Monday, May 24, 2010

Finding LOST

C. S. Lewis had a bus. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had a plane. The Great Divorce and LOST are essentially about the same thing: Learning to let go, to forgive, and to be forgiven. If Lewis were alive today, I'm sure he would have been the first to spot the story arc of LOST and the last to get bogged down by the details. The weird, scientific wonders of the Island were ultimately nothing but context. Only the characters mattered. It was always the characters.

Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke--all of them had to learn to let go before they could move on. They had to learn to forgive and to receive forgiveness before they could enter Heaven. (If you watched the finale, don't get caught up in the multi-religious stained glass windows. The risen Christ is by far the dominant religious imagery.) The "alternate dimension", or "sideways-flashes" were a sort of purgatory (much like the setting of Lewis' The Great Divorce), probably constructed by Hurley and Desmond to bring them together so that they could move on as a community. The reunion in the church was joyous because they had learned to let go, to forgive and to be forgiven. The sins and scars of the past were forgotten and healed in the church, all overseen by the risen Christ.

Unlike the Great Divorce, LOST is a happy ending. Through their travails on the Island, the characters learned that they needed to let go of the pain of their past. They needed to forgive those who had sinned against them. And they needed forgiveness for their own sins. The "sideways-flashes" were simply the consummation of what they experienced on the Island.

The funny thing about LOST is that it never needed an Island or a Smoke Monster or electro-magnetism or time travel to tell its story. It's a universal story. We live the story of LOST not on an Island full of unexplained phenomena but in the mundane reality of our work and home. And then God comes along and brings something impossible, something incomprehensible and unimaginable into our lives to teach us to let go of the past, to forgive, and to be forgiven.

LOST is a brilliant sermon, an epic exposition of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:14-15. "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Forgiveness is the door to eternal life. The rest (the Numbers, Dharma, the Mythology) is just details.


Kelly said...

You said it, Andy! Lost was always a story about people and about the power of love and absolution. The writers could have chosen to resolve all the "scientific" loose ends during the 2.5 available hours, but we as spectators wouldn't have come out of it with any introspection at all. Though I still don't really understand exactly why Desmond had to push a button every 108 minutes, I'm glad to know that his journey ended in a community of forgiveness.

rachelspiegel said...

thanks for this perspective, Andy. I'm having a hard time getting past the "all roads lead to heaven" feeling with which i was left. but this is a good point. thanks for seeing the angles i missed.

jubjubjg said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. You hit it on the head! Makes me want to watch it all over again... I think I will.

Patrick said...


I have to disagree. I felt the general message was one of a post-modern, man-centered, pluralistic approach to salvation. I think we Christians give Hollywood FAR too much credit.

While the show delivered on a character-redemption standpoint, it failed miserably, and I do mean miseriably, from a cohesive mystery-story standpoint. They filled the show with red herrings for six years. They FOCUSED on the mystery, then at the end, declared that it WASN'T a mystery story.

Unlike The Great Divorce, LOST told us it was a mystery from the start. C.S. Lewis didn't con us. We knew it wasn't a mystery, neither did we expect answers. We knew it was stricly a character journey.

I don't feel that every question needed answered, but for crying out loud, don't duke your audience. Sorry, but walking away and saying "it was all about the characters anyway, silly people" is a total cop-out. In a mystery story, character, setting, places and events cannot be separated.

I'm currently writing my own novel and will definately use LOST as an example of how NOT to write a mystery.


andy said...

Patrick, I'm sympathetic to your point of view. I was initially turned off by the stained glass window and the other religious articles in the room in that scene. But then I thought, "How many times have they shown the statue of the resurrected Jesus?" A lot. And the cross was the dominant religious image.

LOST was not a Buddhist show. It was not a Muslim show, or a New Age show, or a Hindu show, or even a Jewish show. I believe it was a Christian show because, although they didn't say "Jesus Christ is the only one who can save you," the whole message of the show was forgive and be forgiven. And that is uniquely Christian, I think.

