Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“Lost” – I should not have been surprised

For the sake of online courtesy – this post contains spoilers - so if you, like one of my co-workers, haven’t yet watched the finale and still plan to…first of all, don’t, but secondly if you will – then don’t read this post.

I started to write a little commentary on the finale of Lost the day after it aired but I put off completing it because I wanted to get the pics shown below (screen shots saved as jpgs from when I DVRd the show) to go along with this post. And then, life and other things demanded my time, and so here…finally, I am completing my thoughts.

For about the last 5 years I have been a fan of the TV show Lost. I started watching it when the first season was re-run before the beginning of season 2 and thought it was captivating and entertaining. There has always been the theme of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, faith vs. reason present in the show, and so it was of no surprise that there were religious and philosophical themes that played out heavily in the show, even imbedded in the names of the characters. Many of the character’s names are associated with varying social, religious, or scientific historical figures: John Locke, Daniel Faraday (for Michael Faraday), Desmond Hume (for David Hume), Christian Shepherd (was a drunken philanderer), and Charlotte Lewis (for C.S. Lewis).

Also, as best as I can remember, the only explicitly religious (in the sense of organized religion) characters were Roman Catholic (Charlie was devout before drugs, Ecko pretended to be a priest, and Desmond had formerly been in a monastery). There are probably more, but these are the ones that I thought of off hand. And as far as religious themes go, several of the main characters had a significantly relevant history (back-story) with the Roman Catholic church. But aside from these nods (or jabs, depending on how you look at it) toward Christianity, nothing about the idea of faith in the show was really compatible with Christianity. And what I mean by that is that there was nothing Christ-focused about the faith of the show, and in this way I believe that the show was utterly hostile to true Christian faith.

Now, I was truly a fan of the show and liked the sci-fi themes and mystery, but I remember the first time that the characters found something from the Dharma Initiative that I groaned inside because I knew that dharma is a Hindu concept, and I was not excited to see Hindu themes in the show. But going forward, there were references to religion, faith, and destiny that were ambiguously tied to religion (if they were even connected that much). So when the finale ended with all of the main characters meeting in a church that has symbols from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other religions before Christian Shepherd opens the doors to the sanctuary for them to be enveloped in a bright white light I should not have been surprised. I think I can sum up my thoughts with the same words that I spoke to my wife just after the final scene. “Really… Really? So I’ve watched six seasons of Lost for an ‘all-roads-lead-to-the-light’ universalistic spiritual resolution?” My whole way of thinking about the show has been irrevocably tarnished by this blatantly anti-Christian conclusion to the story. My main problem now is a personal and introspective one: why did it take this slap-in-the-face of the finale to make me see (or at least to stop denying) how anti-Christian this show was?

Now why my revulsion hit a high point at this event and not at other ones during the series – I don’t know. Perhaps my reaction was more acute because this seemed to be the most blatantly obvious commentary by the writers on their religious worldview that they had for the show. Until the finale, the religious stuff was all background to the story, but in the finale it took center stage and became the story.

But even if the final scene of the finale (pictured above) wasn’t a Coexist love fest of ungodly spiritualism, the prevalence of ambiguous faith and mysticism should have been enough to have me tune out long ago. As captivating and fun as the show was, the philosophy communicated is at odds with everything that I stand for.

I was shocked and upset by the conclusion of Lost, but I am now more frustrated that I was shocked by it. I should have seen it coming, and I should have not subjected myself to the wasted hours of mind-numbing amusement (a = not; muse = think) over the past five years. This gives more weight to my thoughts of unplugging from TV and movies almost completely. There is very little that is positively worth-while, or at the very least harmless, that I can watch if I’ve actually thought about it before hand.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Imputed Righteousness and a Joyful Marriage

What would it be like if you lost the ability to filter your thoughts before they came out of your mouth? Anyone who knows me may wonder if I suffer from this at times because I choose to say what is on my mind…even if it is uncomfortable or unpopular. Those closest to me would tell you that when there’s an elephant in the room – it’s almost like I can’t not talk about it. And that is true enough.

Seriously though, what would it be like if that ability to filter our thoughts was lost and we said whatever flew into our brain? I was watching an episode of House this weekend where just such a thing was going on. The guy in the story was systematically driving his coworkers, family, and even his doctors away because he couldn’t filter the vile, mean, perverse thoughts he had. He couldn’t even sugar-coat what he was saying to make it seem better.

At one point near the end of the show, the man’s wife was in the room with him (she was a wreck after hearing scattered bits of his thoughts for the past few days) and was just asking him all of the questions that she could in order to hear all of the unfiltered and hurtful things that he would say. Her response to this was that she was hurt and felt betrayed. My response was to yell at the TV, frustrated with the woman because if the marriage was going to be ruined, it would be because of what he said and because she wouldn’t be patient and understand that even she has thoughts that would be hurtful to him.

The very next day after having watched this show, I began reading John Piper’s Counted Righteous in Christ which is one of the required books for my systematic theology class this summer. In the first few pages Dr. Piper made a very profound application of the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
What makes marriage almost impossible at times is that both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead-end street in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by, “that’s your perfectionistic perspective,” or “Do you think everything you do is right?,” or hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger seems unbreakable.

But what if one or both of the partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone, and with the particular truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ’s sake, as fulfilling all his expectations? What would happen if this doctrine so mastered our souls that we began to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal? What if we applied it to our marriages?

In our own imperfect efforts in this regard, there have been breakthroughs that seemed at times impossible. It is possible, for Christ’s sake, to simply say, “I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ’s sake, regard my wife (or husband) the way God regards me – complete and accepted in Christ – and to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if in practice there are shortcomings.” I know my own wife treats me this way. And surely this is part of what Paul was calling for when he said that we should forgive “one another…as God in Christ forgave you; (Eph 3:32, ESV). I believe there is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have even begun to discover. (John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness? P.27-28)

If you think that the person you love the most doesn’t have to filter out crazy random thoughts about…well, anything, you’re wrong. From anger to lust and more, all people have to filter their thoughts. The presence of horrible thoughts that come into your mind are not necessarily indicative of the person you are, it’s what you do with them (or how you get rid of them) that is more revealing. But as Dr. Piper brings out, even when your loved one speaks or acts in a way that is unfulfilling or hurtful, having a view of your own position in Christ before the Father will help you to love the other person in-spite of their practical shortcomings.

I echo Dr. Piper’s sentiment in that I am sure my wife treats me in this way and I hope she would say the same about me. I am very certain that even though I wouldn’t have put my finger on this doctrine as what contributes to my healthy and joyful marriage, I believe that it makes absolute sense.

We dare not abandon the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson