Sometimes, avoiding spoilers for movies and TV shows can seem like running an insanely difficult obstacle course with people throwing knives at you … while they yell out pivotal plot points of Stranger Things or the latest Marvel movie.
Despite my job requiring me to spend time on social media every day, I usually manage to navigate the spoiler maze. Recently, my wife was not as fortunate. Before she was able to watch a franchise blockbuster, someone posted on Facebook about hoping the death of a key character would change the second time she saw it. There was no ill-intent, just random thoughtlessness.
I have friends who seek out spoilers on purpose to help them process the show or movie better. This post is not about them (or you, if this describes your perspective). They want to know the plot going in so they can concentrate on other nuances.
Most of us are trying to avoid spoilers, however, and we’ve probably experienced having movie or book accidentally spoiled (or unintentionally spoiling someone else). But what about those who enjoy giving away the plot twists and turns to those trying to avoid those details? What caused someone to plaster a spoiler of The Force Awakens on the back window of their car and drive around town?
Part of it may be the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult.Intentionally posting movie or TV spoilers may flow from the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult. Click To Tweet
Your uncle who enjoys binge-watching Netflix and posting spoilers on Facebook is probably not starting a doomsday group (though it seems those guys are almost always “odd uncles”). But it does mean that obtaining “secret knowledge” is enticing and holding that over others gives us the sensation of power.
Allure of secret knowledge
One of the earliest cults to develop within Christianity was gnosticism, which comes from the Greek word for “having knowledge.” Gnostic teachers emphasized access to special knowledge they had. Salvation could be obtained by learning those secret truths. Early church fathers confronted these heretics and prevented gnosticism from superseding orthodox Christianity, but the appearance of secret knowledge and exclusivity remains attractive.
In modern times, end times cult has developed over this same type of hidden knowledge known only to those in group. They always give themselves away by either refusing to be up front with what they “know” or claiming to have special insight and understanding beyond what anyone has had throughout church history.
But these concepts go beyond cults and religion. There’s a reason advertisers use phrases like “limited time” or “be the first to own.” If something is only around for a short amount of time, you don’t want to miss it. If special knowledge can be found in one place, you want to be there. Spoilers and cults serve the same purpose just on opposite extremes of importance.
Having a spoiler to a movie grants you power through that exclusive knowledge. You can either share that with others—whether they are asking for it or not. Or you can keep it to yourself and revel in knowing more than everyone else. You have all the control.
There are numerous reasons why people join cults: support, community, purpose, but also, much like spoilers, exclusivity. There is a secret message to be heard and unknown knowledge to be gained. It taps into the well-known social media apprehension known as the “Fear of missing out” or FOMO. You constantly refresh Facebook or check Twitter because you don’t want to be the one person who misses it—whether “it” is a big national news story or the fact that the high school friend you haven’t seen in 15 years is having a baby.
Most people don’t plan to join a cult during their life, but small choices along the way entrap people in an exploitive religious group, which often focuses its pitch around secret knowledge. Numerous cults spring up with “special” insight or revelation into the end of the world. Secrecy lures potential members.
In this way, Christianity is the spoiler-free religion.
The draw of Christianity is not exclusivity or secrecy. It is intentionally and specifically for all. The gospel is to go out, from beginning to end, to any and everyone. There’s no secret handshake to learn or hidden chamber behind the pulpit where we keep the “real truth.”Christianity is the spoiler-free religion. It is the anti-clickbait faith. There's no hidden message or secret knowledge to learn. Click To Tweet
Christianity is the anti-clickbait faith. The Bible’s title is not “The One Shocking Thing God Did to Save You” or “Jesus Died And You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next.” There’s no behind the scenes spoilers.
The Christian doesn’t have access to special knowledge that gives them power as an individual. The Christian has power because they’ve put their trust in the knowledge that Christ has died for their sins and rose again to give new life. That’s the up-front, clear message of the Bible. The follower of Christ loses the path when they cast themselves as superior to others, or somehow more intelligent and learned.
Reading through the New Testament letters, however, you can see the human tendency to turn the gospel into an exclusive club that only certain people have access to. The leaders in Jerusalem have to make clear Gentiles don’t have to jump through the Jewish law to get to Jesus. As Paul travels around freely preaching the Gospel, people come behind him and try to start divisions around certain leaders or with false teaching. James has to write a letter because churches are showing favoritism to the wealthy and giving them a better experience than others.
Not only is this part of the story of the early church, this is part of the story of the first humans. When the serpent wanted to tempt Adam and Eve, it pointed them to fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He assured the first couple they would gain special information that God was unfairly withholding from them.
This has been the choice since the beginning: the free offer of knowing God our Father or the costly price of supposed secret knowledge from the father of lies.This has been the choice since the beginning: the free offer of knowing God our Father or the costly price of supposed secret knowledge from the father of lies. Click To Tweet
We continue to be tempted in the same way. No, obviously, tweeting out Marvel spoilers is not the same thing as rebelling against God’s instructions in the garden of Eden. Yet, in some ways, they can flow from the same place—a desire to feel superior.
Properly understood in our minds and applied to our hearts, Christianity destroys that need. There’s nothing any “secret truth” can offer us that outweighs what Christ as Truth personified has already given us. We don’t need special knowledge because Jesus knows us. In Christ, the mystery has been revealed. There are no spoilers here.