Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finding Christianity in LOST


The TV drama series LOST, which aired on the ABC network for six seasons, created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, was a polarizing cultural phenomenon that was on the air from 2004 to 2010. The series featured many Christian symbols and referenced many religious perspectives. Even though the show was more science fiction in nature and not exactly a Christian show, each episode followed the lives of people who had survived a plane crash and showed their struggles on a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, all the while addressing the many deep spiritual issues that a lot of people face in today's world. The objective of this analysis paper is to look more closely and analyze some of these Christian references that were made throughout the show's airing.



In each episode of LOST, the show is seen through the perspective of one of several major characters, facing some sort of struggle, which plays as a major theme in the episode. The major Christian theme that can be found throughout the entire series of LOST, is that of Faith. Other Christian themes include; the existence of God, miracles, the nature of good and evil, the afterlife, secrets and lies, baptism, and prayer. "The Biblical narrative is a big part of the larger story," says pastor Chris Seay, of the Ecclesia Bible Society in Houston, Texas. Seay goes on to say that LOST points to the existence of a higher power that's good, as well as to the existence of a power that is also evil.[1] That can be seen with many of the show's characters, those who are good who play the heroes throughout the series, as well as there being many villains who threaten the heroes.

When it comes to character names in the series, peoples' names are very important to the entire plot of the show. Many of the characters have Christian names and those names hold special meaning in LOST in regards to the character. The leader and main hero in the series, was Dr. Jack Shephard, who did everything he could to save the lives of his fellow plane survivors. His name has a serious religious connotation, since his last name almost reads as shepherd. Another minor hero was airplane crash survivor Hugo Reyes,  who ended up being the "Protector" of the island, found out in the series finale. James "Sawyer" Ford, Kate Austen, and Sayid Hassan Jarrah were three major redemptive characters on LOST. Before arriving on the island, Sawyer was a con-artist who stole from people and ended up in jail, only to get his sentence commuted by pulling a con on a fellow inmate. Kate killed her father and fled from the law for many years, as well as committed various crimes. Both Sawyer and Kate redeem themselves on the island by helping the rest of the heroes/innocents on the island, with Kate even mothering Claire's baby, once she is off the island. Sayid was an Iraqi Republican Guard who tortured people and killed people. He was a tortured redemptive character, because he sought to change his ways, despite being forced to use his skills, and in end, sacrifices himself to destroy the bad guys. Since there are heroes found throughout the LOST series, there's also villains. The ultimate villain found in the LOST series, would be the Smoke Monster, because it was a powerful force that could be heard from a distance, clanking and hissing, and seen in a smoky black form. Martin Keamy was another pure villain who appeared on LOST, who shot and killed a number of people, most notably, executing Ben Linu's adoptive daughter, Alex, without much thought, and triggering the explosion of the very freighter that he came on. Ben Linus was a villain who lied, cheated, conned and manipulated people and even killed his own father throughout the entire series.





A biblical narrative in LOST can be seen when one of the main characters, Mr. Eko, who makes a stick that's filled with biblical verses and chapter reminders.




The following biblical references can be found on the stick that Mr. Eko carved:

- Colossians: This chapter was written by the apostle Paul and one of the main themes throughout the letter, are reconciliation with Christ and rules for Christian living. Life and Death imagery can be found in Col 2:13 - "When you were dead in your sins... God made you alive with Christ..." There is also clear reference to the show's theme of parent issues, found in Col 3:21 - "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."
- Acts 4:12 ("Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.")

- Habakkuk 1:3 ("Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.")

- Hateth

- John 3:5 ("Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'")

- Gen 13:14

- Luke - One of the main themes found in the Book of Luke is the re-orientation of Salvation from the future to the present. One does not need to wait in order to claim spiritual gifts or healing; it is available now. Luke focuses on the idea of Jesus and Salvation for everyone.

- Psalm 144

- Revelation 5:3 ("But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.")

- Romans 6:12 ("Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you can obey its evil desires.")

- Titus 3

- Titus 4

- Galatians 3:16 ("The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The scipture does not say, 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ.") [2], [3]
Each biblical reference that can be found on Mr. Eko's stick is deeply important not only to the character that made, it but also adds to the larger story of LOST, with reflecting some if the struggles and issues that many of the other characters face. The stick itself alludes to the symbolism of Christianity itself, because shepherds often used rods in order to guide their flocks of sheep and were seen in Israelite culture as a symbol of authority. There are many examples found in the Bible of the use of the rod. One example is when Moses was able to use his rod to part the Red Sea when God commanded him. 

