Via Media

Lots of hoopla last week about NBC’s The Book of Daniel, hoopla which seemed to me to be wasted, because, as I said at the time, this apparent attempt to clone Desperate Housewives into an Episcopal rectory, airing at 10 o’clock on a Friday night did not seem to me to be a hit in the making. But I’ve been wrong before.

Meanwhile, as various deep thinkers ruminate about the challenges of presenting religion on television, and how tough it is to do something substantive in that regard on the nets,  I give you…Lost.

Now, Lost isn’t Dostoevsky, nor is it Flannery O’Connor. But it is one of the most highly-rated television shows on network television, it has re-invigorated the non-procedural (aka CSI, L&O, etc) drama and it does, week after week explore, front and center, the issue of redemption. Sometimes it even gets explicitly religious about it – like last night.

I haven’t seen the first twenty minutes yet – I was taping it for my daughter, who was at basketball practice, sat down to watch it part way through, then decided to wait for her to watch it tonight to see that first part. So I’m not really sure how Mr. Eko and his brother got to the point at which he was a warlord of some kind and his brother was a priest, but what I saw was enough: religion and spirituality, specifically Catholicism, quite seriously and respectfully presented, not just in the externals, but in the internal logic and importance of it: the central motivating force and energy of sacrificial love.

This is why I just can’t care much about little kerfuffles like Daniel. It’s a quirky blip that, even if it were to be successful, doesn’t have the internal capacity to say anything serious about religion, and I doubt any viewers take it in that way. Lost is where it’s at as far as spirituality and religion on broadcast television goes, and what’s going on there, as far as I’m concerned, is of surprising quality and certainly something most of your family can sit down in front of and then discuss afterwards, fruitfully, asking ourselves…what does it mean to forgive? How I have I exploited the goodness and love of others? Is there a way out of this darkness? What is it?

Oh, and when drug addict Charlie said, "I’m a good person. I was an altar boy!"  – raise your hand if you thought of John Kerry.

Yeah. The price of Catholic blog obsessions. Interesting, though, that the cry "But I was altar boy!" is understood, and quite properly so, as a lame attempt at distraction from the real issue…isn’t it?

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