If theology is everywhere, and I believe that it is, then Black Sails‘ theology is in every character, scene, and theme. I plan to eventually write about the overarching theological concepts found in this show, but as I go through my rewatch, I want to highlight scenes in which Christianity is explicitly discussed. We get our first of these in episode 103 – III between Miranda Barlow and Pastor Lambrick.
Pastor Lambrick: I’m afraid I’ve become a burden.
Miranda: Far from it. I look forward to our conversations. This week’s sermon?
PL: Your thoughts are always enlightening.
From their first lines together, we see that Pastor Lambrick frequently visits Miranda and asks her opinion on his sermon notes. Taken charitably, this shows his willingness to accept a woman’s spiritual leading. This is something that is fought about today and perhaps shows the spiritual freedom of 1715 Nassau away from “civilization’s” influence. Cynically, this is Pastor Lambrick’s excuse for spending time with a beautiful woman or a desire for external validation. Since one of Black Sails‘ theological themes is the concurrent sinfulness and saintliness of every man and woman, I like to think that his motivations include all three.
Miranda: Easter. Is it Easter already? ‘It is Christ’s love of sinners that gave him the strength to endure agony. This, the truest form of love, love through suffering.’ Do you believe this?
Pastor Lambrick: It’s not to be believed or disbelieved. It’s God’s gospel truth, is it not?
M: ‘Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanteth not liquor. Thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Thy stature is like that of a palm tree and thy breasts like clusters of grapes. I will go up the palm tree and take hold of its fruits.’ God wrote that, too. True love shouldn’t require suffering. And you don’t have to take my word for it.
Over and over again, we will see that Lambrick’s faith is simplistic. When Miranda asks him if he believes what he has written about Christ’s love and suffering, his reaction is one of confusion. It is truth, and not to be questioned. Interestingly, Miranda’s argument is not so much about the statement’s truth, but about its totality.
In quoting the erotic love poetry of Song of Solomon, she reminds Lambrick that love, as explained by God, has many forms. Christ’s suffering is one form, but it is not the only way that love exists, and we should not exalt it as such. In effect, she calls Lambrick out on picking and choosing Scripture to suit his message. She is here, I believe, a wonderful example of a systematic theologian.
Pastor Lambrick: I must confess there is an ulterior motive for my visit today beyond the content of my sermon.
Miranda: Is that so?
PL: There are whispers among my flock that a ship of the Royal Navy docked in Harbour Island recently. The Scarborough. They say the king means to reassert colonial rule here. Perhaps soon. Judgment in this world, not the next. For those who are a part of my flock when that judgment arrives, their righteousness will almost certainly go beyond doubt.
M: It’s not quite that simple for me.
PL: Is he keeping you here?
M: Good day, Pastor.
In the final part of their exchange, Lambrick further reveals the motivations for his visit. Before I discuss the negative implications of what he says, I do want to give credit for his asking if Captain Flint is keeping Miranda in the house against her will. More faith leaders would do well to look for and address potential instances of domestic violence among their parishioners. But let’s delve into his assertion that his church will be spared when the British arrive to reassert their dominance.
To begin, his words have an air of paternalistic protection that Miranda clearly has no interest in. It’s telling that she just demonstrated a greater understanding of Scripture than he has, so his sudden switch to “I’ll protect you” contains hints of reasserting power over her.
Far more damning is the way his words bely an exclusionary view of Nassau, one in which his “righteous” flock will be spared. The implication, of course, is that the heathen pirates will not. Although we do not yet know Miranda’s full story, or her opinion of the pirates of Nassau, her disinterest in his proposition is our first hint that she might not see the world so divided.
Ultimately, Lambrick is pretending to be a leader, though one whose leadership is granted through capitulation to England and “civilization.” This is a theme that has yet to be fully fleshed out in the show, but it is important to note going forward.
In our first scene that explicitly discusses theology, we are treated to two drastically different theologians. One is primarily concerned with upholding the status quo, both spiritually and culturally. The other questions what is “obvious,” thinks deeply, and refuses to benefit from the advantages of living under the status quo. It remains to be seen which of these theologians we are meant to admire and imitate.