Something happened to me on Tuesday which I thought I was going to blog about today, and then it turned out that maybe not all was as it seemed in that situation, so I haven't figured out how or even if to write about it. Then I remembered: Today is Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day! So in honour of pirates, I'm pirating my own post from my old blog. It was written during a decade where I kind of had some major issues with God, but I think I probably still agree with most of it.
You all think I’m going to talk about how much I like Johnny Depp, don’t you? Well I do. But I’m not. What I really mean is something like, “How Relating to Captain Jack Sparrow Might Be Like Relating to God.”
Such a proposition necessitates a lot of disclaimers, probably too many to enumerate here. But these are some of them:
- I don’t think Jack Sparrow (or Johnny Depp) is God.
- I don’t think God is a rather lascivious alcoholic pirate with multiple personalities. (I do believe He exists in multiple Persons: three, to be exact. But I digress.)
- I don’t think that any of the Pirates movies resemble allegory or analogy to Scriptural history in any point-by-point or intentional way. [2013 Note: I have not seen the fourth of these movies, so cannot speak to any parallels–or overturning of the parallels I mention here–in that one.]
- I mean no disrespect.
But hear me out. Here we have this enigmatic character who polarises people. He also polarises reactions within the same person. All of Jack Sparrow’s friends seem both to love him and to hate him. Not to mention that said friends seem to be on rather an unequal footing. He demands attention and respect, but we aren’t always sure he deserves it. Sometimes he seems absent. Sometimes he seems in control. Sometimes he seems to have completely lost it. Often, he seems crafty and clever. At least as often, he seems a complete buffoon.
I feel like this about God a lot. I think it might even be permissable to say that the Bible presents Him similarly on occasion. Of course He’s majestic and holy and just and wise and all those “omni-” things. He is. (I wouldn’t say the same of Jack Sparrow.) But He’s also presented as affected by our actions, emotional, ranting, and sometimes a little bit crazy. Who would come down here and sacrifice His life for us hopeless excuses for the Divine Image if he wasn’t somehow insane? Although foolishness is spoken against in the Bible, there’s also a holy foolishness (picked up on sometimes powerfully in literature) that it might be dangerous to forget about.
Here are some other interesting points of comparison. In movie number 2 (admittedly the worst of the bunch), Captain Jack does (albeit a little unwillingly) sacrifice his life for his comrades, having been betrayed by one of them . . . with a kiss. I find it hard to imagine that these parallels to Jesus’ experience were really intentional, just like I don’t think Jesus needed His disciples help to rise from the dead the way Sparrow needed his friends’ help to bring him back. Still, it does seem a detail worth noting.
Also, the major question underlying all three of the movies (besides, “Why is all the rum gone?”) seems to be “Can we trust him?”
Even as the audience, we never really know the answer to this question. (Usually the answer to the rum one is a lot clearer.) People are constantly surprised when an action apparently completely self-destructive ends up turning things around and saving the day. In a fictional (and not so fictional) world where every character seems to put his or her own interests first, none seems to do it more or better than Jack. But without him, none of them would have survived past the first half of the first movie, and if they had, their lives would likely have had both little adventure and little purpose. (Either way, there would only have been one movie. And few people would have bothered to see it.)
At one point in this last film [as of the writing of this post–1 June 2007], young William Turner (Orlando Bloom), whose own relationship with Sparrow has become strained, defends a strategy by telling the older pirate something like, “I tried to think like you would think. I thought, ‘How would Jack do it?’ I thought this was what you would do.” (What Would Jesus Do, anyone?) Sparrow mocks him lightly and then casts the poor boy, one might say, adrift. By doing so, however, he sets in motion a chain of events which saves the entire Pirate Brotherhood.
We, along with the rest of the characters, wonder if Sparrow really knows what’s going to happen? “Does,” as one of his opponents asks, “he plan it all out or just make it up as he goes along?” Is he just lucky? How does he know everybody so well? How does he turn even their antipathy towards him into something redemptive? Does he really care about everybody as much as he says he . . . doesn’t?