The Walking Dead is a show that asks a lot of its audience. Every episode digs deep into the human psyche. In every episode, the show asks two questions: “Who are you really?” and “Who do you want to be?”
It asks those questions in different ways and through different characters. In the most recent episode, the show delved into faith, something which it does not do often, at least not overtly.
‘No Way Out’ touches on a very volatile subject – whether or not prayer works. In this episode, the show wants to know if we’re the kind of person who hides behind prayer.
There are scientific benefits to prayer. For those of us who believe in a higher power, we also believe that the positive energy of prayer can make a difference in the world. It’s good to put yourself in a state of mind where you have faith that good things are going to happen.
But at what point does praying become hiding? At what point does prayer become code for “avoiding responsibility?”
For The Walking Dead’s Father Gabriel, hiding happened a long time ago.
The moment the apocalypse hit, he hid – in his church, of all places. He hid from his responsibility, not only as a man of the cloth, but as a human. He barricaded himself in his church and prayed for God to make it all go away.
It didn’t go away, it only got worse. As he prayed, dozens of people died outside of his church.
As things got worse, he retreated further into himself and he waited. He waited for God to save him. He waited for God to send him a giant miracle that would change his life.
In doing so, he missed out on all of the small miracles that came his way. He damned Rick and the rest of the survivors for their actions, even though those actions saved his life on multiple occasions.
What truly terrified Gabriel about Rick wasn’t the violence, it was that Rick reminded him of who he wasn’t – he wasn’t someone who was brave. Everyone else’s actions highlighted Gabriel’s greatest fault – he would rather cower than be the savior people need.
At one time or another, we’ve all done this. It’s not even a matter of faith. It could be that we expect another human to save us. We throw our hands up and wait for salvation to come. We believe it will simply happen to us without us having to do anything at all.
That traps us in helplessness. It makes us feel like there is no way out, because everything that happens to us is dependent on someone else.
Saying “prayer doesn’t work” is a huge taboo when it comes to faith. To many people, saying such a thing is synonymous with denying that there’s a God, even though it’s not. So we don’t talk about it. We don’t bring up the fact that no matter how much we pray for bad things not to happen to good people, those things still happen.
We don’t bring it up, not because we’re afraid of challenging God, but because we’re afraid of facing the reality that we have to handle things ourselves.
God trusted us to exist, so why aren’t we trusting ourselves to live?
“We have been praying for God to save Alexandria, and our prayers have been answered. God will save Alexandria because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves.” – Father Gabriel
It took Father Gabriel a long time to come to terms with who he was – a man who created his own prison, built out of inaction, fear and dependency. When he realized that was who he was, he asked himself if that was truly who he wanted to be.
He realized he wasn’t living his faith, he was hiding behind it. The moment he admitted that to himself and to those around him, that’s the moment he stepped into the light – it was the moment he saw that there was a way out.
The Walking Dead asks a lot of its audience. ‘No Way Out’ asks more of us than the average episode. Confronting whether or not we use our faith to help others or to hide from life is a very difficult and terrifying thing to deal with. But it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves.
It’s a question those of us who do not subscribe to any faith need to ask as well – What are we hiding behind? Are we waiting for someone else to fix our lives?
In the end, passive living has never saved or helped anyone. If you want to make a difference in this world you have to act. You have to be brave. Live.