The image on the left side is a powerful image in regards to Christianity. The picture shows airplane survivor Claire and her newborn baby Aaron being baptized by Mr. Eko, who was a priest in the series. In the Christian religion, being baptized is a time honored ritual ceremony tied into being part of the Christian Church. Being baptized symbolizes purification, which for the LOST series, seems to make perfect sense, because all of the crashed plane survivors come from a world full of sin, and now they've come to an unknown island in the middle of the ocean. 

When it comes to finding God in the world of LOST, He is only mentioned in passing dialog between characters, when someone asks if they believe in Him. For the many characters of the show, they show determination and have a strong sense of faith to believe in a higher power in order to get through the many struggles and obstacles that face them in order to survive, just like the world that we live in. Even though LOST is a work of fiction that relies heavily on the part of science fiction, reality also plays an important role in the show, showing the human side of people, people who struggle with their faith and are determined in believing in Him.


Bibliography

[1] Sheridan, Michael. "Lost & Religion: Christianity and faith played big role in ABC series." New York Daily News. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-05-24/entertainment/27065253_1_finale-faith-spiritual-show. May 24, 2010.

[2] Quest Study Bible. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 2003.
[3] http://lostpedia.wikia.com



Friday, October 14, 2011

A Look at Taser Guns

This past week, I was catching up on the neighborhood news via Patch.com, and noticed that the online news editor decided to see what it was like to get shocked by a taser gun. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a co-worker of mine a few months ago, who tends to be a bit paranoid towards the police and some of their tactics. One thing he was totally against, was cops with taser guns, due to the fact that there have been hundreds of people who have died as a result of being shocked by a taser gun by police officers. At first, I was skeptical about it, due to past conversations I've had with him and sometimes can't believe some of the stuff that he has said.

I'm an anti-gun control advocate, simply because guns are deadly weapons that carry a life-altering change to whomever carries it and whomever is on the other end of that weapon. Just thinking about holding one in my hands or even being near one gives me the chills, so that's why I feel that taser guns are the best alternative - one step closer to a safer society.

When taser guns began to be carried and used by police officers here in the United States and elsewhere, I felt that it was truly a step in the right direction. In the United States alone, 5,000 law enforcement agencies now have taser guns as part of their arsenal. In an article done by CBC News out of Canada, Steve Palmer, the executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre says that "We don't speak often enough about the number of lives that have been saved, the number of people that are up and walking around today that might not have been had it not been for a Taser."

Taser guns are not considered firearms by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF). This is because the cartridges that are used for taser guns, is a compressed, inert nitrogen gas that's used to launch the probes instead of gun powder. They are able to shoot up to 50,000 volts of electricity into a person's body through the  two compressed nitrogen-fueled probes, by disrupting a person's electromuscular system - making the person stiff as a board and fall over.
Taser guns are legal and can be either concealed or worn openly without a permit in 43 states. They are prohibited for civilian use in the Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and certain cities and counties. Both Connecticut and Illinois have restrictions on their legal use.

Soon after hearing that there have been hundreds of deaths in regards to people being tasered, I did some research and found that he was right. Amnesty International says that between 2001 and August 2008, 334 Americans died after Taser shocks. Although, the stun gun was deemed to have caused or contributed to at least 50 of those deaths. Most suspects were unarmed, and many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks, according to Amnesty.

Taser are able to shoot up to 50,000 volts of electricity into a person's body through two compressed nitrogen-fueled probes, in which it disrupts the electromuscular system - making the person stiff as a board and fall over.

A possible reason for why there have been so many deaths caused by taser gun use, may be due to   "excited delirium,' as coroners have called it, which can be due to frenzied or aggressive behavior, rapid heart rate and aggravating factors related to an acute mental state and/or drug-related psychosis. This makes a ton of sense, since many of the people that police go after and have to take down, are usually running as fast as they can from the police and due to the fact that they are overly frantic about getting caught.

Over the past year or so, I've noticed that taser guns have gotten a lot of focus in the news, due to how people have misused the technology.  They've been used against unruly schoolchildren, unarmed mentally disturbed or intoxicated individuals, suspects fleeing from minor crime scenes and people who argue with police or fail to comply immediately with a command.

When it comes to defensive weapons, there's always going to be risks involved. I choose taser guns over guns, despite some of the facts that I've uncovered.

More Information:

http://educate-yourself.org/pnt/amnestyintnl2004TASERfullreport.shtml

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/stun-gun.htm

http://www.lasersightpro.com/taser-taserguns-guns-tasers-laws-states/

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Piano Across America - Inspiration

While digging around the internet as I usually do while procrastinating on my homework projects that I need to do for my final week of semester classes, I came across Piano Across America. It's something deeply inspiring that I can connect with in a bunch of ways, and it has begun to re-fuel my passion for a cross country road trip that I've been dreaming about for so many years.

Even though I cannot play the piano like this guy does, it's awesome seeing someone have the balls to travel around, spreading his love of music on the streets, and simply seeing the world and meeting new people.... all with a piano.

