Today on TV all we hear about is the final episode of Lost that will be broadcast tomorrow evening. I must admit that I have never seen Lost except for a clip shown in an article I read today. My two young sons (25 and 29) and their wives and friends have been almost fanatic viewers of Lost. Awhile back when I asked what the program was about, my younger son said, "No dad, ya gotta watch it from the beginning." I said maybe we'd (my wife and I) would get it on Netflicks and watch the series. He said, "Well, I think you'd really get into it. But I'm afraid mom wouldn't watch it. So I haven't seen it yet.
The article tried to show that there is a link between the storyline and characters in Lost and religious / spiritual / ethical issues. That reminded me of a hypothesis I've had for sometime: That young people are exposed to and grapple with the perennial religious, spiritual and ethical issues better through contemporary films than through most religious education programs and Sunday Schools. In fact the films are probably the only source from which they learn to grapple with controversial issues.
I once was making a presentation to a diocesan meeting of 300 lay, religious, and clergy as well as the bishop. My purpose at that point was to illustrate the role of popular culture in all of life but particularly in religion and pastoral / educational ministry. I asked the participants about some standard religious education resources. It was an expected question with expected responses.
Then I asked them, "What about choosing the red pill or the blue pill?" All of a sudden hands were popping up all over as if we were in a first grade class. I then asked, How many of you or your kids have seen The Matrix (the original)? At least 75% of the audience, including the bishop, raised their hands. Of course, having the opportunity to choose the red or blue pill, was an opportunity to make a moral decision, and one with consequences. We proceeded to talk about "Neo," the "One" whether he was really the Christ figure and what we could learn if we compared Jesus to Neo. Then we moved on to discuss the other "religious" themes in the film.
Next I asked them if they or their kids had seen ET, Star Wars, and other "sci fi" films. Most of the audience raised their hands. Today I could ask them if they had seen Donnie Darko, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Avitar. Each of these films deals with the problem of God, good and evil and "salvation" in one sense or another.
Whether the theme is "Christian" or not, each film can be understood as grappling with a theme or "issue" that is relevant to those who profess a religious world view. Young people actually view these films and they discuss and debate the meaning of them. The films may not define the problem or present solutions as "Christian." Often it helps if they don't appear "too religious" or "too Catholic." For example, the Vatican criticized Avatar because it seemed "to get bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature." So what? The point is, for parents, religious educators or pastors to engage teens, young adults, and, increasingly, other adults in religious and ethical issues where the teens, young adults, and adults in terms of "where they are."
Taking seriously the films and programs my son views and being open to him on his turf, and listening first, opened new doors of communication between us that led to what "professionals" call philosophical and theological dialogue. I have already missed such an opportunity with the ending of Lost. Can I watch the whole six years on DVDs and recapture that opportunity. I'm not sure. But you can bet I'll ask him what he's "really into" these days.
Have you been watching Lost? Do you find any "religious" or ethical issues worth discussing? Why not leave a contact?