Kady Rox almost missed her return flight from Paris to the U.S., but a friend texted her that the flight was boarding, and she raced back to the terminal just before the gate closed. As she frantically made her way to her seat, she saw two friends sitting toward the front. Her seat was further back, next to a different friend.
She arrived in the U.S. jetlagged, but her three friends texted that they wanted to hit the beach. Kady passed.
And then things got weird.
Two days later, Kady sat in class with those same friends. But they remembered their flight home entirely differently: They all said the two friends Kady saw toward the front of the plane actually missed the flight. No one remembered anything about a beach trip.
Rather than blaming jetlag for her mixed-up memories, Kady came to a radical conclusion: She shifted timelines. According to Kady, we live in a multiverse in which there are limitless timelines running concurrently in parallel realities. In Kady’s original timeline, events went the way Kady remembered. But at some point after the flight, she unconsciously entered a portal to a different timeline, a parallel reality where her friends missed the flight.
After Kady shared her story on TikTok, it went viral. She continued to describe how her life improved after the shift. She spent most of her years in the wrong timeline, where her life was out of joint and falling apart. But now, in the right timeline, she’s living her best life.
Kady joined a growing group of TikTok influencers offering a simple method to shift timelines: take a shower. As you do, use hot water to cleanse yourself of limiting beliefs and then cold water to manifest—via positive thought—your way into the right timeline.
To outsiders, it sounds bizarre. But to insiders, it’s a new gospel promising total life transformation.
It leaves me asking: Where did this new breed of New Thought come from and why is it so appealing?
Marvel’s Multiversal Imagination
TikTok influencers didn’t invent the concept of a multiverse. It comes from theoretical physics. Multiverse theory posits that our universe is simply one of many parallel universes. Reality is not fine-tuned for life. It’s just that our universe—thanks to the rules of probability—got lucky.
But this is where theory leaves off and imagination picks up.
There’s a growing cottage industry of TV shows, books, video games, and even children’s movies creatively imagining that if there is a multiverse, there may also be an infinite supply of me in those universes.
No franchise has taken this idea more mainstream than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the Disney+ show Loki, the anti-hero discovers that he is merely one Loki among many. A retro-tech bureaucracy called the Time Variance Authority (TVA) ensures that every timeline in the multiverse goes according to plan by removing “variants” who, by being true to themselves, inadvertently break with the TVA’s preordained script. Loki doesn’t like all-sovereign bureaucrats calling the shots, so he throws the TVA into disarray, creating a new timeline where he can be his best Loki.
This month, Spiderman swings back into the multiversal fray. And there’s nothing low-key about it: the day tickets went on sale, online demand for the next multiverse installment crashed digital box offices.
Marvel and Kady Rox are captivating us with a similar narrative: this reality is making your life miserable, and only the inbreaking of a different reality can set your life right.
Jesus’s prayer, “Your kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), haunts these stories. But Disney and TikTok timeline shifters mutate it into a bizarre, disenchanted, me-centered, human-powered, pseudo-scientific alternative gospel.
According to Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor, premodern people spent little time on self-discovery because “Who am I?” wasn’t something to be discovered inside, but instead outside, in a God-given, meaning-filled, enchanted universe.
If you were a monk, your existential purpose was to be holy on behalf of your community. If you were a peasant, the meaning of your life was service and food production for the community. If you were a lord, your purpose was to order society, provide for all, and execute justice. Your purpose came from your place within the enchanted, meaning-freighted universe.
That was then.
Modern people live in a disenchanted world, where the universe is reducible to meaningless, material stuff. You do not find yourself by looking outside yourself, but rather by looking inside. This me-centered universe promises freedom—you can finally self-define, self-discover and self-express—but only delivers anxiety because the possibilities of selfhood are endless. Without a creator God to define me, how do I know the right me to become? And what if I choose wrong?
The me-centered universe promises freedom—you can finally self-define, self-discover and self-express—but only delivers anxiety, because the possibilities of selfhood are endless.
Just as a supernova explodes a star into trillions of nebulous particles, a disenchanted world explodes the human mind into an endless, anxiety-inducing nebula of alternative selves. No one needed theoretical physicists to propose the multiverse. The modern mind was already living in one.
Marvel’s multiverse just puts a CGI costume on the modern self. Spiderman and Loki face the existential quandary of our day. Spiderman must choose to become the right Spiderman out of many possible Spidermen. Loki must choose to become the right Loki out of many possible versions. The drama of the narrative centers on our shared anxiety: What if I choose wrong?
Who Defines Us?
The truth, however, is that you can’t find the answer to your existential angst by looking inside. We need someone from the outside to bring clarity to our confused identity, to break into our broken reality and set things right. We need Jesus to bring God’s heavenly kingdom to earth (Rev. 21:2).
In the present, God graciously enmeshes us in a community (the church) where we can receive our identity and find our purpose externally (Eph. 2:8–22). No internalized human labor—be it self-discovery or self-expression—will bring you any closer to becoming you (Rom. 1:22–23). Only Jesus can define you and set you free to become who you were designed to be (John 8:31–38).