Some interesting religious references in ‘Lost’

The world can be divided into two types of people, those who watch “Lost,” the ABC mini-series that is starting its sixth and final season tonight, and those who don’t watch it.  If you don’t watch it, maybe this post will show an interesting side to “Lost” you may not have considered.  And then again maybe not.

There are some pretty interesting Gospel-related references in “Lost.”

The major reference was in the last show in Season 5, which I viewed again last night in preparation for the beginning of Season 6.

The basic premise seems to be that Jacob (the mysterious “god” of the island where the people are lost) is an omnipotent Good Guy.  He is opposed by another “god” of the island who is an ever-present and powerful Bad Guy who wants to kill the Good Guy.  Both of them appear to have mortal bodies and are gods in the same sense as the Greek and Roman gods of mythology — ie, they have super-human powers and live for millennia but they can be killed.

The Bad Guy needs to find a loophole in some kind of cosmic law to be able to kill Jacob.  And after presumably hundreds of years, he finds it.  He convinces a real-life human bad guy (Ben) to kill Jacob through trickery and by whispering into his ear all of the bad things that Jacob has allowed to happen to Ben during his lifetime.

Jacob is something of an optimist about human character and believes that people can make good decisions and come to the island and eventually become peaceful.  But the reality is that the majority of “Lost” involves one group or another finding a reason to fight with another group.  So, Jacob’s paradigm seems fatally flawed.  His nemesis believes that humans are incapable of being peaceful.

Interestingly, the fifth season shows one couple, an older husband and wife, who separate themselves from the violent intrigue around them.  They have a simple hut on the island, are kind to everybody, have enough food and spend their days just living and enjoying themselves without fighting anybody else.  This, it seems, is what Jacob wants people to do on the island.

So, let’s review.  People find their way onto an island (ie, the Earth).  There, they spend most of their time fighting (“wars and rumors of wars.” ) There is a god of the island (Jacob) who believes people have a capacity for good.  A very small number of people actually act in a good way.  There is another god of the island (unnamed, I believe) who thinks they do not.  The bad god is looking for a way to kill Jacob, but cannot do it himself, so he must trick somebody else into doing so.

So, from a certain perspective, you can see Jacob as a Christ figure and the bad god as a Satan figure.  Just like Christ, Jacob is killed at the end of the fifth season, but he allows himself to be killed (he just stands there while Ben stabs him, doesn’t even try to move).  You can see the good, peaceful people (in the minority) as those who are following Jacob’s “plan.”  Interestingly, the bad god figure tricks Ben into killing Jacob by possessing the body of another character who is dead.

In an interesting twist, Jacob says before he dies:  “they’re coming.”  We don’t know who “they” are.

So, if the Sixth Season plays out to form, we will have some kind of resurrection of Jacob.  More people will learn to follow Jacob’s ways and live in peace on the island.  The bad guys will Get Theirs.  Tune in tonight to find out what happens.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

13 thoughts on “Some interesting religious references in ‘Lost’

  1. Ok, I am so glad I gave up watching this trainwreck of a show a few seasons back…seriously, I cannot comprehend it all.

  2. I just thought of a few other interesting references.

    1)Jacob appears several times in the last episode telling character they “have a choice.” He never imposes on their free will (agency), unlike the bad god.
    2)Jacob appears to live in a temple-like structure and only a priest-like character knows where to find him.
    3)He only appears to the “leaders” who are chosen (and protected) by the priest-like character. As Ben is considering killing him, he laments (like Cain) that his sacrifice was not good enough for Jacob.

  3. Just a warning: my wife finds the show very frustrating. You really don’t know what’s going on unless you watch from the beginning. If you can rent the DVDs and start from the beginning, I think you’ll find it pretty riveting. Two warnings: there is a fair amount of violence. And the religious references are not obvious until the last show of the fifth season, when it all kind of comes together. So only start watching the show if you like mystery/action/adventure/sci fi type of shows.

  4. Fun!

    Note that the producers have emphasized that the 6th season (which, as Geoff said, starts tonight in the US) will not depend so strongly on what has happened in prior seasons. In other words, they expect someone who has never seen the show to be able to sit down and enjoy this (final) season.

  5. I love mystery/action/adventures/scfi shows. Violence is upsetting, but I can usually handle tv violence. I have a secret stash of shows (i.e. Big Bang Theory, Flight of the Conchords, North Exposure) I watch while folding laundry when everyone is at school. I need a new series.

  6. Joanna, LOST is violent. That’s acutally why I stopped watching it. I would rent the DVDs or get them on Netflix before I bought.

  7. We love Lost! Our whole family watches it … DH, me, 16 yo dd, almost 13 yo ds. The violence is minimal, in my opinion. What there is has a point to it. I’ve always felt Lost had a moral to nearly every episode. Was Charlie happy when he was hooked on heroin? Was Kate happy running from the law? Was Sawyer happy conning people? No … their poor choices meant they were unhappy with their lives. I really appreciated this posting. I had many of the same thoughts but am not nearly as adept at putting things into words!

  8. The religious references are interesting but I think even more impressive is the respectful attitude the show has had for religion.

    I loved it when Rose helped Charlie pray in Season 1 or how Eko sought redemption assuming his brother’s role as a priest.

    Unlike most TV Lost at least acknowledges religion as an important part of people’s lives and treats it with respect.

  9. I have been a fan since seeing the first season last summer. I have all the DVD’s and my wife and I love it. While watching the last of five the other night something came up about the couple on the beach. The husband said to Juliet “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some tea?” Juliet looked like she might take them up on it but the cares of the coming conflict caused her to turn away. To me it was like being invited to the feast of the Lord and then letting the cares of the world get in the way. Here was a chance for her to have a moment of peace in a violent world and she let it past. How much like that are we from time to time?

  10. Yes, I like that the show is not anti-religion. Even the all-scientific Jack has given himself over to some form of belief now. It’s good to see jack make progress.

    I suspect that if we look back at earlier seasons the comparison could continue. Here’s a couple more. John, the island’s willing mystic, also gave his life to save the island and his friends. Not a Christ figure, but none the less a sacrificing guy.

    Also, in the Season 6 premier, Jacob’s followers are given quite the banging around after Jacob dies. Early Christian must have felt the same way, black smoke monster or not 😉

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