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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Traitors: A Longing For Belonging

The BBC’s psychological reality show The Traitors took audiences by storm over Christmas.

It encouraged more young people to sign up to BBC iPlayer than any programme aside from the World Cup, prompting the service to add the US version of the show last week.

The concept is this: 22 strangers, including a magician, a police officer, and a BMX athlete, arrive at a Scottish castle hoping to win a share of £120,000. Among them are three ‘traitors’, who try to avoid detection while choosing one of the group (‘the faithful’) to murder every night. The faithful try to vote out the traitors before the game’s end to prevent them stealing the full prize money.

It’s riveting television and a fascinating study of group dynamics. Contestants form and betray alliances, proposing theories based on one another’s jobs, body language, and throwaway comments. Players are genuinely devastated to be suspected. They long to be taken at face value and feel part of the core community – ‘I’ve not come here to pretend to be anybody. I’ve come here… to be who I am, to fit in, to be accepted’, says one.

Another, who narrowly missed out on winning, concludes that the prize pales in comparison to the friendships formed: ‘The money’s gone. It doesn’t matter. I love you guys.’

The Traitors highlights the profound yearning within us all to belong. Belonging to God is our deepest need, and yet God himself calls our life without companionship and community ‘not good’ (Genesis 2:18). And to belong to God is to belong to others too, forming one body in Jesus, where every member is a valuable part of the whole.

All people were created for community, and Christians are called to extend the invitation to belong to others – both in our churches and beyond them as we go out into our everyday contexts.

Whilst it’s unlikely your frontline involves a Highland castle, each of us can meaningfully impact the group dynamics of the places in which we find ourselves. It might be breaking out of a clique at the school gate, welcoming the newcomer to the office, or gently redirecting a conversation away from gossip. It might also mean exposing untruth and treachery, which are far from a game when we really come up against them, as those called to be faithful to God’s way and values.

Where might you bring the invitation to belong this week?

Katherine Ladd
Katherine works in communications for the Civil Service and attends Christ Church Balham.


  1. I am 88 years young, a retired Minister, but still relatively fit. I am interested in living my life to the full for the Lord till the end. Please help me to adjust to older life if you can.

    By Bob Hyatt  -  20 Jan 2023
  2. I am struggling to figure out how I can attend to 12 sessions of Traitors, which the Guardian describes with words like bottom-clenching nastiness, ruthlessness, intrigue, betrayal, lying, backstabbing, treachery.. and also conform my life and thought with e.g. Philippians 4.8.
    The thought that this series is second only to the World Cup reminds me about the reports I read about what people were watching during lockdown. Are programmes like this addictive – like pornography? Is this a generational thing? Please advise!

    By Howard Peskett  -  20 Jan 2023
    • Hi Howard, thank you for your comment and reflections. You raise such a valuable question about the boundaries of what we can watch whilst still thinking about things which are true, honest, pure, lovely etc. There are certainly shows I personally wouldn’t be able to view in good conscience (explicit, gory etc.) which I wouldn’t want occupying my thoughts. For me The Traitors wasn’t one as it’s essentially a dramatised party game in which contestants take on roles. The format is a spin on a 1980s social deduction game called Mafia, which lots of people will have played in group settings (and was a favourite in my youth group). So ‘backstabbing’ or ‘ruthlessness’ is in the context of game strategy, rather than personal relationships (like, say, Big Brother). In terms of content people might find upsetting, there’s a fair amount of swearing and arguing when people are deciding how to vote. I’ve read The Guardian article you mention, and would say it’s very over the top.

      Re your question of whether it’s addictive/generational in appeal, my view is that the show is watchable primarily because it’s a fascinating study of gameplay and group dynamics. But it’s certainly filmed and edited in a way that heightens the drama – for example it makes viewers wait for the next episode to find out who is eliminated or who the traitors have chosen to remove from the game. And it was released cleverly with a few episodes per week starting in November, so it spread by word of mouth in time for Christmas – that meant millions of people watched the full series over a few days during the holidays. The show has been particularly popular with people my age but I know plenty of people who are older and have found it an interesting watch too. It won’t appeal to everyone, but I hope there are a few brief reflections in the piece which might help give a framework for engaging with it in passing, even if you decide it’s not for you! Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. Katherine

      By Katherine Ladd  -  28 Jan 2023
      • Thank you Katherine. HP

        By Howard Peskett  -  3 Feb 2023

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