Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Movie Review
Review by Stacey Tuttle
Generally, I try to give a recap of the storyline and pull out some way that it relates to faith. However, I think in the case of the latest Pirates installation, I don’t need to even attempt to recap the storyline. Nor do I need to look for some obscure reference or connection. Jack Sparrow gave us an easy and important entry way into discussion about our approach to faith and the afterlife.
So, here is the scene: due to impending circumstances, Jack is suddenly considering his own mortality. He tells a clergyman in classic Jack Sparrow style (I know, there should be a Captain in there somewhere), “I am fully prepared to believe in whatever is needed so I can go to wherever it is that all the goody-goodies go.” The clergyman answers him, “We have a word for that: Convert.” But conversion isn’t quite what Jack was looking for. “I was thinking on more of an as needed basis,” he replies.
Jack didn’t want to convert. To convert is to change in form, character or function, according to one definition. Jack didn’t want to change anything. He had no intention of becoming a different man. Jack simply wanted some life insurance—something to protect him if he died.
Real conversion doesn’t just mean you change. In fact, changing your behavior doesn’t make you converted at all, it is only evidence that you have converted. Real conversion into Christianity means that you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Maybe it would help to look at it from Jack’s perspective, in his terms. It would be, for Jack, like realizing that he himself was not a good enough captain and finding another, more qualified (perfect, actually) Captain to align with (Jesus). If he signed on with another Captain, as a part of that crew, some things would naturally change. Jack wouldn’t call himself captain anymore; he would give that title of leadership to the new Captain. He wouldn’t call all the shots, instead he would ask the Captain what HE thought they should do, and Jack would then obey. He would let the new captain choose the direction of the ship and management of the crew and so on. And, as the Captain of the Christian vessel, Jesus would certainly not abide the kind of behaviors most pirates considered acceptable: stealing, murdering, lying, cheating, carousing, etc.
Converting means joining a new ship and sailing under a new captain. The result of which is that you have to live by the new Captain’s orders. It also means, however, that you get to go where that ship is sailing. And the ship Jesus sails heads to Heaven. But he won’t allow sailors on board who refuse to submit to its captain. Mutiny is mutiny.
Jack wanted the benefits of salvation without the cost. He wanted to go where Jesus’ boat was going without being on board the boat, without having to serve Jesus as Captain.
Here are two questions which are rather piercing to me as I think about Jack’s statement.
- How many Jack’s do you know? How many people do you know who just want Christianity on an “as-needed” basis? They have no intention to follow a new Captain and change their life to align with his plan, but they would like to know they don’t have to go to Hell. They would like to go “where all the goody-goodies go” without having to actually be one themselves. How many people like that do you know?
- How often have you (please know, I’m asking myself this very same question) peddled life insurance rather than true conversion to non-believers you have encountered?
It’s a hard question. I wonder for myself if sometimes I treat evangelism a bit like easing into a hot-tub. It’s too much, too hot to get in all at once, so I ease in ever so slowly until I’m accustomed to the temperature. Maybe that’s why we sometimes sugar-coat the gospel—we realize it’s so much more than just a matter of saying a few scripted words so that a person can go to Heaven, but we are afraid that the whole truth might scare off a potential convert. So, we rationalize that if we can just get them to put their little toe in the water, then next time we can urge them to go a little deeper and explain that accepting Jesus means that you should follow His way of life—and we focus on the nice, kind, fluffy things—love and being his child, etc. Then, we plan to get the new convert waist deep a little later, once we are sure he/she won’t run off, with the whole concept of taking up your cross and following Jesus, of forsaking all he/she has to follow Him.
I think sometimes we are so afraid that the whole Gospel will overwhelm and run people off that we water it down and make it more acceptable. What we forget is that God’s Word is the power of life for those who believe. We forget that His ways are higher than our ways, and therefore they can be trusted. We forget that salvation is the LORD’s when we try to manipulate it to make it, to our fearful way of thinking, more acceptable.
Salvation, it is true, is free. All are freely welcome to sail on Jesus’ boat. But, becoming a disciple, becoming a sailor in Jesus’ crew…that is costly. You may have to leave behind family members, possessions, security… You may endure hardships, you may even suffer. However, you have the privilege of sailing with a Captain who is perfect, loving, kind, just and humble. The journey (though challenging) will be rewarding and the destination will be worth every conceivable sacrifice.
David Platt says it this way in his book, Radical, “The gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. …Salvation…consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for his grace. Jesus is …[not] one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.”
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
I pray that we do not peddle life insurance and call it salvation. I pray that we realize that true Christianity is life change. And I pray God grant us the ability to show the Jack Sparrows of the world who want conversion on an “as needed” basis that the need is at hand, pervasive and desperate.
Questions for Discussion:
- What is your response to the definition of convert (to change in form, character or function, according to one definition) and how does that affect your perspective on people converting to Christianity?
- How many Jack’s do you know? How many people do you know who just want Christianity on an “as-needed” basis? They have no intention to follow a new Captain and change their life to align with his plan, but they would like to know they don’t have to go to Hell. They would like to go “where all the goody-goodies go” without having to actually be one themselves.
- How often have you been tempted to peddle life insurance rather than true conversion to non-believers you have encountered?
- Why do you think we are tempted to short-change the gospel and make it a matter of fire insurance, instead of lives given wholly and completely to Jesus?
- What costs of discipleship have you encountered in your own life?
- Does the illustration of Jesus as Captain make some element of Christianity a little clearer to you? Does it shed new light on some area of your faith? If so, what?
 Multnomah books, Colorado Springs, 2010, p 39.
 Romans 1:16