Thursday, February 19, 2009

‘Lost’ in Narnia and the Gospels

Jack and Ben are in the church after meeting with the mysterious Eloise Hawkings (who’s also Daniel Farraday’s mother) in the Dharma station beneath the building. Ben stands by a painting of Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus.

Ben: When Jesus wanted to return to Judea knowing that he would probably be murdered there, Thomas said to the others, “Let us also go that we might die with him.” But Thomas was not remembered for this bravery. His claim to fame came later, when he refused to acknowledge the resurrection.

Ben looks at the painting, thoughtful.

Ben: He just couldn’t wrap his mind around it.

He turns back to Jack and says—

Ben: The story goes that he needed to touch Jesus’ wounds to be convinced.

Jack: So was he?

Ben: Of course he was. We’re all convinced sooner or later, Jack.
316”, last night’s episode of Lost, was drenched in God-talk—including a reference to a story from one of the Gospels as well as multiple references to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

In the conversation above, Ben's story is a fairly accurate retelling of John 11:1-16 and John 20:24-30—and his observation about how we remember Thomas is one worth contemplating. I, too, have been struck by how bold and passionate was Thomas' earlier desire to die with Jesus, but still it is his doubt for which we remember him. Yet that Jesus is willing to meet Thomas in his doubt is beyond reassuring to those of us that have experienced our own darkness in the journey.

I also appreciate how this series continues to explore that faith is more than a set of beliefs but also stepping out in trust in what (or Who) we have faith in. In the end, what we believe in is revealed in our actions. I liked how the mysterious (albeit creepy) Eloise Hawkings urges Jack to stop thinking about how ridiculous everything seems and start asking himself whether or not he believes it’s all going to work: “That’s why it’s called a leap of faith, Jack,” she says. At some point, we must step out on what we believe. Sometimes, we'll discover that what we believe is wrong (as it seems, was the case with Jack and his singular vision to get off the island), and that has destructive consequences for others. Locke's simple note to Jack—“I wish you had believed me”—underscores that in this episode. But one of the beautiful things about faith is that there's always the opportunity for redemption, to change the way we think and get onto the right path—to “repent.” And that has been a common theme in this series.


But the Gospels aren't the only God-talk going on in this episode—take a gander at all those Narnia allusions! My first clue was when Hawkings tells the Losties that the Dharma station in the basement of the church (which has that whole Foucault’s Pendulum thing going on) is called Lamp Post. The Narnia connection? A lamp post is a marker for Lucy and the other children in the forest near the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (For what it’s worth, it was planted there in The Magician’s Nephew, a novel Lewis wrote after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but before which the events of the novel occur.) Of course, I wasn’t the only one who noticed; check out Jeff Jenson’s EW.com article, where he also draws connections to Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawntreader, and The Magician’s Nephew (thanks for the tip, Peter!).

And while Jenson links the episode's title to a book which combines all the Narnia novels, I couldn’t help but think of how those numbers might relate to one of the more famous verses in Scripture: John 3:16, a verse which drips with the themes of belief, sacrifice and love—all of which are running through Lost as well.

All of this is, of course, beyond intriguing. But I’m still wondering if all this iconography, references and allusion is being loaded in haphazardly or is it supposed to indicate something deeper? As in Thomas’ story and Narnia, is there a personal deity at work in Lost? Or is it more like an impersonal Fate, like the binary-coded force in Wanted? Or is it something in between? Who or what did Locke sacrifice himself for? Throughout the story, there have been references to religions other than Christianity—one of the latest, Dr. McGrath notes, is that the name on the van Ben is driving (Canton Rainier) is an anagram for reincarnation—so I guess all that is still to be revealed.

All in all, a good episode—and it sure does bring a lot of God-talk into open spaces.

(Images: ABC) lostctgy

2 comments:

Bryan said...

I think you are right about the many CS Lewis and gospel allusions becoming more explicit in this episode. And I wonder too whether the fun mishmash of literary, philosophical and religious allusions throughout the series will end as a grand Christian supposition a la Narnia (which also borrowed liberally from other mythologies), or something else entirely. Who knows!

I found it insightful and ironic that you said:

"At some point, we must step out on what we believe. Sometimes, we'll discover that what we believe is wrong (as it seems, was the case with Jack and his singular vision to get off the island), and that has destructive consequences for others."

The reason that I find it ironic is its context with faith. That quote is a very grounded approach to belief, but it is interesting that "discovering you were wrong" would not apply to someone who had made a leap of faith. That is, it is impossible to discover that what we believe is wrong, if it is held as a matter of faith. Whether the specific belief is in fact wrong or not, never factors in to the equation in such a case.

You note also that a beauty of faith (and a running theme of the show) is the constant opportunity to repent, to get on the right path. Well that sounds to me like a feature of critical thinking, of self examination, of re-evaluation and of reason. These things certainly are available to people of faith, but they are not exactly features of faith. And as I understand it, we may be able to re-examine many parts of our lives to get on the right path, but whatever is "taken on faith" is immune from this examination, by definition, otherwise it would not require the leap of faith!

Anyway, I like your blog. Thanks for writing.
-Bryan

Carmen Andres said...

bryan, you raise some interesting quandries when it comes to how we view faith these days. i'm one of those in the camp that critical thinking and faith go hand in hand. in many ways, i think Jesus was doing this throughout his three years of teaching, constantly confronting folks with the weaknesses and wrongness in their understanding of God and scripture. i love how C.S. Lewis in "A Grief Observed" talks about God's relentless desire to be known as he is and not as we would have him be. this requires a willingness to think critically about what we believe.

also, as i understand it, a "leap of faith" is not taking something on face value without thinking through what it means but after examination taking the risk to trust that it is true. if it isn't, it will break down as you go and under the constant examination you give it (as i am one of those, as i said, who think critical thinking and faith go hand-in-hand). i like how the creepy eloise put it--she didn't say it's all impossible but believe it anyway; she told jack to decide whether or not he believes "it's going to work" -- will it play out in the world around you, even if some of it doesn't make sense on this side of your "leap of faith"? if it doesn't play out the way you believe (given that you take a critial thinking approach), then you need to reconsider what you believe (or have faith or "trust" in as true).

at least, that's my .02 worth for now :)