This article contains spoilers for the first two seasons of HBO’s The Leftovers.
A few years ago, a close friend of mine—a youth minister on his way home from a mission trip—died in a tragic car accident. His wasn’t a martyr’s death, nor a long-fought battle against illness. It was swift. The call to pray for him came at 11 that night, and a couple of hours later came news of his passing. My prayers (or lack thereof) felt meaningless, his death purposeless. My friend was gone, and I’d been left behind.
For the Christian, death is never final. Paul himself euphemizes the death of saints as “falling asleep,” and death is filled with purpose as those in Christ await resurrection on the Last Day. Such hope and truth, however, may be difficult to believe for the friends and family left in the wake of death’s throes. It is the tension of the now and not yet, of knowing spiritual truth but wrestling to believe it—a whisper of doubt that asks, “What if there is no purpose in loss?”
Such is the case in the HBO series The Leftovers, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (the latter of whom also penned a novel by the same name). Now in its third season, The Leftovers is about a Rapture-like event in which two percent of the world’s population disappears. This “Sudden Departure” happens swiftly, and is a seemingly random, meaningless event void of the spiritual significance found in popular Christian accounts of a Rapture. There is no logical or spiritual reasoning that can make sense of the disappearances. Children and parents, sinners and saints—all disappear, with no discrimination based on morality or innocence.
The premise may seem ...1
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