This is Faith in Play #52: Pirates, for March 2022.
We have yet another archetype character this month. I picked pirates for the category name because there is something romantic about them in the modern mind, but this broadly covers brigands, bandits, and similar scoundrels. When I put the question to my panel of experts, they were hard-pressed to find anything Christian about the group.
Even after I observed that it included Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
That is perhaps critical to addressing this type. Many of these men were forced into lives of pillaging and robbery by governments and legal systems that demanded payments from them beyond anything conscionable. Robin’s group is one fictional example; Captain Blood is another. Yet there were real Carribean pirates whose careers began because they could not afford to pay unreasonable debts, and so they began accosting those who represented their creditors.
It is arguably a bad choice, but sometimes it was the only option.
Meanwhile, pirates were not, as we imagine, a lawless bunch of ruffians. Captains often imposed strict codes of conduct that included severe penalties for mistreating a woman, and rules against drunkenness on duty. Some even had regulations for keeping Sunday sanctified.
Further, Robin was probably not the only one who dispersed his ill-gotten gain to the deserving poor. Even apart from the economic benefit gained by ports in which pirates spent their money, they were not ungenerous to those in need. Nearly all of them targeted victims whom they could arguably claim had come by their wealth unfairly by robbing or cheating those with less power or influence. They viewed themselves as balancing the scales, taking from those who took from others.
I run a game scenario in which the verser finds himself aboard a spaceship. It is loosely modeled on the British show Blake’s 7, and as with that group the crew here are fighting against an evil empire that controls the galaxy. In my Multiverser novel Verse Three, Chapter One, I drop one of the characters, Bob Slade, in that world. He quickly realizes that he has landed on the rebel side of a civil war, but beyond that he ultimately realizes he’s not merely a rebel, he’s a rebel pirate. Heroes like Han Solo land in this category, and ultimately it is not whether you are a pirate, but why you are a pirate, whom you oppose, and what principles you retain.
My thanks to Dave Mattingly for his sermon delivered at Pirate Church for the Imaginarium creative writing convention.