Seriously spiritually 'Lost'

I can't express my love for Lost enough. For a while, I was almost convinced The Onion produced the clip "Final Season Of 'Lost' Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than" about me.

In fact, I'm still stinging from tmatt's description of his friends who have "consumed a bit too much Kool-Aid." I'm not alone, though. About 10-15 Christianity Today International employees meet over lunch each week to discuss theories. What is the smoke monster? Why doesn't Richard Alpert ever age? Is shirtless Sawyer necessary? These are the probing questions that keep us awake at night. For those who aren't caught up, there are no spoilers in this post.

By now, most of you should know the show's premise. A plane crashes on a mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The characters were originally just trying to survive as their stories were told through flashbacks. Then their purpose evolved into some larger meaning as a character named Jacob supposedly brought them to the island. Talk to me after Sunday's finale, and I may be disgusted with the show if it's all Hurley's dream.

Because theories abound, it's easy to read into the show and look for religious references. For example, did Sayid look like Jesus when he came out of the water in cross-like fashion? Tim Townsend explored some of the religious-related theories in his weekly column on Saturday. Here's a teaser for the rest of the column:

Is it a show about a modern-day shipwreck, featuring misfit castaways trying to survive increasingly bizarre circumstances on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean?

Or is the island just a metaphor? Is it really a show about faith, redemption, evil, predestination, love, suffering, free will and human understanding of the supernatural?

Either way, when "Lost" ends in just over a week, what will remain is the debate -- conducted in offices, gyms, coffee shops, elevators, taxis and especially on thousands of blogs across the country--about the religious themes sprinkled throughout the series' six seasons.

All of this brings me to an interview The New York Times did with the show's executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. That's a lot of pressure to put on interviewer Lorne Manly because fans want to know a lot of answers to a lot of questions. I was pleasantly surprised to see religion asked about up front and center.

Q. Your show traffics in a lot of big themes -- fate versus free will, good versus evil, faith versus reason, how often Sawyer should be shirtless. Ultimately, what were the most important themes for you in this series?

DAMON LINDELOF: If there's one word that we keep coming back to, it's redemption. It is that idea of everybody has something to be redeemed for and the idea that that redemption doesn't necessarily come from anywhere else other than internally. But in order to redeem yourself, you can only do it through a community. So the redemption theme started to kind of connect into "live together, die alone," which is that these people were all lone wolves who were complete strangers on an aircraft, even the ones who were flying together like Sun and Jin. Then let's bring them together and through their experiences together allow themselves to be redeemed. When the show is firing on all pistons, that's the kind of storytelling that we're doing.

I think we've always said that the characters of "Lost" are deeply flawed, but when you look at their flashback stories, they're all victims. Kate was a victim before she killed her stepfather. Sawyer's parents killed themselves as he was hiding under the bed. Jack's dad was a drunk who berated him as a child. Sayid was manipulated by the American government into torturing somebody else. John Locke had his kidney stolen. This idea of saying this bad thing happened to me and I'm a victim and it created some bad behavior and now I'm going to take responsibility for that and allow myself to be redeemed by community with other people, that seems to be the theme that we keep coming back to.

Later in the interview Lindelof said that the characters' names come from a mix of their favorite stories, including "Bible stories from Sunday school." Jacob and Esau anyone? The interviewer asks the producers about the seasonal shift.

Q. Last season you guys doubled down on the science fiction with the time travel, and this year you introduced a much more religious overview. What drove that shift?

CUSE: We view each season of the show like a book in a series, and so last year was the time travel book, and that story had a beginning, middle and end. This season is significantly spiritual. We felt the mission of the final season of the show was to bring the show full circle. And that if we were going to be discussing what was really important to us, which was how do these characters' journeys conclude, that journey is a spiritual journey.

I wish there were time for more follow-ups, because "spiritual journey" seems so vague. Still, I'm glad the interviewer found time to ask about the religious themes. What questions would you have asked the show's writers? In tmatt fashion, please express your opinion on the following: Which question do you most want answered?

(a) Which side is good and which is evil?

(b) Who will replace Jacob?

(c) Is there fate or free will on the island?

(d) When and what created/formed the island?

(d) What's with the sideways time line?

(e) Will Juliet and Sawyer get a coffee date?

(f) Something else

In other words, if you were the Times interviewer, what question would you find most important?

Update: Melissa Nann Burke has an excerpt from Entertainment Weekly about the show's producers, who describe themselves as "men of faith," "intensely spiritual people, and that 'Lost' is ultimately a deeply spiritual show." She also pointed me to this fascinating feature at USA Today, including a video interview with the producers.

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