As for all the unanswered questions--some questions don't need answers because to answer them would be to overshadow the message. Don't let the mysteries of the Island get in the way of the message of forgiveness.

Patrick said...

I suppose I see your point Andy. Maybe after I'm over my bitterness I will come to my senses...

I had 2 painfully slow hours at work to kill today and read over much of your blog postings...I must say that I agree and think alike with you on many, many topics (particularly my loathe for big government, left-wing Christianity and the social-justice/gospel movement)...guess the Lost Season Finale just isn't one of them. :)


Patrick said...

Here's the point of the entire passage, Andy:

36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

It's strictly illustrating the SURPRISE of Jesus' return. Reading into this passage beyond this point is risky, IMHO. At least that's what I remember from New Testament survey back in college.


a smoking flax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a smoking flax said...

LOST cannot be Christian in the Biblical sense. I know some people believe that at the very least LOST has some Biblical/Christian principles. But a "Christian" is someone who follows Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, according to the Bible.

On LOST (Season 2 the episode entitled "Fire and Water"): This is the episode where Charlie--who has clearly gone out of his mind--keeps grabbing Aaron and running with him to the ocean to drown or Baptize him (we couldn't be sure which), and this, obviously, terrorizes Claire. If someone kept grabbing my infant son like this, I would be frightened too! If their goal was to present the Christian practice of Baptism as it is portrayed in the Bible (Romans 6:4) I think they missed the mark by a few light years. BUT... if they were trying to show us that believing in Christian "ideas" like baptism could lead unstable persons to commit acts of terrorism, they hit a grand-slam!

If you think I am being too reactionary or paranoid or... ??? I invite you to watch this episode again.


Back to the main point... LOST CANNOT be a Christian TV show, in the Biblical sense.

In the aforementioned episode, after Charlie is beaten into giving up his "idea" that Aaron must be Baptized; Claire asks Mr. Echo about baptizing her son...
Mr. Echo tells Claire that if they are both baptized they will not be separated after death i.e. they will both be in heaven. Mr. Echo then explains to Claire what Baptism is. It is during this explanation he says... "It is said that when John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the skies opened up and a dove flew down from the sky. This told John something: that he had cleansed this man of all his sins."

This told John the Baptist that he (John) had cleansed (by baptizing) this man (Jesus) of all His sins.

I'm sorry but I DON'T believe that is Christian.
At least NOT Biblical Christianity.

Jesus was NOT just a man who needed his sins cleansed like the rest of us. I believe Jesus is God the Son, who came to earth and took on human flesh. He was sinless and perfect; The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Jesus died for our sins NOT His!

Now you can believe whatever you want to...
But as for me and my house we choose to believe the Word of God.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

I wonder about Christian discernment?
Are Christians sound asleep and dreaming about the world?


andy said...

Tom, when encountering popular culture, I think it's helpful to distinguish between what presents Christianity (like Christian music) and what points to Christianity (like The Lord of the Rings). I agree with you that Lost is not Christian in the sense that it presents a clear gospel message, because it never does. But, frankly, I would never expect anything from Hollywood to do that.

I call Lost "Christian" because it points to the gospel by being a 6-season show that is essentially about forgiveness and being forgiven, which is a fundamentally Christian idea. (And, I would say, albeit less confidently because I haven't done enough study, uniquely Christian idea.)

Ecko's bad theology doesn't disturb me too much because, after all, he wasn't a real priest. He was only dressed like one because he was shipping heroin in Mary statues. (I'd be shocked, if, after everything in Lost, Lindelof and Cuse got this fundamental tenet of Christianity wrong by accident.)

I don't need popular culture to tell me the gospel or to present Christianity. I get that at church and in the Bible. But when it points to the gospel, then I get excited because it provides inroads for theological and evangelistic conversation.