Pirate Flag / The Blood
Two songs reckoning with the legacy and lineage of Christian supremacy
A short note before this post: The songs here are some of the most challenging ones I’ve written. They explore dark themes, and they don’t lift into easy, reframing optimism. The work of digging into these topics invites an exploration that has continued to be challenging for me personally, and I don’t consider my perspective to be “resolved” here. Just in case you were expecting lighter content…this isn’t that. My hope in sharing is that it helps surface the shared work to be done, of finding healthier ways forward, by telling the truth, and by seeking reconciliation. I don’t know what that looks like, but it’s what I’m here for.
Once there was a carpenter
Who came to seek the lost
He spoke of love and light
Until they killed him on a cross.
Pirates took the cross
And they put it on a flag
They used it as ruse to just
explore and to enslave.
They conquered and expanded
And went around the earth,
Displacing the Indigenous
And celebrating Jesus’ birth.
They set up noble churches
And wrote some worship songs
For those that had survived, they said
“You’re welcome to belong.”
They raised up Christian soldiers
To keep truth marching on
They memorized their bibles
And burned crosses on some lawns.
I’d like to think the pirate flag
Is antiquated art,
But honey, it’s the flag flown high
From the castle of my heart.
I was born aboard ship
Already out to sea
It took a while to recognize
The enemy is me.
What comes up for you as you hear this?
I wrote this song in the early winter of 2021.
I was on a phone call with two friends, shortly after the events of the Capitol Hill riot in the USA in January 2021, and expressing my dismay at what I had seen. It included seeing a “Jesus Saves” flag and a cross being raised in the midst of these events.
My friend said something along the lines of, “If they are waving a flag like that, then it is not as true representatives as Christ. It is as if they are pirates who stole the flag.”
The idea didn’t leave my mind. What had happened to the original message of Christ that it would be used in this modern moment to dominate and terrorize?
And how is that the name and “flag” of Christ has been waved throughout history to dominate and terrorize entire people groups? From slaveholders to residential school operators, to today’s churches who wholeheartedly, faithfully and earnestly exclude LGBTQ+ people, the name of Christ is the very threat that causes people to shrink away in fear.
How can I reconcile the reality that for many people, the cross of Christ has never meant deliverance, safety, peace or salvation, but only subjugation, exclusion and pain?
If the association with the name of Christ comes with affiliation with the activities of history’s pirates, why am I still holding this flag?
Am I not part of perpetuating the same terror?
Over time, colloquial use if the word and idea means only the new meaning. It’s as if a word or a song starts of healthy and benign — let’s take the words “face” and “book” — and over time, comes to be associated with a very specific meaning. To keep using the word, not acknowledging the shift that has occurred, is to create confusion. In the words of Inigo Montoya: “Why you keep saying the word? I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I can’t deny that the stories of people who inspire me deeply — whose motivations were the love of God, which led folks to lead revolutions, to die while seeking the liberty of others, to bring hope and feed the hungry. They too may fly the flag of the cross of Christ and indeed do so with a deep love of all coursing through their veins. A parallel song could be written, perhaps “Flag of the Faithful Few,” tracing the lineage of those who humbly pursued the Way and did so in the shadows, at great personal risk, to bring liberation and love to real people, feeling persecution, maintaining community, spreading love, planting seeds of hope — that could be made.
But this song emerged from pain and despair, inspired not by the visible activities of “faithful few,” but rather, the parade of the pirates.
This song shortens the link, in as few words as possible, to connect the dots between the message of Jesus, to its distorted into a weapon for global conquest, to the seeds of supremacy still planted in my own heart.
How can we reckon with, repent from, and help the world recover from the damage that has been done in the name of Christ? Does it start with naming the ways my own beliefs might share the same distortions? Is there part of me that carries the same sense of superiority? How might I lay down my own pirate flag?
The blood of Christ
has made me white,
has made me white
The blood of Christ
has made me right,
has made me right,
But does the blood of the lamb
and the rightness of the Lord
give us the right to take their land
Does the very blood of Christ
gives us the power and the might
to take their life, take their land,
and erase their lore?
Blood on our hands,
blood in our hearts,
trickling down from our beliefs.
Blood in our families,
blood in our flag,
trickling down from the maple leaf.
Blood in our legends,
blood in our land,
spreading on out from what we teach.
Blood in our holidays
and our hymns,
spreading on out from what we preach.