Charlie Pace: Flesh v. Spirit

In my last Lost write-up, I neglected to mention Charlie Pace. Charlie was the bass guitarist of the band, DriveShaft, and he makes sure everyone knows it, too! In the episode, “The Moth” (Season 1), we become a little more acquainted with him.

In one of Charlie’s flashbacks, he’s confessing to a priest about some sordid sex acts he did the night before (which I won’t mention, since James’ Thoughts and Musings is G-rated). The priest encourages him to resist worldly temptation, and Charlie then vows to leave the rock-and-roll business once and for all. He goes into the sanctuary, and there’s his brother Liam, irreverently putting his foot on one of the pews. After Charlie rebukes Liam for his sacrilege, Liam informs him that they’ve just gotten a big-time recording contract. “You’ll be a rock god!,” Liam exults.

To be honest, if I were Charlie, I’d have a hard time walking away from that, regardless of any vow I made. I mean, imagine it. Being famous. Having lots of money. Fans loving you. The beautiful women. And more women. And they’d be all over you, too. You wouldn’t have to worry about saying the right things or impressing them. After all, they’re already impressed. You’re a rock god!

Liam has fun with that life for a while, but he eventually leaves DriveShaft and settles down. He gets the picture-perfect American family (or, actually, Aussie family), with a wife, a little girl, and a swing-set. Maybe even a dog. When Charlie asks him to help him restart DriveShaft, Liam politely refuses. He’s content outside the ranks of the rich and famous.

This episode got me thinking about the tension between the flesh and the spirit. On the one hand, the flesh is fun. It’s attractive! People pursue it for a reason. But, on the other hand, it’s also quite hollow. Charlie wanted something a little deeper when he made his vow, but he wasn’t willing to go all the way. And Liam eventually ditched the flesh for a rich family life.

One can see why the flesh doesn’t always satisfy. A rock star can be famous, but do people love him because of him, or because of what he can do? And he can get all sorts of women, but is that true love? No wonder a lot of rock stars turn to drugs to give them an artificial “high.” It’s possible even for them to be plagued by insecurity.

But can the spirit be boring? Let me give an example: I have a friend who is really strict about the movies he watches. He won’t watch anything that has nudity. Now, I don’t watch pornography (hard or soft-core), but there are shows that I watch that portray some illicit sex. Every now and then, Smallville presents Clark Kent sleeping with Lana Lang. Lost has its share of raciness. And I don’t even have to comment on Dallas!

Some Christians may tell me to stop watching those shows. “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” I Thessalonians 5:22 says (in the KJV). Or, in the words of Matthew 5:30: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

But I like these shows. They’re not just about sex. They talk about other values as well. They inspire me. They entertain me. Without them, my life wouldn’t be as rich.

And so can an ascetic life of the spirit really satisfy? We need fun and entertainment! Focusing only on the flesh is a dead end. But not focusing on the flesh at all can be pretty boring, in my opinion.

I mean, seriously, I love reading the Bible. But would I have fun doing nothing but Bible study in my free time? That’s about how it was, before I got a television. It’s not as fun, if that’s the only thing I’m doing (aside from work). Human beings need balance.

This is not to say that illicit sex is all right, because it’s not. God gave us pleasures, but they’re to be used within an appropriate context. In addition, maybe my characterization of the “life of the spirit” is off, since one can argue that I admire spiritual values in the shows that I watch (e.g., kindness, courage, a sense of responsibility, etc.). A spiritual life is not just a series of “don’t.” It has a lot of positive aspects as well.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to Charlie Pace: Flesh v. Spirit

  1. Anonymous says:

    Gosh, when I read the Bible I see it as NC-17. I don’t know of many TV shows or movies that feature rape, incest, graphic sex, murder, child sacrifice, etc… I had some friends that are also quite Victorian. It’s like the gritty HBO shows that are “R+” rated.

    I say “relish” in the flesh–that is to say “read the Bible and enjoy it!”

    Here’s the sad part James. Most evangelical schools promote this sort of legalism under the guise of “not stumbling people” with prohabitionism and extreme forms of 20th century style polity. What a scary thought.

    I came from “you know where” and there are many schools that are even more extreme, like the Baptist (Southern and Fundamentalist) schools. That’s scary.

    Random thought: I have a lot of Jesuit friends and they are great people. They have a lot of fun in their communities and their ministries, but they are bound to extreme forms of legalism like fundamentalism. They watch Sopranos and The Wire and they like to indulge in strong drink. I’ve sometimes thought that if I were single that being a Jesuit would be a great option.

    Keep watching Lost, but be on spoiler alert.



  2. Anonymous says:

    polity = piety. My mistake.


  3. James Pate says:

    Hey there, Jake! You said:

    “Here’s the sad part James. Most evangelical schools promote this sort of legalism under the guise of ‘not stumbling people’ with prohabitionism and extreme forms of 20th century style polity.”

    Are you saying here that those evangelical schools are not prohibitionist–as in, they allow people to watch sex and violence on TV?


  4. Anonymous says:

    I see the ambiguity.

    The mantra is “not stumbling people” which means signing statements that you refrain from worldly activities that includes drinking and “corruptive” influences.

    I know more than a few people that think that this is totally ridiculous and akin to earlier proscribing of cards, movie theatres, and jeans.

    I don’t know too many hardline fundamentalists too well anymore, so it’s becoming harder to appreciate their perspectives and I can only think with total fear of teaching at such a conservative place.


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