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Friday, May 21, 2010

Houston pastor's book examines biblical dimension of 'Lost'

Friday, May. 21, 2010


McClatchy Newspapers

Lost fans have suggested a variety of theories behind the mysteries of the ABC series since it launched in 2004: alien races, secret government plots, shared dreams, purgatory.

The twisted, confusing and complicated mythology of Lost meant that every frame and phrase had to be closely scrutinized for clues to the baffling meaning.

All of Lost's secrets might not be revealed in Sunday's finale, but at least enough clues have been divulged this season that fans, experts and even the actors say the show's storylines have been based on spiritual teachings. The primary message is that no matter what kind of life you have lived -- doctor, soldier, scientist, thief -- redemption is available to everyone.

The journey to find salvation, like a modern day version of John Milton's Paradise Lost, has had the flawed survivors of the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 face challenges from polar bears to atomic bombs as tests. And now that the end is here, some have seen the light, while others remain in the dark.

Chris Seay, a Houston pastor, has written The Gospel According to Lost, a book that takes an in-depth look at the show's biblical references. He suggests that the seemingly infinite number of ideas, philosophies and biblical metaphors has made the series popular.

He says Lost hasn't been an exact representation of the Bible but more of a post-modern vision of events in Genesis and Exodus. Seay compares Lost to the writings of C.S. Lewis, who adapted biblical teachings for his Narnia stories.

It won't be clear whether Lost has gone by the Good Book or created a story that is a mish-mash of spiritual and philosophical ideas until after the finale. The ending could take a 90-degree turn to one of the many other theories about the show. Even if that happens, spiritual teachings have been a big influence.

"For the writers of Lost, the biblical narrative is a big part of the larger story. It has come into play more than philosophy, science or other religions -- such as Hinduism -- that pop up. It dominates in a way the other themes have not," Seay said.

Parts of the narrative have been as simple as naming characters after those in the Bible, such as Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and Aaron (played by various children). Other parts have been as complicated as the island being a parallel to the garden of Eden.

The purgatory theory, says Seay, is wrong. He points to Jacob's description of the island as "a cork holding back the evil" as more in line with the island being the gates of hell.

Lost has consistently dealt with the battles between having faith and needing a reason to believe, particularly with the characters of Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and Jack (Matthew Fox). Locke told Jack that their differing views on faith and reason were why they always disagreed.

Jacob's final campfire ceremony to find the protector looked to Seay like an old-fashioned revival. The job of guardian was available to anyone willing to accept it and ended with a ceremonial drinking of a cup of water similar to the Eucharist, a re-enactment of the Lord's Supper.

The major promotional photograph for this season of Lost featured the cast lined up on one side of a long table in the same manner as Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper.

Some Lost characters have taken on more biblical characteristics than others. Nestor Carbonell's Richard was given eternal life because of his strong faith -- the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity.

"I had to report to a higher power, and that was always Jacob, who was sort of a nebulous higher power, so it kind of always felt religious or spiritual in that way," Carbonell said. "When they explained my back story this year, we definitely got into religious themes about the devil and, obviously, good versus evil as well as mythological themes as well."

And now all of those themes come down to the finale. Lost executive producer Carlton Cruse said before the start of this sixth and final season that not every question will be answered and that some people will be upset.

A few more questions could be answered on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to Lost at 11:05 p.m. CDT Sunday, when three alternative final scenes will be shown. And there are reports that the DVD set of the last season, to be released Aug. 24, will feature additional footage.

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