05 March 2010

Christian symbolism abounds in final season of Lost

When ABC used da Vinci's famous painting of the Last Supper as a model for a publicity photo for Season 6 of Lost, fans should have expected that Christian symbolism would be a part of the show's final season. And indeed that has been the case — although, perhaps, it's Christian symbolism being used in a reverse way, having a Christ figure that becomes a symbol of evil rather than of goodness. But as can be expected with Lost, it's too soon to tell: What looks evil may turn out to be good, although more likely we'll end up with a tale of moral complexity.

Much has been written, on Lostpedia and elsewhere, about the use of Christian symbolism in Lost (although certainly not exclusively, as much of the show appears to be rooted in Egyptian mythology). Many of the characters have Biblical names — Jacob, Benjamin, John and James are just a few — and there's even a Christian, the father of a main character, a Shephard, a possible allusion to the Good Shepherd. There are frequent allusions and even outright mention of Bible verses (one episode was titled "The 23rd Psalm"), many of the characters have been identified as Christian and can be seen praying in flashbacks, and one former main character was a Catholic priest. None of this is extraordinary; those Biblical names are fairly common in our culture, as are Christian-like themes of sacrifice and redemption. But Lost is one of the most carefully crafted shows ever shown on American TV and is full of rich symbolism and more than a whiff of spirituality, so any reference to Christianity is more likely intentional than not.

Interestingly, the show appears to be headed toward equating evil with the Christ character, John Locke. The evidence that Locke is a Christ character goes beyond his portrayal in the position of Jesus in the "Lost Supper" photo:

  • Locke once was dead, but he has now been resurrected.

  • The "new Locke" (sometimes referred to by fans as the Man in Black) seems to have, or at least claims to have, extraordinary powers, and his possibly now-scarred body is apparently incapable of being killed.

  • The invasion of the smoke monster (another form of the Locke character) into the temple was vaguely reminiscent of the Biblical account of Jesus cleansing the temple of those who had made it a den of thieves.

  • Locke (the former Locke, that is) has always been one of the most spiritual people on the island and has often seemed to be in touch with some sort of a higher power.

Another example of Christian symbolism can be seen in the character of Sayid. In the first episode of this season, he was "baptized." Just as in Christianity a person is immersed in water as a symbol of death to self and the beginning of a new life in Christ, so was Sayid fully immersed in the temple pool during the first episode this season. And now, it appears, after dying underwater, that he has a new life as a follower of the Christ character Locke.

But the symbolism is neither complete nor consistent. Sayid, too, has been resurrected. And in one striking scene in "Sundown," the most recent episode, Locke tells Sayid that Locke can give him anything he wants — very similar to the New Testament account of the devil tempting Jesus by promising Jesus anything a person might want. Could this be a hint that the reincarnated Locke is actually a Satan character, a Jesus wannabe? Perhaps. But as with all things Lost, it's hard to tell anything for sure at first.

(Photo copyright ABC and used under fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law.)

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