Ever since I was in Junior High, I've wanted to take a similar journey around the United States, but since I have a passion for history, I would love to go on the road and spread a message of preserving history and getting people to learn history, all the while going to the most interesting places, finding historical places, and meeting people and learning their own stories. I would love to combine my love of photography, history, and journalism, and use all three of those on the road and record what I find. It's why I've come to call this blog, The Curious Blogger.

Over the years, I've come across people online who have done cross country road trips who have a message, just like Dotan Negrin, who's simply living his dream of playing a piano around the country. 

All one has to do is get out there and follow the road.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Abraham Lincoln's Political Genius: A Book Review


It's fairly obvious from a few previous posts, that I have a deep fascination for all things Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. I want to return to the topic of our 16th American president in this latest post, since I just recently had to do a book review for a history class of mine. I read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln sometime after it came out, and it was the first massive history book that I had read, and it cemented my deep passion for history writing. Well, I always loved reading history, but this book helped in getting me excited about learning more about history, since it digs deep into Abraham Lincoln's White House.

For one of my classes, I've started research work on a massive project that'll span two history courses that's part of my history degree. That research work I'm deeply excited about, because it'll involve digging into the past by looking for original documents from Abraham Lincoln that he wrote during the course of the Civil War. What exactly I plan on looking for though, is the telegraph communications that he and his Union generals used, especially when Lincoln was far from the front lines of the battlefield and see just how important telegraph technology was in winning the war against the Confederacy.

I know that I haven't posted like I did during the summer, but I'm hoping to change that in the coming weeks. I may dig out a old review of some books that I've already done in the past.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, details the history of Abraham Lincoln while he was in the White House. Instead of the usual history one finds while researching Lincoln’s life, this one is truly different and digs more into Lincoln’s White House cabinet. Instead of simply focusing on Abraham Lincoln, Goodwin goes into great lengths to detail the lives of three of his White House cabinet members, since Lincoln, as well as William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates all fought to seek the Republican Party nomination in the 1860 election. By chronicling the personal stories and political careers of Seward, Chase and Bates in different chapters, the reader gets a more detailed look behind the inner workings of Lincoln’s cabinet by knowing their background. This all takes place as Goodwin builds the story up by recounting how Lincoln gradually became the front runner for the nomination and finally won it. After this detailed account of the nomination and the background of Lincoln’s men, Goodwin then turns her attention to the actions of Lincoln’s cabinet while in office.  
        
Team of Rivals doesn’t necessarily have a thesis, but there are several themes that can be found while reading the book. One of those themes is the growing sectional polarization over the issues of slavery and its expansion, which is seen from the very start of the book as she introduces us to the main historical characters that are featured. The major theme that is seen throughout, is the background stories that Goodwin digs into, all of them an unconnected course, with that of Lincoln, Seward, Chase, and Bates, in which all of those stories then come together with the Republican Convention in 1860 and how Lincoln was able to win the nomination out of near national obscurity. Goodwin pulls all of this off over the course of 200 pages, until finally focusing the rest of the 700 page book on the nation’s capital and four most important men that Goodwin feels is most significant during the time of the Civil War: Lincoln, Seward, Chase and Stanton. One other theme that can be seen though is that with each main historical character, Goodwin provides several minor historical characters that were also important to either each main historical character featured, or played a role in some fashion in Lincoln’s Administration or part of the Civil War. She also addresses throughout Team of Rivals how Lincoln forged a White House Cabinet, which despite some of their differences, worked hard to preserve a nation that was deeply divided and freed an America that was holding onto its chains of slavery. The effectiveness of how Goodwin puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together, with the political lives of four truly unique men and how they all worked successfully though the Civil War, is done very craftily from the very beginning of the book, despite all of the rivalries, political and social distractions, and failures on the battlefield. With Goodwin introducing all of the main historical characters to the reader and giving them a detailed background of why those people are important to the story, it provides the reader with a more complete story of Lincoln while in the White House.
There are several important points that Goodwin suggests during the course of the book while introducing the reader to the personal lives Seward, Chase, and Stanton; it appears that each of them went through many occurrences in their lives that were essentially commonplace during the 19thBerdan. 

