Thursday, June 10, 2010

The end times for Lost, 24 and Ashes to Ashes

Several long-running TV series have come to an end. After 6 years of nerve-tingling, cliff-hanging excitement "24" has finished its TV run though at least one movie is planned. Jack Bauer has taken his morally ambivalent torturing to a large screen.

The series has suggested that there is evil in high places and that power and compromise with evil are inescapable. In such an environment can the torture of evil men be wrong? If there were some foolproof way of defining evil that might be an argument. However, all too often the definition of evil is 'those who are opposed to us'. Probably his time had come. After the end of Bush-Cheney perhaps the question no longer needs to be asked. I would appreciate feed back on this point.

Then we have seen the end of three similar series: "Lost", "The Prisoner" and "Ashes to Ashes".

In all three there was a resemblance to the doctrine of purgatory. In "Lost" we followed the adventures of a group of people who apparently survived an air crash on a remote and untraceable island in the Pacific. The characters were all flawed, though most had attractive features at heart. We were met with improbable happenings like dead men coming back to life, polar bears in the tropics, black smoke that could be summoned by certain individuals to destroy their enemies with brute force, people who ostensibly immortal who never aged and time travel. The whole thing had an air of mystery. Again the series seemed to be about the conflict between good and evil, with the time on the island being about purging the evil from the good characters. There was even an alternative universe where people who were killed during the series met up had the issues resolved before assembling in a multi-religion 'church' acting as an ante-room to a great white light in the sky.

'The Prisoner' was an attempt to revive the Patrick McGoohan cult classic with Jim Caviezel, last seen as Jesus speaking Aramaic in "The Passion of the Christ" reprising the McGoohan role. Here the alternative universe appeared to be in dreamland and the series didn't really work.

"Ashes to Ashes" was a follow-on from "Life on Mars" which didn't work in the American version with Harvey Keitel but was awesome in the UK version. The setting was a 1980s police station run by an unreformed copper, Gene Hunt, who was sexist, racist and brutal, but who knew the difference between white hats and black hats. Beneath his hard exterior he was all strawberry cream. It turned out that was a place where cops killed in the line of duty went to sort out their 'issues' after death. Gene Hunt was the 'ferryman' sent to guide them to the bright light on the 'other side'.

What these shows demonstrate is a dissatisfaction and frustration with the injustice that is apparent in this world and with people's inability to live up to their ideals. This is precisely what the Christian message gets to the heart of.
We are all sinners and try as we might we cannot do what is right. We continually fall short and no matter how many second-chances we get we will always fall short. But God has provided a way that we can become clean. His son, Jesus, lived a perfect life and was then sacrificed on the cross to take the punishment our sins deserve. In an act of incredible grace he offered this payment for all. For those who accept this free gift there is an eternal home with God, for those who don't there is judgment to come. But he delays that judgment until all who will come do come. Why are we suffering now? Because of the patience of God in not inflicting retribution on those who given umpteen chances may yet repent.

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