Though I enjoyed this episode, it effectively ended up being a lead-in to the finale and little more.
It was cool to learn of the Looking Glass station – another Alice in Wonderland reference. I could have done with a little less pathos surrounding Charlie’s decision to take a dive, though I’ve read posts online where people boo-hooed their way through the whole hour. I will point out, for what it’s worth, that none of them was male. I think the writers have made more of an effort this year to draw storylines attractive to men and women. I’m not suggesting that women only like the touchy-feely stuff and guys only like action, but let’s face it; such stereotypes exist for a reason!
Anyhow, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the clear Christ metaphor around Charlie in this episode. Forgive me in advance, but this likely will turn into a bit of a rant…
So they set this up so that Charlie has to die in order to save everyone else. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Christianity can recognize that this is reflective of the crucifixion story. HOWEVER, I have to confess it doesn’t exactly align with my personal understanding of the crucifixion.
Anyone who has read my book on “Lost” knows that I present multiple possible interpretations of the crucifixion; did Jesus have to die to save the world, or did he die because the evil of humanity killed him? The concept of the former way of thinking is called Sacrificial Atonement. Other, more direct names for it are Redemptive Suffering or Redemptive Violence. The concept, in a nutshell, is that:
1) God, as a perfect entity, cannot tolerate sin;
2) In order to reconcile a sin-laden people with a perfect God, a sacrifice was required;
3) No sacrifice was sufficient except for a Perfect Sacrifice, which only could be Jesus.
So in essence, God had a thirst for blood that could only be quenched by his own son’s life being taken and blood being spilled. God’s thirst is then quenched, we are purified, and the sacrifice reconciles us with God.
I might point out that this very notion of purgative sacrifices is a Pagan practice that was performed not only before the Christian era (remember folks, Jesus wasn’t a Christian, he was a Jew). The idea was we had to cleanse ourselves of wrongdoing through sacrifice of something of value. Animals were slaughtered and left on the altar, along with “first fruits” of the harvest, and so on. From this practice came things like tithing, which we still practice today as a discipline of sacrificial generosity.
Here’s the thing: if you recall, Jesus’ followers thought he was going to literally save them from the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. They thought he would topple the empire, take control, and put his people in charge – a New World Order. They also thought the end of the world was coming in the next few years, as indicated by things like Jesus says, when he refers back to the prophet Daniel: “this generation will not pass before these things come to be.” This is a paraphrase, but you get the idea. People thought the end was coming with a quickness, and they believed Jesus would lead them to an earthly rule as all of humanity slid into home base.
When Jesus died, it was a HUGE letdown for his followers. The very fact that he let himself be taken captive was enough to turn a lot of his followers away. So if they believed he was who he said he was, and that he didn’t fulfill what they thought he would fulfill, they had to come up with another explanation. Why not overlay this old (pre Jewish, pre-Christian) concept of purgative sacrifice over his death to explain why he died?
Here are my personal issues with this line of thinking:
1) Jesus forgave sins before he died. If his death was REQUIRED for the forgiveness of sins, then his forgiving of sins – which is one of the big reasons he was crucified in the first place – then are we suggesting all those acts of forgiveness during his life didn’t count?
2) If he was able to forgive sins while alive, but still HAD to die to redeem the world of its sinfulness, then what we’re talking about is simply a matter of volume. Are we suggesting God can tolerate our sins one at a time, but not in bulk?
3) The very concept of redemptive violence is completely contrary to Jesus message of peace. In my opinion, Jesus message is: “Violence NEVER redeems.” There’s no asterisk next to this, so we can say, well, just this one last time, but never again.
So why did Jesus die? Was it in vain? I don’t think so. Did he have to die to save us? I don’t think so. Was it pretty much inevitable that a person with his influence, power and convictions would eventually be killed for it? Absolutely. He knew it, but he did what he thought was right, to the very end.
So what’s the lesson then? Love is greater than all of the violence and evil of the world. There is something more important than the preservation of human life – that is the preservation of love. So the message at the cross is the same as at the end of the book of Revelation:
1) Love endures all;
2) God is love;
3) God endures all.
I know most of this was not about the show – directly at least – but they are the ones who keep raising these religious themes. I finally had to respond.
Thanks for indulging me.