LOST, Community, and Redemption
It’s time for everyone to posit their theories. What exactly was the LOST series finale trying to accomplish, other than wraping up the series, and giving us lots of “feel-good” moments? If I am honest, I am not totally sure anyone can know in full. There are lots of theories, some good and some ridiculous. I am not necessarily going to propose another theory, as I am sure mine is far more deficient than others. Yet I would like to look at how two themes in the series – those of community and redemption – can and should captivate Christians.
Arguably these have been the two most prominent themes in the whole series. From the very first season “live together or die alone” became the mantra of the castaways. Redemption is a clear theme in nearly every storyline and with every character. Some of the characters never find redemption, and some don’t find it until the very end, but the theme is there. The finale cemented these two themes together when, at the end, all the castaways are brought back together after death as they prepare to “move on.” In my own view it seems that the series creators are trying to highlight the significant role of community in the process of redemption.
This theme is not isolated to LOST, of course, as it finds its roots in much theology too. Some of the theologies that support this view tend towards a more theologically liberal position. It has renewed vigor among the writings of Emergents, and The New Perspectives On Paul camp (theologian N.T. Wright deals intimately with this theme as well). At one level I love the idea, and yet as a Christian I am not comfortable with it. My redemption does not come from my identification with a community, but with a man named Jesus. That identification with Jesus does place me in a community, but there is a fine line here, and the distinction must be maintained.
That being said there is a related area of consideration: communities of redemption as places of diversity and forgiveness. One of the amazing characteristics of the castaway community on LOST is its ability to so easily forgive, show grace, and embrace diversity. The very make up of the cast represents wide-spread ethnic diversity (probably the most ethnically diverse cast on television to date). The people often give grace quickly and offer redemption to all people, no matter their background or their actions. This is a theme that the Christian church can surely embrace and appreciate.
While the church has often been characterized by unbiblical judgment and legalism, we ought to be identified as people of grace and love. Too often Christians can forget that they were one time like those outside the community of the redeemed and what they needed more than anything was for someone to offer them hope, redemption and community. In this vein, then, I think it might help Christians to watch the LOST finale once again. Though the church does not say join our community to be redeemed, we are a community who opens our doors to anyone who seeks redemption in Jesus Christ, no matter how LOST they are.
While I get where you’re coming from regarding where the source of redemption comes from, I think one of the greatest challenges facing or broken parts of the church today is that we don’t realize how crucial or essential the community of God’s people is to working out/experiencing the depth and fullness of God’s redemption–for us and for the world. I love how Joseph Hellerman puts it in WHEN THE CHURCH WAS A FAMILY: “God intends for salvation to be a community-creating event.” Or Scot McKnight, when he writes in THE BLUE PARAKEET: “God’s idea of redemption is community-shaped.” I believe the community that is God’s people is so deeply inseparable from our redemption that I would go as far as saying we do not experience the fullness of our redemption or the abundant life God intends for us and the world if we are not living as the people God calls and enables us to be.
For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the redemption theme in LOST and it’s finale: http://intheopen.blogspot.com/2010/05/lost-love-brings-us-home.html
By the way, I’ve been a long-time appreciator of your site and tweets. Glad you guys are here.
I don’t have any qualms about what you’ve stated. Good thoughts!
Excellent post David!
I would add that the New Testament speaks of salvation in past, present,and future categories–i.e. I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. I think in this vein–the church (as in community of believers) does play a role in our salvation. Its not as if our salvation rides on our church membership but that our participation in the local church is part and parcel of “working out our salvation in fear and trembling.”
1 Thessalonians comes to mind, because I read it recently–Paul makes a pretty direct statement about the Thessalonians being saved in Christ and immediately follows that statement with instructions on how they are to live in together as the community of faith. This is just one example–but this is happening all over the New Testament:
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:9-11).
This community is not an afterthought for God but part and parcel of us being saved–though our participation in such community is not saving in and of itself it is nonetheless very much a part of our salvation.
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