Summary: Though many (most) voices in our culture say there are many paths to God, Jesus was clear: I am the way, He said, and no one comes to the Father except through me
Many Paths to God
February 13, 2011
Last week, many Americans were glued to their televisions for an annual shared cultural experience – it’s hard to say if it was the game or the commercials most people tuned in to watch.
Last May, many Americans were glued to their televisions for a different cultural phenomenon – that kind of group experience that only television can provide, for good or ill. Unfortunately, one of the things this particular group experience did, was promote a prevailing cultural myth – we’ll look at that in a moment.
How many of you watched some seasons of, or the finale of, the TV series Lost? Barb and I enjoy science fiction, and though this wasn’t purely sci-fi, it had elements of fantasy and sci fi, as well as some great character development, and a storyline that kept you guessing, that is, if you were inclined to stick with it through all the twists and turns.
For fans of any popular TV show, especially a show that has a serial format – that is, each new show brings revelations that build on things you’ve already learned – the ending of a show is a shared experience. That’s why when Lost ended, it was a shared experience for many, and provided many opportunities for conversations about what it all meant.
The show had what you might call a “feel good” ending, even if it didn’t answer all of the questions we had about the mysteries of the island where the survivors of this plane crash were Lost.
But the very end of the program seemed pretty clear in its message. The message as this series ended was this cultural myth that I mentioned a moment ago. This particular cultural myth is this: There are Many Paths to God.
Lost brought you this message in such an emotional way that you had to notice, and had to pay attention. Christianity Today noticed.
Despite its strong spiritual themes—many of them quite biblical—Lost ultimately embraces many religions. Without Jesus as Messiah, we are left with a do-it-yourself path to salvation, and no matter how many religions, statues, symbols, and icons you pile upon one another—as Lost did at the church in the finale's closing moments—it lacks true hope and any inkling of radical grace. Chris Seay, Christianity Today
A writer with the Chicago Tribune also noticed the message, though she viewed it positively. Let me read some of her thoughts about the series finale.
…after all the present-future-past machinations on this show, time did seem to stop in the last 20 minutes of the "Lost" series finale. The closing sequence was a (sort of) hymn, it was an emotionally cathartic sendoff, it was a beautiful reunion and a testament to what the show was about: Creating your own world. Creating your own fate. Creating a community of people that you can't exist without -- in any sphere, before or after death. “This is a place that you all made together so that you could find each other," (this is what a character in the show named) Christian (Shepherd) said (and (she writes) he did turn out to be a Christian shepherd, guiding his lost sheep, didn't he?). So, here's how the finale landed for me (she writes): The emotional part of the finale worked so well that I don't care much about the analytical/structural stuff. It felt right. It felt right" won't work as the basis for someone's PhD thesis, but I'm really glad things turned out. The emotional delivery of the finale quiets my logical side. I don't know [that] all has to be answered. But sometimes I don't want to analyze things, I simply want to feel, and on that count, "The End" (that was the title of the finale) delivered.
So here we see another example of how a cultural myth is widely spread through TV in this case. The producers create compelling characters – and you start caring about them, and become interested in their lives and their fate. Then, you want everything to turn out OK. So, if there are many paths to God, as this show’s ending proclaims, then all these characters you care about end up OK. It’s an ending that feels right. And television and movies are a huge contributor to this particular cultural myth.
Another significant influence is Oprah. It’s hard to underestimate this woman’s influence on spiritual themes in our country. Speaking of Oprah, let me use the mention of her as an excuse to tell you about our guest speaker in three weeks – that’s March 6 – the week after our missions conference ends.
No, Oprah’s not speaking – but someone who’s written a book about Oprah and her influence is speaking. He’s Dave Sterrett, an author and apologist, who wrote a book with Josh McDowell called “O” God, and has written other books too. He’s speaking at our leaders retreat that weekend, then will stay to speak Sunday morning, and to the BASIC youth on Sunday night. Anyway,