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The Way Down 

click to enlarge THE CULT OF GWEN Remnant Fellowship Church leader and diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara and her husband, B-movie actor Joe Lara, are the subject of HBO's TV miniseries The Way Down, which explores the cult-like church's unorthodox practices. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMPFIRE AND HUNTLEY PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Campfire And Huntley Productions
  • THE CULT OF GWEN Remnant Fellowship Church leader and diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara and her husband, B-movie actor Joe Lara, are the subject of HBO's TV miniseries The Way Down, which explores the cult-like church's unorthodox practices.

What's it rated? TV-MA

When? 2021

Where's it showing? HBO Max

"The higher the hair, the closer to God" has never been taken more seriously than by Gwen Shamblin Lara, founder of the Weigh Down program—an evangelical approach to weight loss. Taking evangelism to the extreme, Shamblin built an empire called the Remnant Fellowship that overtook the town it started in and soon many more followers as Shamblin gained fame. Instead of calorie counting and getting more exercise, Shamblin wrote book after book and developed entire programs based around praying away food addiction, and those programs ended up being run in churches all over the country.

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One would hope Shamblin's unhealthy teachings on weight were the grossest thing about her, but sadly, the empire she built, the cult of followers she ensnared, and the entanglement of her family in her corrupt business are the real story here. Shamblin; her husband, Joe Lara; son-in-law, Brandon; and four other church leaders were killed in a plane crash this past May, but her awful legacy lives on. Just a short list of her ideas on gaining God's favor include encouraging members to hit their children with glue sticks and wooden spoons, making false sexual abuse claims against Joe's ex-girlfriend to gain custody, and preaching that if you've got a bit of extra weight on you, it's just because you don't love God enough.

I was already aware of this woman and her vile teachings that made her filthy rich, but I learned even more from those once close to her about how destructive this cult has been to members and their loved ones. Two more episodes are slated to come out next year, and with many more people willing to talk now that Shamblin has left this earthly plane, there are bound be some even more shocking revelations to come. With only three episodes out now, this is an easily bingeable watch when you're ready to get enraged. (three 55-min. episodes)

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