Three decades is already gone since this dastardly act was committed but its like it was yesterday and one will always begin to imagine how such large crowd were brainwashed, intimidated and coerced to take the poison that killed them. There is nothing one can do to bring the souls that died in that tragedy back but a lot can be done to stop the re-occurrence of such tragedies; individually and collectively, with the right education, such wickedness can be minimized if it can’t be stopped.
Jim Jones, an addict of communism started the church in 1954 in a rented apartment in Indianapolis after he was barred by the Somerset Southside Methodist Church where as a student pastor; he tried to integrate African Americans into the church. He first named his church, Community Unity Church but his experience about faith healing in the Seventh Day Adventist lured him into inculcating pseudo healings into his church. He later built his church and change the name to, ‘Wings Of Deliverance’ in 1956 and in the same year, he changed the name again to ‘Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church’ where he carried out his deception in the name of God.
In furtherance of his nefarious objectives, he held conventions with other Pentecostal Pastors where he claimed to perform miracles and this boosted his image; while he continued to disguise the fact that he was using religion to further social goals, and his atheism. He pursued egalitarian ideals and showed much care to the segregated African Americans, increasing their acceptance into his church to up 50 percent of the congregation. In 1959, the church joined the Christian Church known as the Disciples of Christ. In 1960, the Temple opened a soup kitchen for the poor, and helped to pay people’s rent, make job placement, free clothing and free coal for winter heating etc. His contribution to the welfare of people led him to be appointed into the Indianapolis Human Right Commission.
Jones gradually began to indoctrinate his followers and coercing them to renounce their blood relatives and spend the rest of their lives with the Temple brothers. He advocated that they should resolve to adopt instead of having sex to produce a child because according to Jones, he was the only one qualified to have sex with a woman. Sometimes he will hand pick somebody and give him or her temporary freedom to have sex under his supervision.
To strengthen his hold on the members of the Temple, he fraternized with Father Divine, the founder of the International Peace Mission Movement and read most of his teachings which he (Jones) implemented in the Temple. In 1961, Jones claimed that he had a vision of where Chicago and Indianapolis was under a nuclear attack and instructed his followers on the need to relocate. He also claimed he was the Holy Spirit incarnate and he predicted of a nuclear holocaust on July 15, 1967. Jones derided the Bible and replaced it with his journal called, ‘The Letter Killeth’.
His initial preaching brought people of different races, positions and beliefs together. His mission then seemed to be focused on the need for racial brotherhood and integration between the rich and the poor, the less privileged, and the privileged etc. Through observation of his ministry and mission, one will draw conclusions that he possessed a great gift that could bring a universal oneness and unity in spirit. In addition, to this unique gift was his claimed ability to heal all incurable diseases as well as help feed the poor and provide jobs for the jobless.
What can entice a hopeless and frustrated people like this kind of gesture shown by Jones? This is exactly what the people needed and they flocked around him from different walks of life to increase the population of his congregation. As they increased, Jim Jones gradually, but persistently increased the discipleship and dedication needed for him to be enthroned as a God- incarnate. His good intentioned plans gained him appreciation and dedication from people who in turn made him a demigod in the People’s Temple.
Defecting became the most dangerous venture to undertake as a Temple member. There are instituted squads to trail defectors and track them down, killing or maiming them. No one dares speak about the evils in the Temple and live to tell the story. Once, in 1972 the San Francisco Examiner ran part of an expository account of the Temple by Lester Kinsolving and was threatened by the burly Temple ‘Red Brigade’ security guards. Jim Jones attracted the people that matters in the society, held governmental positions, highly respected as a great man of God; but was he what he claimed to be?
In mid 1977, publications of unfavorable magazine articles, coupled with the impending custody battle over a six – year old that Jones claimed as a ‘son’, prompted the movement of the bulk of the temple followers to a jungle outpost in Guyana which Jones leased from Guyana government in 1974. In November, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan responded to charges that the People’s Temple was holding people against their will at Jonestown. He organized a trip to the South American settlement and a small party of journalists and ‘concerned relatives’ of People’s Temple members accompanied him on this investigation.
Congressman Leo Ryan and his team were in Jonestown for one evening and part of the following day. From their investigations, most residents praise the settlement and their ‘Father’, expressing their joy at being there and indicating their desire to stay. Two families, however, slipped messages to Ryan that they wanted to leave with him. After the visit, as Ryan’s party and these defectors tried to board plane to depart, the group was ambushed and fired upon by Temple gunmen. Five people, including Ryan, were murdered.
As the shootings were taking place at the jungle’s airstrip, Jim Jones gathered the community at Jonestown. He informed them that the congressman’s party would be killed and then initiated the final ritual- the ‘revolutionary suicide’ that the membership had rehearsed on prior occasions. The poison was brought out and was taken starting with the children.
But in spite of the notorious harm caused by these religious cults called churches and their leaders, so many people are still in spiritual bondage and are enslaved in these God forsaken pseudo – churches everywhere. Many of people left their roots where they started with Christ in search of Christ in the tiger’s stomach. So blind-folded by circumstances, they fail to understand that God is one anywhere and anytime. Any attempt to split God into different categories will produce a diary of gods.
Today, taking a look at the total diagnosis of Cults and comparing it to our present day churches, the leaders of these so called churches possess great gifts with which they entice and lure innocent people into believing they are God sent messiahs. They screen the Bible so well to extract the parts that will give them an opening to plant their demonic desires. They will make the Bible read what they want to hear and interpret it to suit their philosophy of life.
So, make sure that you examine where you worship in the light of God’s word and confirm it to be a true church of God. The Bible enjoins Christians to watch and pray so as not to fall into temptation; this is because any person could be deceived by these imposters. Once more, watch and pray.