Monday, February 12, 2007

The Gospel According to the dread pirate Roberts

For a long time now, I’ve been trying to come up with an image that I feel represents one of the most meaningful Scriptures to me, Jeremiah 20:9. I’ve always liked the version of the “Sacred Heart” used by the House of Blues. Christ’s heart afire surrounded by His crown of thorns, or in more contemporary versions, barbed wire. But I could never manage to draw one that I liked. Just as well, I guess. Not being Catholic, I’ve never been properly instructed in all of the symbolism of the image anyway.

This idea came to me while learning about pirates. I think it’s pretty cool since so many of the disciples were professional fisherman. Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm, right? So since I enjoy Jimmy Buffett music and the motto of my newspaper column is “sex, politics, and religion- not necessarily in that order…” Why not my own pirate flag?

I had a friend complain to me about how many different blogs I have. One for my column, one for the cheerleading squads I coach, one just about Art… I had three different blogs that deal with religion. One focused on prayer, one was for my church youth group and another for my church’s 125th anniversary. So I thought I should pair down. The 125th is now last year and this is my last year as Youth Counselor (at least for a while, maybe when my kids are in high school I’ll try it again). My column never does actually cover sex, and it’s a humor column as often as it is a Spiritual one, but I did want to be able to talk about more than teen faith issues and more than just prayer on a blog about my faith. I want to be able to “be real.” To talk about my personal struggles of faith and irritations with the hypocrisies and heresies of the established “rulers and teachers of the law.”

Christian sarcasm and cynicism? Is there room for that? Oh please. You think that Jesus didn’t have His tongue in His cheek when he said that bit about it being harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle? You don’t think there was at least a tinge of irony in His voice when he told people to pluck their eyes out and enter the Kingdom blind, rather than use their eyes to lust?

We may not get the cultural references anymore in the 21st century, but Dente’s Divine Comedy and his Inferno weren’t just poetry, they were political satire and religious criticism. In much of his writings, Martin Luther displays a rapier wit for cutting the meat clear to the bone in his critiques of the theological errors, pompous personalities, and political intrigues of the late renaissance.

So I may not always be right, but I think that God has room for fools- Court Jesters that is, political cartoonists and columnists like me, who love Him and want to serve him, but who feel no compunction about drawing attention to the weeds growing among the chaff, even if our Lord and our brothers may have to rebuke me for getting over zealous. (trust me, I know there’s a big huge log in my own eye, I just can’t help pointing out those specks). I hope you will forgive me

too, and yet enjoy the humor and be challenged and provoked by the opinions.

So how did I come up with my cool Pirate flag?

The Templar knights, the crusaders who liberated Jerusalem with King Richard the Lion Hearted, would burry their brethren by laying their leg bones in the form of a cross by their skull. Once accused of heresy by jealous nobility in France, legend has it those who survived persecution fled and merged joined with knights on the island of Malta who eventually turned to piracy under the well known symbol of the Jolly Roger or skull and cross bones.

Black Bart Roberts, the real “dread pirate Roberts,” was a peculiar pirate and perhaps the most “successful,” though not as famous as Captains Cook, Morgan or Black Beard. Black Bart didn’t drink, though hid crew certainly did. He led Sunday worship services aboard his ship. Mind you, I know that the analogy breaks down, after all, Roberts was a blood thirsty murderer with an insatiable appetite for power, reputation and wealth. Not exactly Christ-like. Be that as it may, consider this, like Christ, Roberts was anti-establishment and egalitarian. Roberts was, after all, the product of the culmination of sinful, inhumane and self-indulgent policies of political and religious leaders. His pirate ship was more democratic than many “First World” countries are yet today. Consider the articles that his crewmembers swore on a Bible to uphold:

  1. Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time seized, and shall use them at pleasure unless a scarcity may make it necessary for the common good that a retrenchment may be voted.
  2. Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes, because over and above their proper share, they are allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defraud the company to the value of even one dollar in plate, jewels or money, they shall be marooned. If any man rob another he shall have his nose and ears slit, and be put ashore where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.
  3. None shall game for money either with dice or cards.
  4. The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights.
  5. Each man shall keep his piece, cutlass and pistols at all times clean and ready for action.
  6. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man shall be found seducing any of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise he shall suffer death.
  7. He that shall desert the ship or his quarters in time of battle shall be punished by death or marooning.
  8. None shall strike another on board the ship, but every man's quarrel shall be ended on shore by sword or pistol in this manner. At the word of command from the quartermaster, each man being previously placed back to back, shall turn and fire immediately. If any man do not, the quartermaster shall knock the piece out of his hand. If both miss their aim they shall take to their cutlasses, and he that draweth first blood shall be declared the victor.
  9. No man shall talk of breaking up their way of living till each has a share of 1,000. Every man who shall become a cripple or lose a limb in the service shall have 800 pieces of eight from the common stock and for lesser hurts proportionately.
  10. The captain and the quartermaster shall each receive two shares of a prize, the master gunner and boatswain, one and one half shares, all other officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of fortune one share each.
  11. The musicians shall have rest on the Sabbath Day only by right. On all other days by favor only.

As a work of graphic design I am very proud of it, even though it is incredibly simple. That may be part of its power, that it is so simple and iconic. The cross bones from pirate flags that have literally been around for hundreds of years, if not more than a thousand. The flames are nearly as iconic since it’s from an international hazard placard. I kind of think it would make a great t-shirt, album cover to guerilla art. If I had the guts to get a tattoo, I think it would make and awesome one of those too. Instead of the “Jolly Roger,” I call it the “Jerry Rigor.” Jerry is a derivative of Jeremiah, the flag’s Bible Verse.

The design and look of this website will soon be changing to. For now I’ve changed the green to black, just so readers notice the attention, but frankly I think it’s a little heavy, I’m not a heavy metal head after all. So keep an eye on it and let me know what you think. Black may be best for Lent anyway, maybe I’ll hold off on a major make over until Easter. Well, I’ve rambled on about nothing too important for long enough. Come back for theological discussions, devotions, prayers and motivational quotes.

In Jesus’ service,

Pirate Ted

No comments:

Post a Comment