Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has officially surpassed the gross national product of half of the world’s nations. So there is a decent chance that you or someone you know as seen it. But are you prepared for the spiritual mine field this movie presents us?
On Stranger Tides frames for us a very important spiritual question, can a really evil person receive Christian salvation. Okay, I have to admit in a franchise that includes zombies, a trip to Davey Jones’ locker, pirates who choose to not die, and general weirdness this seems like a very unusual question to find in a Disney movie. But the question is put out for us to consider, is Blackbeard so horrible, evil, murdering, pillaging that salvation for him is simply no longer an option? Like good story telling, which some may argue is not present in this franchise, the question within the movie is somewhat left unresolved.
The character of Blackbeard is really really horrible. At least Captain Jack Sparrow is fun and quirky, surely a quirky pillager can get into heaven. Blackbeard is a murderer. He clearly will always put his interests and safety ahead of those of others. Additionally, he is clearly skilled in black magic making one to wonder about any side conversations he may have had with the boys from the south. Yeah, everyone can see that the fictional Blackbeard is someone who truly does not deserve salvation. To be sent to hell is clearly the fate this fictional Blackbeard deserves.
But can I make you uncomfortable now. There was a real Blackbeard. The pirate Edward Teach was an English pirate known for the terror he struck into his opponents. And the real Edward Teach murdered and killed. But he likely was not the character that legend and Disney have made of him. And Edward Teach died, as all seem to do, and was faced with a question of his eternal fate. Could Edward Teach have found a place in heaven. To be honest, I don’t know.
Can I drop a bomb here? I apologize but I need the elephant to leave the room. Is there room in salvation for Adolph Hitler? Is there any other person in recent history that paints a picture of pure evil instantly in so many minds? I think not. You see this question about salvation gets really uncomfortable when we move from fictional characters to real people, truly evil people. You see the reason why this question is so compelling in a fictional story is because the real life applications are painful to wrestle with. We all want to see someone get their just reward. It seems so fair when bad people have bad endings.
So can Blackbeard be saved? Let me throw out some of my own thoughts on this issue.
Paul writes that,
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; (Romans 3:10, ESV)
You see, no one is sinless, we are all criminals who do not have the right to stand before God. Blackbeard is just a different degree of criminal, in our own eyes. So how do we fix this. Paul writes elsewhere:
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:8-11, NLT).
Jesus came to save criminals and sinners. Of course, Blackbeard and other pirates like us must take a step, a step to accept that gift and become a friend of Christ. Then and only then can us pirates become holy. Maybe in that end, the ability to look past ourselves, is perhaps what would keep any of us from being saved.
Recently I read a review of a recent book on heaven. In this review the reviewer accused the author of opening up heaven to thieves and murderers. She asked would we really want to enter a heaven filled with such horrible people. This made my heart grieve deeply, because in my mind the reviewer was not clearly thinking through the events surrounding the crucifixion:
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
You see as I read this, it seems to me that it was Jesus and only Jesus that opened the door to heaven to murderers and thieves. And so I believe Jesus would have welcomed Blackbeard into heaven, if only Blackbeard would have chosen to accept the offer and move his heart towards Him. Jesus wanted Blackbeard to be saved, it’s Blackbeard that blocked any possible salvation not a Holy God. And let’s admit it, our hearts sing when we see stories of redemption.
So in my mind Blackbeard, as his daughter hopes, could still be moved to salvation before his tale comes to an end.
One final thought, spiritual conversations are everywhere. So let’s be prepared you scallywags to have these conversations with those who don’t know Jesus and seek to know him more. God’s story is everywhere.