Another important point that Goodwin unconsciously points out, is that there were strong and intensely ambitious women who stood behind these men and helped them in their political ambitions. Despite having lost three wives, Salmon Chase’s daughter, Kate, “made herself absolutely essential to him,” by focusing all of her energy on his political career and even acting as Ohio’s first lady while he served as the state governor, (Goodwin, p. 19). Edward Bates had his wife Julia Coalter Bates to look after him, who had already been with him for 37 years prior to 1860. William Seward had Frances Miller Seward as his wife, who according to Goodwin, was greatly passionate about woman’s rights and the entire antislavery cause. Both William and Frances were intellectual equals and she served as a “calming presence” in his very intense political life, (Goodwin, p. 14). Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s married relationship though, was a sharp contrast to the others that Goodwin presents to the reader. Their marriage was very turbulent at times, (Goodwin, p. 105), due in part to Mary’s previous extravagant Southern lifestyle and now having the responsibility of running a household she never had to do before, as well as having to deal with a number of issues whenever her husband was away, most especially her many worries and serious bouts of depression.

One element that comes from Goodwin’s book, is that there are a few villains that were in Lincoln’s life. Salmon Chase appears to be one of those villains. Chase was constantly at odds with the president, with threatening to resign during the course of Lincoln’s administration, constantly seeking a higher office, and even scheming to run for president himself in the 1864 election by placing his own supporters in positions at all the custom houses in New York, (Goodwin, p. 631). In the end, after sending a resignation letter to Lincoln, it appears by accident, the president accepted Chase’s resignation from his position as Secretary of the Treasury, due in part to the whole fiasco of failing to find the right candidate after John Cisco, New York’s assistant treasurer had resigned.
There is one historical person during the Civil War though that Goodwin clearly shows has the most disdain for and views as a villain towards Lincoln, all through the use of historical documents, by giving him the most criticism, which is Union General George McClellan. She devotes many pages to showing his self-serving, insubordinate, Napoleon complex attitude as well as details his inaction on the battlefield. One of the best ways that Goodwin is able to show all of this, is the correspondence between Lincoln and McClellan in letters and telegrams that they sent to each other as the Civil War raged onwards, as well as how poorly and very rudely McClellan treated the president. McClellan repeatedly “shifted blame onto any other shoulder but his own” whenever a mistake was made, (Goodwin, p. 379), and he also “often kept Lincoln waiting in the downstairs room” of his headquarters, which was a “luxurious house at the corner of Lafayette Square,” (Goodwin, p. 379). Because of this disrespectful treatment, Lincoln simply “sent a summons for him to appear at the White House,” (Goodwin, p. 384). Despite all of this, Lincoln held on to the general, until finally reliving him of his duties after McClellan kept stalling to cross the Potomac, citing lack of supplies, shoes, and tired horses, even though the horses hadn’t been in battle for some time. Democrats and McClellan felt that because he was successful in being able to inspire the soldiers under his command, that McClellan would win the presidency in the 1864 election. But, in the end, the voters, especially the soldier vote, voted in favor of Lincoln, because they were unable to accept McClellan’s “defeatist Democratic platform or the fact that the Confederacy was obviously hoping the young Napoleon would win,” (Goodwin, p. 666). 

One of the most amazing things about Lincoln that comes through in Goodwin's work, as can be seen with how he interacted with McClellan and other hardheaded people, is his endless patience with his advisers, even when their ambitions, rivalries, jealousies and weaknesses revealed themselves in ways that would have driven another leader to distraction or worse. Most of the people that Lincoln brought into his cabinet had thought themselves far superior to him, but, in the end - he was able to earn their heartfelt respect, admiration, and loyalty from almost all of them, once they worked with him.
Instead of a history book that talks about Civil War battles or simply that of Lincoln, it’s refreshing and deeply attention-grabbing when Goodwin focuses on the politics of the era and the manner in which Lincoln was able to successfully navigate the political rivalries among his chief advisers and navigate the nation through a crisis that threatened its very existence. Lincoln was able to traverse the political battles that were taking place in Washington. It can be seen throughout the book that the men that Lincoln worked with, were political creatures who were ready to turn on him, especially the case when both Chase and McClellan sought to challenge Lincoln in the 1864 election.

Goodwin decides not to fully describe the last days leading up to the assassination nor goes into intimate detail in regards to Lincoln’s assassination and its aftermath. I feel that this is all for the best, because this is not the point of what her book is about. Instead, Goodwin paints a picture of how a political team worked together to win the Civil War. Instead of all the details about the assassination, what Goodwin is able to show in the end, is that the team that Lincoln built would fall apart in the aftermath of his death, due in part to the conflicts they had towards the presidency of Andrew Johnson. Goodwin clearly concludes in her research that Lincoln was the man who was able to make everything work and kept things glued together. 

In conclusion, my overall evaluation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, is that the book is put together very well, through the detailed background of historical figures present within the Lincoln Administration. There’s no strong bias or prejudice that Goodwin argues within the book, since it appears to be a pretty straight forward history of the Lincoln Administration, by providing plenty of evidence from everyone involved, both the good and the bad. This book is truly well written, it’s a history book that’s well worth reading for anyone who wants to learn more about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Source: 

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY. 2005.