, or "island of war," a Swahili name by which it is still known today. The city's strategic placement on the trade routes around the horn of Africa guaranteed continual conflict which occured for centuries between Africans, the Portuguese, the Omani Arabs and the British. In 1963 the country was finally relinquished to self rule.
In 1498 Vasco De Gama journeyed, ostensibly to spread the Christian faith, but in reality to secure Portuguese domination of Indian Ocean trading routes. During the course of his journey he discovered Mombasa. Nearly 100 years later the Portuguese installed the Kenyan King of Malindi as the Sultan of Mombasa. The first in a long line of western puppet rulers the Sultan proved a useful liaison between the Portuguese and the local inhabitants.
The following year the Portuguese broke ground for Fort Jesus, a magnificent stronghold designed by the Italian architect Jao Batisto Cairato. Designed to ward off hostilities from sea and land the fort exists today as a museum and tourist attraction. Poorer communities surrounding Mombasa were raided by Muslim and Portuguese slavers alike. Captured slaves were forced to work on the town's farms growing spices, cotton and coffee. Working conditions were brutal. Within Fort Jesus the Portuguese built cells for slaves and tunnels used to channel them onto slave ships waiting in the harbor.
Thirty years after the fort was completed Sultan Muhammad Yusif bin Hassan massacred the Portuguese garrison. Father Prior and the Chaplain of Fort Jesus were killed for refusing to convert to Islam. The Portuguese retook the fort but lost it again in 1689, and again in 1698 after almost three years of fighting. The British successfully banned the slave trade in the Omani Empire in 1873.
National Museums of Kenya, The Fort Jesus Museum
The Swahili | Dialogue and Resistance
Listen to a walkabout through Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa
Oman Returns to East Africa: Slave Empire Strikes Back?, by Marian Douglas
Christian Hill | Oil and Jesus
Near Christian Hill
Near Christian Hill
The relationship between American popular Christianity and oil began in 1890 with Lyman Stewart and the Union Oil Company located at Santa Paula 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Stewart had originally intended to be a missionary but lost his seed money on a failed oil venture. His second attempt at creating an oil company met with success. Extremely pious, Stewart was known to chastize his workers for profanity and the oil field, east of Pico Canyon in Santa Clarita, became known as "Christian Hill". Four wells were drilled on the land but none produced oil. Union Oil relocated to Ventura.
Lyman Stewart and his brother Milton Stewart funded, to the tune of $300,000, the writing and publication of the 12-volume Fundamentals, which were subsequently mailed to three million churches and institutions including the YMCAs. The preface to the series begins with,
In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday school superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world.
The Fundamentals were a response to modernism, German theological criticism, and Darwinism. The irony that money used to fund the texts was gotten from the remains of dinosaurs that walked the earth millions of years prior seemed lost on them.
The five primary fundamentals were and still are: inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, Christ's resurrection from the dead, and his return at the Second Coming —the last two to be construed as literal events. Alternatively some Fundamentalists will add or exchange the Virgin birth, the miracles, and the great commission—techically a tenet of Evangelicals.
Lyman Stewart went on to found BIOLA, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles —the alma mater of stripper/model Bettie Page, and the Union Mission in downtown LA, still serving today.
Christian Fundamentalism, as codified in Lyman Stewart's Fundamentals, has proven to be a negative force in the US and around the world justifying all types of thieving, fraud, and exploitation, and today fronts the Bush Administration's imperialistic war on terror. That the war against terror targets primarily lands rich in oil and natural gas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, West Africa and Indonesia comes as no surprise.
Burmese children in path of pipeline
In 1983 Union Oil was reorganized as Unocal Corporation. It is currently being sued by under the Alien Tort Claims Act by citizens in Myanmar for Unocal's involvement in the enslavement of local peoples by the Myanmar military for work on Unocal's oil pipeline. This year the US Attorney General's Office under John Ashcroft filed an amicus brief against the case. The United States banned new investment in Myanmar in 1997. Unocal was exempted from the ban because they had already been doing business there.
According to CorpWatch "Halliburton partners and subsidiaries, both before and during Dick Cheney's tenure as CEO, have been contractors for pipeline projects that have led to crimes against humanity in Burma." Cheney opposed US sanctions against Myanmar.
It's been a long time since Lyman Stewart chided his employees for swearing, though his Christian ethos still lives at Unocal. The corporation's website lists among its values "honesty, integrity, excellence, and trust." In a paper addressing the topic they write, "respect for human rights is fundamental in all of our activities."
For Christ's Sake
Why do Christians bother to ask "What would Jesus do?" if it ends up that Jesus does exactly what they do? If Christians had the personal integrity to do the things they do in their own name, rather than the name of Jesus, they'd have to be responsible for their own actions. Until that time comes, if it ever does, when you hear the name "Jesus," put your hand on your wallet and run for cover.