There are two main characters in Black Sails whose actions are explicitly motivated by Christianity: Pastor Lambrick and Thomas Hamilton. Together they represent the best and worst of their religion, with one embodying its privilege and the other its sacrifice. This duality is perfectly expressed in the metaphor of a shepherd and the sheep. A shepherd leads people and challenges the status quo for the betterment of their flock, even at personal risk. The sheep follow people and fearfully accept the status quo out of a desire to maintain their privilege.
Lambrick: I am a shepherd sent to help you find a path to God’s forgiveness.
Vane: A shepherd? You are the sheep.
Pastor Lambrick believes he is a shepherd, but his conversations with Miranda and Vane reveal his inner sheep. As I mentioned in a previous post, Lambrick has an exclusionary view of Nassau that separates his “righteous” flock from the heathen pirates. This becomes even more obvious in his conversation with Vane, which ends with him implying that Vane is inhuman. He sees his connection with civilization as something that elevates him above others. We have never seen him try to create a better life for the men and women of Nassau in the present, and when forced to interact with a pirate, the only hope he offers is a fear-based call to repentance in hope of a better life to come. One imagines Vane might have been more open to repenting to Lambrick if he had seen the man fight against slavery and injustice rather than enjoy a comfortable life in the island’s interior. Lambrick’s power is entirely based upon capitulation to England. He believes he is a shepherd when in reality, he is a sheep.
Miranda: In some ways he [Thomas] was like you, a shepherd to his flock.
Unofficially, Thomas Hamilton established himself as a shepherd to men and women in England by hosting salon conversations with the goal of seeing “the yoke of shame lifted from your shoulders,” a habit that seems to be grace incarnate. Both in word and in deed, Thomas believes that his social and political privilege is something to be sacrificed, not clung to. In episode 201, he gives money to the poor, which seems to be a regular occurrence. His plan to offer pardons to the pirates of Nassau is done out of a desire to inspire England to live up to its Christian ideals (204) despite the possibility, and eventual reality, of it costing him everything. Thomas passionately lives out his ideals, leading others into freedom as their shepherd.
Lambrick, the sheep, sees monsters where there are men, and he wants people to change in order to better serve England. Thomas, the shepherd, sees men where others see monsters, and he wants England to change in order to better serve people. There is no question as to who is more fully living out Christ’s belief in inherent human dignity and His willingness to sacrifice privilege for others’ gain. The fact that Black Sails chose to show Christ embodied in a rich white queer polyamorous man opens spiritual doors that some churches currently keep closed, and I personally find that incredibly beautiful.