Let’s talk about The Way Down: God, Greed, and the cult of Gwen Shamblin. AKA Jesus Don’t Save No Fat People. Part 1.

Production on the HBOmax limited series “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the cult of Gwen Shamblin” had wrapped filming, and the editing was well on its way to being completed, when Gwen Shamblin, her new(ish) husband, her son in law and 4 others, all church leaders, were killed when their plane went down into a lake on May 29, 2021. As a result of those leaders’ deaths, a lot more of the people who had been adversely affected by Shamblin’s church, Remnant Fellowship, became willing to talk to the documentary crew then had been originally planned. To accommodate this new development, HBO max released the first 3 of the planned episodes, while holding the last 2, which are scheduled to release at the beginning of next year.

So let’s talk about Gwen Shamblin, her life, her church, and her legacy, starting with part 1 of the documentary, currently available on HBOmax (which may be available to you through one of your service providers, already included in the cost, mine is included as a part of my phone/wifi provider)………..

Part one is called “The Kingdom”, and starts out with footage of recovery of the plane on the day of the crash. Then we go to footage from 2 years previous that is Shamblin giving a deposition on May 23, 2019.

The next thing we see are various women who have all lost weight, and Shamblin giving various interviews before getting into Brentwood, Tennessee, the wealthiest county in Tennessee, and the location of Shamblin’s church, Remnant Fellowship.

Then we see the children’s choir…….

…..which is somewhat unsettling, to say the least.

A lot of part one is dedicated to a couple whose teenage daughter became involved with a boy from Remnant Fellowship and their experience losing her to the cult after we see some random people talking about how the church is concerned with appearances, and as a group, they seem fake.

Then we get into Gwen Shamblin, who she is and what she does, but first, we have to listen to males pontificate about church in the South. Gwen Shamblin grew up in a church of Christ wherein women were not permitted to speak in church, they believed that they were the one true church, they believed they were special.

Gwen gained weight in her first year of college, where she was studying to become a nutritionist. She combined her studies with religion, which she culminated in a program that she called “The Weigh Down”. Her book with the same name came out in the late 90s amid a bunch of other christian diet books.

The Weigh Down says that you can eat anything that you want, you could only think about food when your stomach growls, and you stop eating when you are full. If you want to eat and your stomach isn’t growling, then you are to pray, pray, pray.

Women had a lot of success with the Weigh Down, the program grew in popularity, there were workbooks and bible studies and churches everywhere began to offer Weigh Down classes.

She toured with her book, meeting women who had lost weight with the Weigh Down. Her popularity was partially down to her being a woman, since women are still generally not allowed to lead anything in church, except maybe Sunday school for children. Christian women welcomed a female leader with a message that spoke to them.

There are a lot of males who explain who Gwen is, and they seem to be pretty petty about the fact that she had a large following and she got very rich preaching. A male thinks that the name of her church is haughty. And here is where we learn that Gwen Shamblin challenged a core tenet of patriarchal Christianity, the trinity.

She announced her church opening at a convention in Nashville in 2000, and with her version of the trinity being different from all mainstream Christianity, half of her supporters left. Mainstream Christianity teaches that within the trinity, the father, son, and holy spirit are all equal. Gwen Shamblin said that the 3 parts are not equal, that the father is above all. The main issue with this is that Shamblin’s view of the trinity removes the deity of Christ, who is unable to sacrifice himself to save everyone, unless he is a deity.

According to the documentary, denying the deity of any of the 3 parts of the trinity has always been considered heresy, and Shamblin was treated with contempt by a lot of people who had been following her, the women who had previously praised her were sending her books back to her and denouncing her as NOT Christian.

At this time, we learn that 5 women who were working for the Weigh Down workshop sued Shamblin, claiming that part of the condition of employment was the requirement to participate actively in the Remnant Fellowship church as members. The suit was settled out of court.

When people were in prison camps and ate less food, they lost weight. All of them.

Gwen Shamblin, deposition interview, part one, HBOmax doc

At this point, it’s obvious to me that Shamblin is sincere in her religious beliefs, she appears normal and mostly sane, even if her church is based on being, getting, staying thin. She sold herself as being god’s personal diet guru, that god relays all messages to her, she then delivers god’s news to the congregation. She also believes that her church is the one true church.

Natasha Pavlovich had a daughter with Joe Lara, before Joe married Gwen Shamblin. Gwen had been married to Joe for almost 2 years at the time of their deaths, and they were locked in a custody battle with Natasha for the entire time. According to Natasha, Gwen expected to scare her off and just walk away with Natasha’s daughter. It would seem that Gwen underestimated Natasha.

That’s the end of part 1! Part 2 coming soon!

What do you think of Gwen Shamblin? Have you seen the documentary?


4 thoughts on “Let’s talk about The Way Down: God, Greed, and the cult of Gwen Shamblin. AKA Jesus Don’t Save No Fat People. Part 1.

  1. Not having a TV (nor do I want one) I am spared from watching this. Having had 12 years of Christian indoctrination in school I just couldn’t watch this without throwing my hammer at the screen. As far as I can tell men get away with doing whatever they want whether they’re dressed in a suit, a white collar and robes, or increasingly in dresses and heels. Mysogyny is versatile like that. I still get shivers when I recall my child self forced to kneel in a dark confessional with an ancient wheezing/breather old priest on the other side of a screen with his ear bent down listening to a litany of made up sins I was too young to comprehend but had been made to memorize from the list at the back of the catechism book. Just a bunch of sadistic freaks in my book. Teaching children that they are horrible and shameful beings from the get go. Sick, just sick. “There oughta be a law,” just saying.


  2. … and not to mention, in our place at least, remarrying someone else after a divorce would strip them off their “evangelist” or “Christian leader” tag right away, even if they are not harassing their ex-wife or trying to snatch her daughter from her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shamblin was married to her first husband, when she met Joe. There are videos on YouTube of her wedding. She had forbidden divorce within the church, so you can imagine how angry a lot of them became, at her divorce and remarriage.

      I don’t think that Joe was interested in his daughter. I know Gwen was, I still don’t know why, even after watching the entire series.

      Religious leaders absolutely do whatever they want to, including divorce, and their followers (mostly) ignore it. This is part of why I am interested in Gwen Shamblin, because male church leaders get away with a lot of bullshit, a woman in a very similar position is still subject to sexism and misogyny. I mean, she could have just had an affair with Joe, but in an effort to attempt to do what she wanted but also stay within her male supremacist, patriarchal framework of Christianity, she did the least offensive thing, within her options, at least, that’s what she appears to have been doing.

      Joe is a repulsive waste of DNA. We get to know him in part 2.


  3. I don’t know why quite a few of the so called “Christians” in the US are crazy. Why try to snatch a little girl from her mother? How about just taking their own advice & just praying (pray for what though? The child is safe with her mother. But whatever is their “reason” for thinking that the child is better off with them than with her own mom – they can pray that the child gets that..).
    I know that men hate taking their tentacles off a woman even after they divorce & marry someone else, but doing that openly while being an evangelist is something that is specific to the US, I think. In other places, the preachers would atleast try to pretend they are being at peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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