TV

Is Hulu’s The Path Any Stranger Than Our Own Faith?

Alex Bersin

Aaron Paul may have top billing in The Path, a Hulu original series, but the real star of the show is the cult known as the Meyerist Movement.

A combination of New Age conceits and 1960s drug culture, Meyerism is a fictional religious movement about how the “Light” will save people from their damage and grant them eternity in a “Garden.” Meyerists believe the path to salvation involves climbing a spiritual ladder, which manifests as literal rungs of maturity and leadership, from 1R up to 10R. Daily life is completely transparent and devoted to helping others unburden from their damage—with the help of hallucinogens and outdated, electro-stimulation devices.

For those who grew up outside of a particular religious tradition, The Path might feel more like a comedy than a drama, considering the strangeness of the practices it depicts. Even those of us who have grown up in the church feel the instinct to laugh while watching. The show’s commitment to making Meyerism believable often includes rituals and language that seem silly.

Outsiders, for instance, are referred to as “the I.S.” (Ignorant Systemites). In the Meyerist lingo, followers “offset” (atone) a “transgress” (sin) by planting trees. They also strengthen each other by “sending Light” with raised hands. During one Meyerist gathering, a character unburdens how her dad used to sell her to other men for sex. So one of the leaders comforts her with a song:

Carry each other to the Light

I’ll carry you, you carry me

We will carry each other to the Light, oh Light

The congregants soon join in and the cheesy chorus continues as the scene shifts to another character rescuing an I.S. kid from a drug den and “carrying him to the Light.” At first I snickered at all of this, and at the gullibility of the characters who believe it. Yet then another song popped into my head:

Would I have turned and walked away

And laughed at what He had to say

And casually dismissed Him as a fraud

Unaware that I was staring at the image of my God

Nichole Nordeman wrote “Wide Eyed” about mocking the strange practices of other religions and wondering whether she would have done the same to Jesus.

There’s nothing strange to us about following a man who claimed to be God. In The Path, one character scoffs at the Meyerists’ beliefs, prompting another to respond that his wife believes in a virgin birth. The first character replies, “Yeah, but that actually happened.”

But believing that we’re right doesn’t make our beliefs any less strange. In fact, when we seek to prove our faith, it often seems like we’re trying to prove that our faith isn’t unusual. We want the world to know how logical and historically factual Christianity is, but none of that changes the fact that we believe some extraordinary things.

Not only do we believe in a virgin birth, we believe that a child grew up as both fully God and fully man, and that he died and rose from the dead. Nothing about that isn’t strange. And that’s precisely what makes it so beautiful.

Believing that we’re right doesn’t make our beliefs any less odd.

The people in The Path who join Meyerism are usually broken, confused, and looking for answers. What they find beyond a cathartic unburdening session and a loving community is the wonder of something totally other, something transcendent. If God gave us a longing for eternity, then wonder will never be far from the human heart. The beautiful strangeness of Christianity is its promise that there is more to this life in the life of a man who, by all accounts, should still be dead.

When we lose sight of the gospel’s wonder, when our faith loses its strangeness, our confidence mutates into arrogance. While faith is “confidence in what we hope for,” we cannot allow our knowledge to make us arrogant and think less of the longings of others, no matter how misplaced they are. Rather, we should let their strange pursuits remind us of our own.

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure