Did Ben Get Off Easy?

In the CaPC Water Cooler, our writers discuss the implications of the latest cultural events. These days, we’re discussing Lost.

Warning! If you are not completely caught up with Lost, you won’t want to read any further.

David wrote,

So here’s my question: was the forgiveness Ben recieved for killing Jacob cheap? I mean the man murdered and he is let off the hook simply because he let his daughter die too. I am not sure how that all works. I loved this week’s episode and found myself sympathetic toward Ben too, but I can’t help but wonder what motivated that sympathy in me or in the other characters on the show. Thoughts?

Richard wrote,

David, I have to admit I was caught off-guard by your question. To me, this wasn’t a show about the nature of forgiveness as much as it was the nature of repentance and grace.

I too felt sympathy toward Ben’s predicament, not because I identified with his “murder,” but because I identified with his root struggles: his disappointment in himself, his uncertainty as to the nature and reality of Jacob, his regret that his uncertainty caused him to betray Jacob, and his fear that such a betrayal would cause him to be rejected by those who love Jacob.

So yeah, if this situation weren’t quite so cosmic, maybe we could debate whether Ben should get life in prison or something. But what we’re really talking about here, as alluded to the last time we discussed Lost, is a faith struggle – and Ben came out on the other end of it.

We see the same thing from Jack, who caused quite a bit of harm as well, throughout his life, because he didn’t have enough faith to simply accept that some things just can’t be, and shouldn’t be, fixed. His belief, or lack thereof, came to a head in Lighthouse and he has come out with a stronger faith than ever. Jack isn’t a guy who kills people – we saw that early in the series, when he refused to allow the easy death of Kate’s arresting officer. But here was Jack, willing not only to blow up Richard, but himself as well – except he figured that probably wasn’t going to happen. We could tell from his face that he wasn’t entirely sure, but he figured he had to accept the stakes and jump in at some point. That’s what that scene is all about.

We see the same leap of faith exhibited not only by Ben, but by Ilana herself. She seems to be quite close to Jacob, considering him to be the closest thing to a father that she’s ever had. Isn’t it interesting then, that she would forgive Ben for killing him? Maybe she’s following in her father’s footsteps?

This season is all about the main characters (at least the candidates) experiencing their crisis of faith, and either getting stuck there or coming out stronger for it. Hurley was lucky enough to have had this crisis throughout the series – which is why he’s suddenly more confident and mature than everyone else at the moment, and why he saw no need to stand next to some dynamite while it exploded. Far from suicidal, Hurley has a lot ahead of him. As far as he’s concerned, Jacob has a wonderful plan for his life.

David wrote,

I like where your going and I agree the overall focus was not on Ilana  but Ben. Nonetheless, she seemed so willing to forgive only after she heard Ben’s struggle with faith. Perhaps, then, following your conclusion, she is having the same internal struggle (not yet revealed) and she has sympathy towards Ben for that reason. If you’re right then maybe this isn’t about cheap forgiveness so much as it is about genuine sympathy. Thoughts?
Drew wrote,
Last week may have been my favorite episode to date because of the way the show affected me.  When Ilana told Ben to dig his own grave, I thought that Ben was finally getting what he deserved.  Then as the the show progressed, and we saw a different side of Ben, his struggle with faith, and finally his desperate need for acceptance.  Ilana’s forgiveness of Ben was pure grace and it hit me hard at the end–the punishment I wanted for Ben was what I deserve before God.Ben’s case was the most dramatic, but this week was all about people’s struggle with faith in an omniscient God–this was Richard’s struggle as well and Jack’s test.  Another wonderful moment in the show was when Miles shared that up to the moment when Ben killed Jacob, “he was hoping he was wrong about you.”  Discussions of omniscience aside, this reminded me of Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

I think it was Martyn Lloyd Jones who said, if you aren’t occasionally accused of being an antinomian, you might not be preaching the Gospel of grace–this very charge was being made against Paul (Rom. 8).  This episode made me think about the gospel more than perhaps any television show has that I can remember.

I hope I am not getting off subject, but to answer David’s question–yes I think Ilana is trying to exhibit true sympathy and I suspect that she is following Jacob’s example of offering grace to Ben.

Previous Installments:

Pre-season: Lost’s Biggest Question.

Pre-season, part 2:  Lost’s Free Will Dilemma.

Season Premiere: ‘Lost’ Patience.

What Kate Did: Poor Jack.

The Lighthouse: Sawyer’s Choice

Sundown: Jacob is Good, All the Time

David, I have to admit I was caught off-guard by your question. To me, this wasn’t a show about the nature of forgiveness as much as it was the nature of repentance and grace.

