The Spinoff wrangled a real-life mystery religious person to dissect the depiction of faith in The Path, a drama following members of a fictional cult.
My husband and I sat down and watched an episode of The Path the other night. When you both work and have an eight month old child, sitting down and watching an entire episode of something together is pretty much the equivalent of binge-watching.
We were determined to do it, because this show caught our attention. It was touted to explore issues around religion and faith in a way no other program would dare. As Christians ourselves, we thought we’d be the judge of that.
The show focuses on the fictional religious movement/cult known as Meyerism, and the various power struggles, relationship breakdowns, and crisis of faith experienced by its main characters. While The Path isn’t based solely on Christianity, all us religious nuts are in the same boat when it comes to misrepresentation in the media.
In modern television, religious characters are either non-existent, overly simplified, or terrorists. Spiritual representation is perhaps best summarised by televisions most famous Evangelical Christian, Ned Flanders. Ned has many excellent qualities. He’s charitable, honest, kind, forgiving, a devoted father, loving husband, and a pillar of the Springfield community. Yet all of this is overshadowed, as his character is ultimately nothing more than an annoyingly perfect goody-good.
When we pressed play on episode one of The Path, we were hoping, nay, praying, for more than the usual clichéd and patronising look at religion. Thankfully, that’s exactly what we got.
Here are some thoughts that I, an actual religious person, had while watching The Path.
1) Blessed are the meek… unless they live near the Meyerists.
The show opens with the cult blatantly taking advantage of vulnerable and desperate people. While the first impression is unfavourable it is also pretty accurate, even within branches of my own faith. Religion gets a lot of flak for this practice, but Kim Kardashian isn’t exactly peddling waist trainers to strong, body-confident buyers, if you catch my drift.
2) Totes cray, but slang game on point
Wow, these people really are deluded. There are some serious alarm bells in the first dinner time conversation. In saying that, I have been known to accuse someone of not “showing their fruit,” and I’m sure that phrase would raise serious alarm bells on certain internet forums. Outsiders may not know what we’re on about, but dropping the occasional weird spiritual saying is a compulsory part of being religious.
3) Totes cray, but cult logo on point
That is a very large religious symbol to have just casually above your dining table. It isn’t entirely distasteful though. I will say this for cults, they know how to design an effective logo. Perhaps if we’d consulted a cult we would have developed a much better flag alternative, possibly even with a matching signet ring. If signet rings don’t communicate national pride I don’t know what does.
Or, perhaps we could have come to an arrangement with Gloriavale? Like a ‘you help us with the new flag and we’ll stop asking questions about where your working for families payments go’ kind of thing.
4) My body is a temple… ish… actually not really
They’re allowed to smoke!? Our souls must be enlightened, but our lungs can rot.
5) Let’s talk about sex
Oh joy, a sex scene already. I could lament the fact that quality yet fully-clothed television died with Downton Abbey, but instead I’ll choose the bright side. Yay! A series that shows religious people having enjoyable and totally normal sex! Right on.
6) I’m sensing the leader is a little overrated…
This is the second time they’ve shown people saying grace. I feel like when your ‘spiritual leader’ is a person, this is kind of pointless. Dr Stephen Meyer had about as much to do with providing that food as Donald Trump has with advancing race relations. It would be far more appropriate to just go say thanks to the canteen lady.
7) Bow chicka wow wow!
Oh my goodness, hot secular high school girl totally just made eyes at Eddie’s full noise Meyerist son. I can already tell this is going to be a GREAT storyline. Teenagers, and how to stop them thinking that alcohol and sex are better than Jesus/Allah/Brian Tamaki is a problem shared by all religions.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the Meyerists handle it, because she is totally going to cause him to backslide. That’s a Christian term for ‘go astray’ – not the thing dogs do when they have worms.
8) When you point the finger there’s three pointing back
I wonder if calling the movement Meyerism is a dig at Joyce Meyer, and the cult-like fanaticism enjoyed by her and many other popular – yet totally heretic – prosperity gospel preachers. If so, huge kudos to Jessica Goldberg, very well played.
Christians are particularly judgemental towards movements that centre on a person rather than a God, and yet it is a trap many of us fall into. “Darlene Zschech is pretty much Jesus” is an actual thing that someone has said to me.
9) Totes cray, full stop.
“Light literally shines out of him”. Really? This is the biggest alarm bell yet – actually more of an alarm gong. He may be your spiritual leader, but he’s just a person. Light isn’t shining out of him, it’s more likely jaundice from a few too many ‘enlightening’ hallucinogenic drugs.
10) Ultimate plot twist
Wow. Jaundice is the least of that guy’s problems. VERY LOUD ALARM SIRENS!!!
So, the verdict? While Meyerism is described as a hodgepodge of various international faith movements, it definitely leans more heavily towards Scientology and religions of that ilk. The emphasis on sex and drug use is a bit of a bummer, as by featuring this content so heavily you can pretty much guarantee very few religious people will actually watch it.
Sex gets ratings, but so does good writing. The argument that shows need sex for popularity or character development doesn’t really wash with me. Also, along with the drug use is the subtle implication that spiritual = drug addled. I see evidence of God every day, no narcotics required.
If you put those issues aside, and the show actually does a decent job. It manages to raise concerns about these groups in a way that isn’t patronising or offensive. The characters are multifaceted, and relatable to the spiritual and sceptic alike. The show has an interesting premise, and serves as a reminder of the importance of critical thinking around religion and faith.
It’s also very addictive. We’ll definitely be watching episode two sometime before Christmas.
Hallelujah! Click below to watch the entire first season on The Path, exclusively on Lightbox
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