Cushy pews

I am taking a class on American culture this semester and the past two weeks, we have been discussing B. Traven's The Death Ship.

This politically charged novel tells the story of an American sailor suddenly left stateless as his ship leaves him stranded in a Belgian port without any form of identification and according to society, without any identity at all.

Traven tackles larger issues of patriotism, nationalism, capitalism, and many other -isms that make it well worth a read.

But the statements that stuck out to me most regarded the role of Christianity among a society of bureaucratic systems.

Traven's harsh criticisms were penned in 1934, but unfortunately, I think his words still strike a chord of truth today (emphasis mine):

"Each protects his own kind. Internationalism is just a word that sounds fine from a soap-box. Nobody ever means it...That's why we call ourselves Christians--because we love our neighbors dearly; so let them go to hell or heaven, wherever they want to, so long as they don't try to eat their daily bread with us" (34).


"One must not expect clean speech from a man compelled to live in filth and always overtired and usually hungry. Well fed, and sitting in a deep soft seat in an Episcopalian church, it is a godly pleasure to listen to a high-powered sermon about the wickedness of an ever unsatisfied working-class. Make all the wicked sailors and restless workers, after a good meal, sit in the same soft seats, and they will listen with the same joy as do the others to the sermon about the lost proletarians who won't believe in God or heaven" (198).


"Money is always useful, no matter how you make it. The point is to have it. As long as you have it, no minister will ever ask you where and how you got it; just rent, or better buy, a church seat, and pay something for the missions in China" (289).

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