I too felt sympathy toward Ben’s predicament, not because I identified with his “murder,” but because I identified with his root struggles: his disappointment in himself, his uncertainty as to the nature and reality of Jacob, his regret that his uncertainty caused him to betray Jacob, and his fear that such a betrayal would cause him to be rejected by those who love Jacob.

So yeah, if this situation weren’t quite so cosmic, maybe we could debate whether Ben should get life in prison or something. But what we’re really talking about here, as alluded to the last time we discussed Lost, is a faith struggle – and Ben came out on the other end of it.

We see the same thing from Jack, who caused quite a bit of harm as well, throughout his life, because he didn’t have enough faith to simply accept that some things just can’t be, and shouldn’t be, fixed. His belief, or lack thereof, came to a head in Lighthouse and he has come out with a stronger faith than ever. Jack isn’t a guy who kills people – we saw that early in the series, when he refused to allow the easy death of Kate’s arresting officer. But here was Jack, willing not only to blow up Richard, but himself as well – except he figured that probably wasn’t going to happen. We could tell from his face that he wasn’t entirely sure, but he figured he had to accept the stakes and jump in at some point. That’s what that scene is all about.

We see the same leap of faith exhibited not only by Ben, but by Ilana herself. She seems to be quite close to Jacob, considering him to be the closest thing to a father that she’s ever had. Isn’t it interesting then, that she would forgive Ben for killing him? Maybe she’s following in her father’s footsteps?

This season is all about the main characters (at least the candidates) experiencing their crisis of faith, and either getting stuck there or coming out stronger for it. Hurley was lucky enough to have had this crisis throughout the series – which is why he’s suddenly more confident and mature than everyone else at the moment, and why he saw no need to stand next to some dynamite while it exploded. Far from suicidal, Hurley has a lot ahead of him. As far as he’s concerned, Jacob has a wonderful plan for his life.

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  • http://pofgblog.com Joseph

    This was certainly one of the best and most important Lost episodes ever, at least in the spiritual sense. I found it riveting. For the very first time, Ben became a sympathetic character for me. For the first time (in the scene with Ilana), I felt like I could believe everything that Ben was saying. It seems like that might have been the first time since his childhood, maybe, that Ben had opened up so much of himself to someone. Was it strange that the someone he opened up to was someone who by all appearances wanted him dead? Maybe, but I think it makes sense, too.

    There is huge power in confession, in “getting something off your chest”. In that moment, I think Ben was in a mindset of, “I have to tell someone this. She’s here, and either I’ll kill her and no one else will know, or she’ll kill me and my misery will be over.” (By the way Richard, it looks like I was wrong in our discussion about Ben’s motives at the end of season 5.) Then when Ilana said that she would have Ben, I think that might have been the first time in Ben’s life (or maybe the first time that really resonated with him) that he was shown kindness or grace.

    I don’t think that this whole scene was more about Ilana or Ben. Ben plays the role of (pardon the Bob Marley reference) “the hopeless sinner who has hurt all mankind just to save his own”, who finds the unexpected offer of grace and is truly affected by it. Ilana plays the role of the compassionate Christian who forgives, even when she doesn’t feel like it, in order to express the love of her Lord (Jacob) and put another person back on the path to salvation.

    So, to answer the original question, was the forgiveness Ben received cheap? I don’t think so. I think it is exactly what each of us receives from Christ – free grace and an opportunity to change into a better version of ourselves that is more like Christ.

    As to Jack… I love that he seems to finally have a real sense of purpose and faith, but don’t you think he’s getting a little reckless? That scene with Richard is akin to me putting my head in a crocodile’s open mouth and proclaiming, “Nah, he won’t bite. God’s got a plan for me.” If I did that, someone would (hopefully) have me checked out for a brain injury.

    I guess that begs the question, where IS the line between confidence in faith and testing God?

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    I actually heard a theory that Jack is fed up with Jacob, acknowledges his power, but is planning to con him after it’s all said and done. To me, this would make for a fascinating symmetry once Jack and Sawyer both reveal themselves to be double agents for different sides.

  • http://pofgblog.com Joseph

    That would be fascinating. It would also be horribly disappointing, at least to me. Jack has played the tortured soul who is searching for meaning, peace, and closure for so long. To have him end up in sort of a nihilistic, “the whole world is madness” kind of mentality would be awful. That would be like him ending up like the Comedian from Watchmen – believing that the whole of existence is one meaningless cosmic joke.


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