One of the many reasons I enjoy watching Lost week after week is that the show can always be counted on to provide thought-provoking spiritual images that add to the fascinating mythology of the characters as well as the island. Last night’s episode centered around yet another religious image–water as a symbol of being baptized. However, unlike previous episodes, this time I was disappointed to watch the series writers give only the shallowest of treatments to a significant ritual.
Recovering addict and has-been rocker Charlie begins having surreal dreams about fellow survivor Claire’s baby, Aaron. Even as Claire continues to voice her distrust of Charlie after discovering he had been hiding a statue full of heroin, Charlie is increasingly convinced that he must stay close to Aaron because Aaron is about to be placed in some kind of danger and only Charlie can save him. Charlie also becomes fixated on something Mr. Eko said to him about having Aaron baptized. The problem is that in Charlie’s state of mind, baptism means placing Aaron in the raging ocean surf to drown.
Despite Charlie’s odd behavior , Claire does approach the “priest,” Mr. Eko, about baptizing her child in a more traditional way. To my horror, Mr. Eko then gives one of the worst explanations of baptism I have ever heard. Claire asks Eko what would happen if Aaron was baptized and she wasn’t; would Aaron go to heaven and she to hell? Eko responds by telling her that that wouldn’t happen if she simply decides to become baptized too, so she agrees. With no moment of confession, no sign that she believes in baptism as anything other than an insurance policy, Mr. Eko still performs this religious rite for both Claire and Aaron, and the ensuing montage is meant to have us believe all is well with their souls.
While baptism practices vary by religious affiliation, most baptism rituals have something in common–in a pure sense, baptism is meant to be a sign of connecting or identifying with something greater than ourselves in a way that brings significant change to our lives. It is not intended to be treated as a “get out of jail free” card or to be used as coercion to convince someone to convert to something. The fact that we don’t see Eko, a supposedly repentant man of God, explaining the true nature of baptism or encouraging any type of acknowledgment from Claire that she wishes to be spiritually connected or changed in some way before he baptizes her left me feeling that this is one time where the true spiritual meaning of an important religious rite was completely lost and no new insight for us as an audience was gained.