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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lost in Translation

Having just watched the television series 'Lost' on DVD ( usually at least 2 episodes at a time ), I must say that, although I would have to disagree theologically with several of the main assumptions made in the series, not only did I enjoy it immensely; I found myself agreeing with much of the theology behind it! I will not claim to have fully understood all the manifold intricacies of the plot-line, but I believe that I understood it well enough to appreciate those same intricacies.

The series itself, though not so the story, begins with an airliner enroute from Australia to Los Angeles breaking apart above a certain Island in the midst of the South Pacific. Mysteriously, a number of people survive the crash & from the beginning of their ( and our ) introduction to this mysterious Island, they are almost continually plagued by the dangerous guardian of the Island called 'the black smoke' & by certain previous inhabitants of the Island that they call 'the Others'. As the series progresses, we find out, through flashbacks that there were a certain amount of individuals that seem to have been chosen to bear the brunt of hardship & persecution!

The Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory looms rather large in the background of this series! Although never stated as such, the writer's point throughout the story seems to be that we all undergo a sort of Purgatory while yet living. This may not have been the intention, but as the main characters are revealed, it is made abundantly clear that they're each going through a sort of personal hell on earth as they reap what they've sown in the past! While most are just a bit questionable, some of the characters are downright seedy, at least once we begin to learn more of their past.

In many ways, this series is an example of how the Church, for the most part, has become Lost in Translation! For whatever reason, whether because of the difficulty of trying to translate Ancient Near Eastern literature into Western thought pattern, or because of bias & prejudice, the Church seems to have developed much of their doctrine through false assumption & just plain ignorance. For these & other reasons, Greek myths have been married with our Western understanding of Eastern literature with the resulting doctrines of Hell, Purgatory, etc.

Much of what the Church has taught for the past couple millenia, though tainted of course by these misconceptions, has been on point with the Gospel! However, much of even this has suffered violence at the hands of those chosen to spread the Good News. The Gospel of Jesus the Christ has spread from sea to shining sea & across continents, till every living person for the most part has had opportunity to either accept or reject it! There are doubtless certain areas of the world that are ignorant of it, most by choice, but this is largely due to history & the manner in which it has been presented in the past!

The Island in this Story, though fraught with Danger, is full of beautiful scenery & even, interestingly enough, also holds a life-giving quality! Especially as the Story unfolds, we begin to understand why several of the characters seem to have been healed of various afflictions upon being thrown upon its shores. On the other hand, some of the other characters are killed off in relative quickness, succession & manner! In many aspects, the Island seems to have a Life of its own. Particularly as the Story unfolds in its manifold intricacies, one character in particular begins to understand this & believes that the Island has chosen him for a specific task. Though this task is not clear to him, John acts in faith, believing he is simply following his destiny!

In the end, everyone ends up in.................well, I don't want to spoil everything for you, but you can probably guess where!  The greatest theme in the developing story is that of sacrifice; in fact, throughout the series, it is mentioned quite a few times by one of the characters that 'the Island demanded a sacrifice'. Scripture tells us 'greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for his friends' ( John 15:13 )There are a number of very moving examples of this throughout, but especially as we move into & past the midway point in the series. Another point that is made throughout the Story by several of the older, previous inhabitants of the Island is that they are all indeed dead, that the Island is not real & that they are in fact in Hell! While certain occurrences seem to point to the truth of this 'fact', one has to take into account an awful number of variables in order to establish the veracity of this statement. For instance, how are they all sharing the same experience, the same reality? If they are truly in Hell, how are they traveling to & fro; or are they?

'Lost' certainly brings to mind some interesting questions & proposes some astounding theories, but in the end, it IS just make-believe! It makes for some riveting television ( I could hardly tear myself away ) & is very entertaining, but it is significant, not just of the picture that Hollywood has of the Church & Christianity, but of how lost the Church Herself has become through faulty translation & misunderstanding.The only way the Church will find Herself again is to return to an understanding of Ancient Near Eastern literature & Audience Relevance!

Charles Haddon Shank

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