Recently, I achieved the unthinkable. I avoid any and all spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens before seeing it Christmas Day. My wife, who saw it a couple weeks later, was not so lucky. A Facebook friend posted about hoping a pivotal moment would change the second time she saw it. There was no ill-intent, just random thoughtlessness.
We’ve all had someone accidentally spoil a movie or book (or we’ve been the unintentionally spoiler). But what about those who give away the plot twists and turns on purpose? What drives someone to plaster a spoiler of The Force Awakens on the back window of their car and drive around town?
Perhaps surprisingly, part of it may be the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult. That doesn’t mean your uncle who enjoys binge-watching Netflix and posting spoilers on Facebook is starting a doomsday group (though it seems those guys are almost always “odd uncles”). But it does mean that obtaining “secret knowledge” is enticing to us and we often want to let others know we have something they don’t.
The appearance of exclusivity is attractive. 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, I don’t want to miss it. 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 feel like you have all the control, similar to a cult.
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. But what if it is a new way to reach God or a hidden message about the return of Christ?
Most people don’t plan on joining a cult, but small choices along the way entrap people in an exploitive religious group that often focuses their pitch around secret knowledge. Numerous cults spring up with “special” insight or revelation into the end of the world. Secrecy lures potential members.
The guy in the cult needs that secret to lend him purpose. The guy intentionally throwing spoilers on social media needs that knowledge to grant him importance. Like the Gnostics centuries before, what they know gives them an advantage over everyone else. It gives them a source of pride and a reason to live.
In this way, Christianity is the spoiler-free religion. The draw is not exclusivity or secrecy. It is intentionally and specifically for the whole world. Taking away the mystery of a cult ruins its mystique, but the last book of the Bible is actually called Revelation. It’s about revealing truth and shining a light on what was once hidden. The Bible proclaims the answer to life’s mystery.
Christianity is the anti-clickbait faith. The Bible’s not titled “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 gained by only a select few.
Christians are to proclaim the message boldly and publicly—not to ruin the story, but to allow everyone to participate. It’s not a spoiler, but an invitation.
Having a Star Wars spoiler only matters until you’ve shared it or until there’s no one left who cares. Belonging to a cult seems exclusive and special until you realize the person who really benefits is the leader and you’ve been used.
Following Christ grants meaning and purpose. It fulfills the never-fulfilled promise of cults and spoilers. Plus, it can’t be ruined by a post on social media.