In the latest version of “The Gospel According to ‘Insert-Pop-Culture-Creation-Here,'” Chris Seay turns his attention to Lost. Unfortunately, the book isn’t nearly as compelling as the series itself. Moreover, it left me questioning the supposed brilliance of the series itself.There’s not much theological depth to The Gospel According to Lost, which is even more unfortunate given Seay’s love for the series, which he does convey in his writing. All we have here is a broad summary of each major character’s spirituality or the moral conflicts in which they find themselves engaged. In the end, all Seay leads us to realize is that, like all of us, the “Losties” are broken individuals capable of good and evil but never beyond the reach of an ever-loving God. The book feels quickly written…released to take advantage of the start of the sixth and final season.
When I first heard about this book, I feared that it might be a disappointment. How can someone write about Lost, or its characters, with so much left hanging in the balance? For all we know, Walt could be God and Locke could be a robot. Well…maybe not, but we cannot ignore the fact that numerous unanswered questions remain that will directly impact our understanding of a great majority of the lead characters. It seems to me that one can only write tentatively and play it safe when analyzing the series theologically. Unfortunately, safe is not a fitting engagement with such a daring series.
While Lost may be daring, after reading Seay’s summaries of the characters and some of the key episodes, I was left with a slightly diminshed opinion of the series. Don’t get me wrong…it is entertaining. However, it falls short of television greatness established by other recent series. I’m thinking of the depth of character and moral complexity in The Wire or the endless theological and ethical debates that spun out of Battlestar Galactica. Aside from a frequently-twisting, carrot-on-a-stick plot, what does Lost really say about the human experience, much less the divine, in the end? Moreover, in reading Seay’s analysis of the series, I suddenly realized that Lost suffers from gender and racial complications that might work against any sort of “positive” theology that critics might draw from it. Depending on one’s point of view, Seay’s chapter on Kate might be problematic as well…drooling over her appearance seems to be in poor taste in a book such as this.
In the end, The Gospel According to Lost might appeal to youth groups and younger Lost fans. More mature readers, I imagine, won’t find much to take away here.