Grace for Benjamin Linus

10 03 2010

Excuse the following nerdiness…I got sucked into the LOST phenomenon at the end of its fourth season.  Jordan made me start from the beginning, and I watched close to 100 episodes in a single summer.  And then, of course, I was hooked…for better or worse.  The show has become so ridiculous and so fantastical that I can hardly believe that I tune in every week…and yet, I have to know how it’s going to end!

Maybe it’s just where I am in my life right now, but I am watching the final season as one big metaphor for the Christian faith.  I think it’s the kind of show that becomes whatever you want it to be, so someone with different life experiences might see the whole story as a literary metaphor, or historical allegory, or science-fiction riddle.  But I’m pretty seeped in Christianity right now, so that is what each episode is screaming out to me. 

(The unfortunate part about this series is that you really need to have watched the whole thing to really get what’s going on…so as much as I want to create Bible studies based on the show, I also know that I’m never going to be able to force a Bible study group to watch all 6 seasons!  So I’m subjecting my virtual blog-audience to my ramblings instead)

For the first couple of seasons, Benjamin Linus was THE bad guy.  He manipulated people, lied, killed, stole, and ruled unjustly.  It got so bad that when one of the characters had the opportunity to kill the young Benjamin Linus…I really didn’t have much sympathy for the little boy.  After all, everyone knew what he was going to become!

And then the creators  of LOST began messing with their audiences’ minds, causing us to wonder whether Ben was a good guy or a bad guy.  Even in spite of all the crimes that he had unquestionably committed, I found myself hoping that, against all odds, he would end up as a good guy.  Even as he continued to lie and steal and kill and manipulate, for some reason, I kept holding out hope.

At the beginning of the final season, Ben kills Jacob, who is the island’s protector (and in my allegorical interpretation, functions as the “God figure” of the story), and the whole island prepares itself for a huge cosmic battle. 

In the latest episode, Jacob’s followers tie Ben up and prepare to kill him as vengeance for Jacob’s death.  Ben is angry — at himself, at the followers, but most of all, at Jacob.  “He didn’t even care that I was going to kill him,” he says.  “He didn’t even try to stop me.”

But Miles tells him this is not the case.  “[Jacob] did care,” says Miles.  “Up until the very last second, when you stabbed him, he was hoping that you would change your mind.”

Don’t you have to wonder what Jesus was thinking in those very last seconds, as the Roman guards were taunting him and telling him to save himself?  Was he giving us another chance, another chance, another chance…until he finally ran out of time?  Was he, too, hoping that someone would change their mind and stop this madness?

It is at this point that the Smoke Monster/John Locke/Satan figure comes to Ben.  He loosens Ben’s chains and offers him a chance to rule the island.  Ben escapes, but Jacob’s bodyguard soon catches up to him.  This time, Ben has the upper hand; he has found a rifle. 

“But where will you go?” asks the bodyguard.

“To John Locke,” says Ben.

“But why?”

Ben looks miserable.  “Because he’s the only one who will take me.”

She looks at him and turns back toward the camp.  “We’ll take you,” she says.

Grace.  A new start.  Somehow I had been thinking that Jacob’s death had somehow solved the question about whether Ben was good or evil.  Anyone who kills God must be so bad that there’s no hope left for them, right?

…Oh, wait. Maybe that’s our story, too.

What was incredible about the way the episode was put together was that, as a viewer, I desperately wanted Ben to find that grace and hope and rejoin the cause of what was right.  And at the same time, his character had become so despicable and repulsive that forgiveness seemed out of the question.

Amazing grace!  How interesting it is that Jacob’s followers have received the power to forgive, giving away grace with the same redemptive power as though it had come from Jacob himself!