The Gospel According to Lost isn’t the first time author and pastor Chris Seay has proved himself an astute cultural observer. His previous books include The Gospel According to Tony Soprano and The Gospel Reloaded (examinations of faith and spirituality in The Sopranos and The Matrix, respectively), both of which serve as public declarations that 1) Seay is comfortable with parts of pop culture that some pastors might use their pulpits to condemn, and 2) he finds elements of truth and gospel layered beneath Hollywood production and “mature” ratings.
In The Gospel According to Lost, which was released in anticipation of the show’s final season, Seay combines a deep understanding of Lost, the Scriptures, and the human condition with a pastor’s heart for teaching and redemption. about Lost, Seay writes that, “each plot, each story line is infused with deeper meaning.” It’s from the show’s characters and story lines that he derives his talking points, which range from the teachings of Christ to human trafficking to 17th-century philosophy. Throughout the course of the book, Lost’s various character arcs are laid bare, and so are the struggles of our lives. For readers ready to put the best show of all-time (Lost, of course) and themselves under the microscope, The Gospel According to Lost is the ultimate guidebook. Recently, I asked Seay a few questions about the show.
COLLIDE: You begin The Gospel According to Lost talking about mystery, which is a major part of the show. What do you think makes us so uncomfortable with mystery in our lives and worldviews?
Chris Seay: J.J. Abrams tells a story about getting a box of magic tricks called a Mystery Box as a gift from his grandfather. He was just a kid so it was the biggest gift he’d ever gotten. But, he never opened it because of the power of what’s inside. To this day, he keeps the box on his desk, and he has never seen what’s in it. For him it represents the power of mystery.
It’s similar to the creation account in Genesis. We’re created in this garden and God says, “There’s one thing that I’m asking you not to open,” and it’s the one thing that, in our broken humanity, we rush to open.
Whether it’s in the biblical narrative or in the shows that we watch, this quest to know everything and have all the answers is the desire to be like God. That’s why Lost is so good for us spiritually—it forces us to wrestle with the unknown, which is something we don’t even want to do in our faith.
We try to turn Revelation into a grid that we’ve mapped out, and we know everything that’s going to happen long before it has happened. Clearly, the Scriptures aren’t a map created so we could know everything. In fact, that’s probably what Scripture is most clear about—God’s in control, and we’re human. Part of what I love about Lost is that it forces us to live with mystery, which is part of life.
As a pastor, I can’t explain why somebody gets cancer. I can’t fully explain the sovereignty of God, or how we choose God and God chooses us. I’ve got to live in the mystery and beauty of it, and so I love a show that calls us to that. I’ve never experienced a show that does it as well as Lost.
COLLIDE: As a pastor, do pop culture elements often make their way into your teaching and conversation?
Seay: Pop culture weaves itself in naturally. I’m not a sermon series kind of guy— typically, we go through books of the Bible—so I probably won’t do a “The Gospel According to Lost” series. I didn’t do one on The Matrix or Tony Soprano either. But I draw from it a lot, in a more natural style, like what I picture Jesus doing when he walked through the fields and said, “Look at the crops. Let me explain to you what’s going here in terms of reaping and sowing.” I think that’s what we’re called to do as teachers, just with everyday life. We have to use the things around us to explain the things of God, and Jesus was so good at that.
Clearly, the gospel dwells within the culture, and so we’ve got to be people that see the signposts and call people into conversations and call them toward truth. Pop culture is part of that, but it can’t be the whole thing. If you teach Lost and you don’t get to the gospel part or to Scripture, you’re just running in the circles of a postmodern narrative, which is not what I feel called to.
COLLIDE: Your book discusses a lot of the big issues Lost explores— past mistakes, science and faith, good versus evil, destiny and free will, father issues, and community. Are these issues that resonate with culture and, therefore, is this the kind of art and the kind of message that churches should regularly explore?
Seay: Those themes are really about what it means to live well in the world. Think about the way the show deals with things like torture, the Church has a hard time trying to grapple with that. Many have decided not to talk about it because, quite honestly, they don’t know how to deal with it. The Church has opted out of discussions about what makes a just war.
These are things the show explores and, hopefully, as the Church we can learn to better engage these things. Lost is constantly asking questions for which many of us are searching for answers: What’s our destiny? Are we in control or do events happen to us? It’s hard to draw answers from those questions without a narrative that adds context, and that’s the great thing about Lost—it gives us a narrative.
We say, “I relate to Kate in that,” or “I relate to Jack and I see how similar issues with my father have led me down this path.” I’d probably draw more from the show during counseling because all of these char- acters are so deeply broken, and yet we’re drawn to them. Not despite their brokenness but, in so many ways, because of it. We see them and say, “I’m broken like that, too.”
COLLIDE: One of the major themes of Lost is redemption, and, as you write in the book, “the beauty of Christianity is that no one is beyond redemption.” In Lost, there’s still hope for all these people, but nothing’s guaranteed for them, either. It’s an ongoing struggle to find redemption.
Seay: Yes, and hopefully we begin to realize that in ourselves and the people around us. If we’re rooting for Sawyer to experience redemption, then in our personal lives we should root for the people in our families, churches, and workplaces to be redeemed.
COLLIDE: The sixth and final season of Lost premieres February 2. Do you have any quick predictions on how the show will come to an end?
Seay: I only have a few, in the end. I believe that the themes from Exodus that we saw play out in earlier seasons will make a strong return. I mean, in the final episode of Season Five, we see this huge statue of an Egyptian god. We have this struggle between Jacob and the Man in Black, who I believe to be Esau, and we’ll find out exactly who he is. And I think the biblical narrative will play out, like the children of Israel, enslaved in Egypt and enslaved to their failures. But God steps in for a kind of miraculous, redemptive, freeing work. That’s my hope. I think the story is pointing more and more toward God’s divine work.
Apart from that, in terms of what will specifically happen, I have no idea. And I think that’s probably what I love most about the show. People ask me, “How can you write the book before the show is done?” The reality is, it’s not as much about the conclusion as it is about the journey and what we learn along the way. My expectations for the final season are pretty high, but I’m just going to enjoy every step of the ride.
The paintings featured in this article were created by Scott Erickson. Scott McClellan is the Editor of COLLIDE.