May 21, 2010

Why I Like Lost - Part III


(This is the third post explaining in some detail why I like the TV show Lost.   Please read the first post here, then continue with part II and then this list below...)

Why I Like Lost - Part III

The Spiritual Themes

John Locke: "Why do you find it so hard to believe?"
Jack Shepherd: "Why do you find it so easy?"
John Locke: "Its never been easy!"

I was in a Lost online forum reading posts speculating about the mysteries of the show and what it is actually about.  For some reason, this particular forum was spending lots of time debating the scientific aspects of the show, believing it is primarily a show about science fiction. 

I chimed in with my own opinion, relaying some of what I posted here in Part II, and also the issues the characters are dealing with spiritually.  You would not believe the rage I got from these folks in suggesting that the show is not actually about science, but about faith.  But I was able to prove my point, much to their dismay, by simply asking them to watch the episode conveniently entitled "Man of Science, Man of Faith."  That theme, faith vs. science, is a constant in the show, and for my friends in that forum, they reluctantly had to agree.

Spiritual themes are significant in Lost; a title itself with a spiritual meaning.  In the show, those who trust science are often proven wrong, but sometimes they are right.  Faith is put to the test in similar ways, where sometimes the faithful are rewarded, but other times, they discover they have been deceived.  The show moves along with the characters repeatedly placing their trust in each other, in themselves, in the island, in God, or in science.  This is how we live life too; it makes the show and its characters even more compelling.

Deception is a danger, both in faith and science.  In science, you have to trust that physical laws are always constant and that assembled data is correct, otherwise, you can scientifically come to a false conclusion and be deceived.  Likewise, faith requires some kind of teaching or understanding, even if you conjure up some kind of belief all by yourself, it's still contrived from some kind of attitude or experience.  But often, when our faith is misplaced, we are deceived and disaster follows.  The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, so to speak. 

Lost handles this subject very well.  The nature of deception is that while we are deceived, we don't know we are deceived, we don't believe we are deceived, we will even argue that we are not deceived.  We don't know we are deceived; that's why we are deceived.  We find out we are deceived once truth is forced upon us by the circumstances of reality and truth.  In Lost, no one is sure who to trust, or what to trust, but they are forced to make a choice and place their faith somewhere.  The great thing is, the audience also isn't sure who or what to trust.  It brings us along in the adventure that is true to life's challenges and risks. 

Another spiritual theme is free will vs. predestination.  How much control do we have in our life?  Its is all planned out for us or can we choose to change our direction?  Is our fate predetermined by God or the universe or our DNA or upbringing?  These questions have been significant in every area of human thought.  Something people have always inherently asked is, "Why am I here?"  This question is the ultimate question our heroes in the story are asking.  Are they on the island by chance or by fate?  The viewer can relate quite well to that question.

Good vs. evil?  Also a huge question.  Who is good?  Who is evil?  How can we be sure?  Is everything black and white or is there a middle road? One episode to go, and we only have this partially figured out.

Recently, one of Lost's head writers confirmed that the show is about "redemption."  Redemption is indeed the main conflict the characters are going through spiritually.   With this in mind, the show presents the audience with the basic spiritual questions people ask.  Can a person change?  Does a person have to atone for their sins, or is there forgiveness and grace out there?  Does one redeem oneself or is someone (or something) else the redeemer?  Is there a God or not?  What happens when you die?  Does anything really matter?

Again, this is compelling.  Redemption of some kind is at the heart of all religion and spiritual thought.  The characters wrestle with these issues.  They aren't even sure where they are, but they consider it may be Heaven, Hell or Purgatory or some similar place.  Their perception is driven by their attitude about past sins and decisions and whether or not they can still have value and hope and purpose.  The power of love is intertwined in each case.

Naturally, as a Christian minister, these topics and the way they are treated by the writers is very interesting to me.   I don't think the show is going to have some kind of distinctive Christian resolution, but I am very sure the writers have been to Sunday school a time or two:

Ben: "Thomas the Apostle. When Jesus wanted to return to Judea, knowing that he would probably be murdered there, Thomas said to the others, "Let us also go there and we might die with him." But Thomas was not remembered for this bravery. His claim to fame came later when he refuses to acknowledge the resurrection. He just couldn't wrap his mind around it. The story goes that he needed to touch Jesus wounds to be convinced."
Jack: "So was he?"
Ben: "Of course he was. We are all convinced sooner or later, Jack."


So, it has given me much to discuss with my friends who believe differently than I do,   A good article about Lost and faith was published in the Wall Street Journal this week.  It has a couple of significant spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't watched all through Season 5.


Here is one of my favorite scenes as a character (Locke) questions his faith.



... Why I Like Lost - Part IV - Coming Soon...

SCF
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