Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lost Spirituality

Lost's creators have a habit of doling out relevant information in the midst of red herrings and ambiguous clues. This only adds fuel to the fire for speculators who hope to unravel the mysteries of this island, which seems awfully well-populated for a place that no rescue ship can find. In fact, the existence of the Others (a mysterious group of people already inhabiting the island when our plane crash survivors arrive), has been a prime source for the rumor mill. One of the prevailing theories that has been passed around for Lost is that the island is really purgatory and the crash survivors are all there to find a measure of redemption for mispent lives.

On last night's episode, one of the Others offered an intriguing statement that might (or might not) support such a theory. The conversation between Locke (one of the crash survivors) and the man known to us as Henry Gale (one of the Others) went about like this:

Locke: God only knows how many of you there are.
Gale: God doesn't know.
Locke: What?
Gale: God can't see this island anymore than the rest of the world can.

It is interesting to note that Gale does not deny God's existence, only His involvement in the events of the island. However, Gale's perspective is somewhat countered by that of Eko, the former African drug lord turned priest, who seems to believe that God is very much active on the island.

Studying the spirituality of Lost could be a very fruitful enterprise, but the difficulty is compounded by the paucity of clear answers to the mysteries of the island. But maybe that is part of the benefit. To an extent, Lost forces viewers to search continually for an understanding of how its world works and the role of God within that world. And is that not exactly what all of us do on the island we inhabit?


At 11:00 AM, Blogger Frank Bellizzi said...


I've never seen "Lost." But I was intrigued that the guy who speaks of the absence of knowledge is "Locke." Does the show explore philosophy-of-religion questions? Or does it just hint at them? The whole trip-to-purgatory thing made me think of "The Great Divorce."

Because this is a sub-specialty of yours, could you recommend the best sources for getting to the intersection of popular culture and biblical-and-religious themes (besides this blog, of course).

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Kirsten said...

That conversation was, for me, the most intriguing part of last night's episode.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Greg said...

"Lost" definitely does explore philosophy of religion questions. Locke actually seems to represent the search for spirituality on the show in that he experienced a miraculous healing and speaks often of the need to have faith. By contrast, the character of Jack, a medical doctor, sees everything through the lens of science and reason. The interplay between Jack and Locke on the show is often used to explore issues of faith vs reason.

As for resources, there is an explosion of books being written on the subject, although mostly on film and theology. Not nearly as much is being written with respect to television or popular music. So much has come out recently that I am not currently caught up but a couple of books that would be a good place to start are Brian Godawa's "Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment" and, on a more academic level, Robert Johnston's "Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue." Although not as academically oriented, the website reviews new movies, tv, etc. from a spiritual perspective. I will try to update and recommend other books in the future as I come across helpful ones.

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Xander said...

I have never watched television much. This is not because I'm a snot, but because I have had neither the time nor the inclination. However, I get the itching feeling that if I continue reading your blog I may also have to begin watching television. I did like the X-Files....

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Sermoniac said...

I'm with Xander, reading this blog makes me want to watch the tele. Cannot say if that is good or bad.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Xander, Then I would say, by all means, keep reading!
To Xander and Sermoniac, I would also add that I believe watching television is no different on one level than watching movies or reading novels. There are good and bad examples of all of them, but the good ones can be very good.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Josh.Graves said...


Patrick just informed me that Henry Gayle is the name of a famous teacher from the Northeast who claimed to have been a being from outer space (i.e. an ET character in human form).

I have know idea if that might relate to the direction of the story...but interesting.

A couple people think Eko (sp?) is building a church...any thoughts on that?

It is ironic that Locke is the mystic and Jack is the proto-modern man who hinges his conclusions on "reason" and "empirical evidence."

I hope to have much to blog about after you give us three great talks at the retreat this weekend. We're excited...I wonder if Terminator and REV. 12 was a preview?

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you need a post like this one talking about battlestar.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I also read somewhere, although I don't recall if it is true or not, that Henry Gayle is the name of Dorothy's Uncle in the Wizard of Oz.
There will be posts forthcoming on Battlestar Galactica, I have no doubt, but I have to catch up on the episodes first.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Thanks for talking about Lost. There's something going on spiritually with the idea that the Others only want the "Good" people. I wish we knew more about the people they abducted from the 2nd crash site - what made them "good"? And, why isn't Hurley "good." Everyone else has some demon in the closet (how many people have murdered someone before?). Hurley might be a little off, but he's a good guy. It all makes me think it is some kind of purgatory. And, what was the deal with Libby in that last scene?

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Greg said...

You ask many good questions. I call them good because I don't know how to answer them. You are right that Hurley does not seem to have any real bad actions from his past to seek redemption for (that we know of) but he does have a past that he needs to overcome. I'm not sure what is up with Libby, but ever since she has shown up on the scene, I have found her to be one of the most interesting characters.


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