This month, the Jesus Review is pleased to bring you a conversation between two of our favorite TV junkies. Excuse me. They would like you to know that they only watch intelligent TV. This conversation wasn’t an exchange the tinkling of coffee mugs in a coffee shop or wine glasses after the most recent episode aired. Instead, it happened through an email banter which Elsa Peters and Sarah Kinney Gaventa with you here.
Elsa: Do you watch Lost? Let me rephrase that. Are you as addicted as I am? Do you spend your whole week waiting for Wednesday night to learn what might happen next? Each week, I eagerly await Wednesday.
Sarah: Right off the bat, I have to let you know my insights are all formed by conversations with my friend Karen. 90% of the ideas I’m about to espouse originated with her!
Elsa: Duly noted, Sarah. So, it’s Easter this month – but on Lost, Easter might have happened weeks ago when John Locke ended up back on the island ALIVE! The same week, I might add that the Revised Common Lectionary reminded us:
If any of you want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
I find sacrifice to be one of the most problematic theological concepts. And then, there’s John Locke. I mean, honestly, this man has been cast in the personage of a Christ figure from the very beginning — but in this particular episode I was startled. You saw him. He was dead. In a coffin. His life had ended. I’m sure that you shared my same fear that this might mean that there may not be a Season 6, but there he is sitting on the beach. We know there is something mysterious about this place but is it more than the island itself?
Sarah:I too, am fascinated by the Messianic imagery around John Locke. Now that he is resurrected it makes me wonder how far they are going to go with him as a saving actor on the Island. What I find disturbing about Locke, is when he is given a choice, he is willing to sacrifice the safety of other people at the drop of a hat.
Elsa: Exactly. This is why I’m tripping over these words from the Gospel of Mark. I’m thinking about the journey that these travelers on Oceanic Flight 815 embarked upon together — without even knowing that something was going to change. And then, something did: a plane crash on a remote island.
Six of those travelers return home and attempt to go back to the way things were, but without much success. Then, there is John Locke who leaves the island to find them — all six of them. His motives might seem questionable, as you say Sarah. It’s not clear who is pushing him on this journey anymore than it is clear where Locke gathers his strength. And yet, like the gospel narrative of the Risen One, Locke sets out to engage these fellow travelers in conversation. He believes it is his task to convince them to join him. Locke believes they should follow him, to deny their own understanding and take up his cross.
Sarah: Locke is often an extremely vulnerable and sympathetic character–his back story is heartbreaking. However, he is so driven by what he thinks are the needs of the island that he is willing to sacrifice living, human being’s needs. (My friend Karen reminded me recently of when Hurley was trying to prevent Locke from blowing up the hatch, and Locke blew it up anyway even though Hurley was in range of being seriously hurt. Locke does this sort of thing all the time.) He may be the Island’s savior, but I don’t think he is the savior of any person.
Elsa: Oh that’s really interesting. Can I talk to Karen? Does she write for the show because I have a few words to share! Seriously, I think that’s what’s tripping me up, theologically speaking, that is. Locke is not how I imagine a savior of people, but that’s how we most often talk about our savior.The obvious difference is Jesus saves people, not islands.Like Jesus, Locke faces risk. Intense risk that requires some grief, frustration and pain — not for the sake of such things but so that good can come. Like Jesus, good seems to be promised in John Locke.
Sarah: I would disagree and argue that Jack represents good on the Island.Even though he drives me CRAZY, Jack always acts for the good of people. His earnestness may be aggravating as all get out, but he is sincerely interested in saving people. Originally, Jack did this by getting them off the island. Now, he does so by going back to the island.
Elsa: I can’t believe you disagree wtih me! (Laughs.) The problem is that neither Jack, nor Locke, have been playing into their old roles so far on their second trip to the Island.
Sarah: What fascinates me this season is how so far the attention is not on this polarized Jack-Locke dynamic, but all of a sudden SAWYER is the functional leader on the island. He does not operate out of either of the corners that Jack or Locke do. He is not an idealist. He is a pragmatist. Sawyer wants to make the best of the situation he’s given. While I’m really attracted to his style of leadership, I suspect his style of leadership is not going to win out.He seems not to be interested in any big ideas or overarching goals—just “survivin” as best he can.
Elsa: I’m willing to bet that’s prophetic, Sarah.Then again, Jesus was known to have a temper too. Sawyer is just figuring it out as he goes along. He’s reactionary which is not what most would deem to be responsible, but it’s working for now. I mean, who’s to say that Jesus really knew what he was doing?The Gospels make it all make sense – especially Matthew – but could Jesus have had a style similar to Sawyer’s… maybe?
Sarah: Now I’m laughing thinking about Sawyer as Jesus. NOT what I’ve imagined! Are we reading too much Christian imagery into the show or is it there staring us in the face? (My friend Karen W. also points out that the name of the hospital where Shepard works is St. Sebastien and in a recent episode Sayid was in the same physical position—tied to a tree—as St. Sebastien is paintings. Who notices that kind of detail???) Will the writers go with the Christian motif, or turn that imagery on its head?
Elsa:How can we not see Jesus in everything? We’re Jesus loving women, right?
Sarah: Oh, I’ll go there. Richard dragging him off to be with the Others and acknowledging that he will no longer be innocent. Um… Hello? Baptism much? (Laughs.) I digress.