Jonestown Massacre

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Jim Jones Jonestown Massacre Jimmy Jones is the name that I’ve kept for the sake of my life and what does it truly say about my legacy? The question is who am I? I’ve kept many aliases for myself throughout my life. James, Jim, and frequently Jim Jones. My uncle told me as a child when he was in college that one day your going to have people start calling you Jim and start shorting your name to Jim – Jones. I laughed, and this was year 1997. That was thirteen years until this day. But it has been almost three decades ago an unusual series of events led to the deaths of more than 900 people in the middle of a South American jungle.

Through dubbed a massacre, what transpired Jonestown on November 18th, 1978, was to some extent done willingly, making the mass suicide all the more disturbing. The Jonestown cult, also known as the “People’s Temple” was founded in 1955 by Indianapolis preacher Rev. James “Jim” Warren Jones (1931-1978). Jones, who had no formal theological training, based his enlightened ministry on a combination of religious and socialist philosophies. Teachings that in which helped people amongst all social classes to deal with pain, suffering, and to find purpose in to those that were in need for in their lives.

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The charismatic leader of Peoples Temple was born to James Thurman Jones and Lynetta Putman Jones in Crete, Indiana, on May 13, 1931. Although the family was irreligious, the younger Jones attended several local churches and by the age of ten was being groomed as child evangelist – as a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, by a female preacher. As a high school student, Jones met his wife Marceline Baldwin, at the same hospital in Richmond, Indiana, where the both of them worked.

Getting wed in 1949, and periodically attending the University of Indiana, Jones found himself dawn to the church atmosphere, despite his earlier expressions of skepticism. (1) He began an internship in 1952 at a Methodist church in Indianapolis but was expelled after he brought Blacks to his services. So for there he went on to establish his own congregation, Community Unity Church, which in 1955 became the well known, Peoples Temple. His ministry in Indianapolis, marked by Pentecostal and Holiness beliefs of life and black church tradition and style, attracted a very wide and diverse group of embers drawn to his message of racial equality and social justice. He and Marceline- his wife- adopted five children, including one white, one black, and three Koreans. He had a very lavished family to a go along with his beliefs upon modern life. So he gained a lot of attention and publicity. Jones’s work as a white minister was well recognized which led to his appointment as director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission in 1961, where he served briefly before traveling to Hawaii and South America.

When he returned two years later, in 1963 he pronounced and told the reduced Indianapolis congregation that the church must move to northern California to be safe in the event of nuclear war. A group of eighty parishiors relocated with the Jones family to Redwood Valley, a small town in California, north of San Francisco. There members began to live and work communally, donating wages and income from outside jobs. The group sponsored several residential homes and outpatient services for the mentally ill and mentally retarded, which Mrs. Jones- administered.

James “Jim” Jones continued to preach a socially through group gospel messages of service to the poor and encouraged expansion of the church to San Francisco, where membership grew with the actions of thousands of African Americans. The dynamic minister became a political force in San Francisco in the 1970s, a result of his delivering Peoples Temple members to demonstrations in support of freedom of the press, Native American rights, and antidevelopment efforts. (1) Local, state, and national politicians frequented the Temple, where they were warmly greeted.

The Temple also opened a church in Los Angeles, and during the mid- 1970s Jones preached at all three California congregations, traveling the length of the state in a Temple- funded and owned bus. He also led several cross- country caravans, preaching in Philadelphia, New York, and Midwestern cities that would include Milwaukee, and Chicago, cities in which attracted members at every stop. In 1974 Jones signed a lease t cultivate 3,852 acres in the Northwest District of Guyana, the only English- speaking country in South America.

Temple volunteers had been developing the site for three years when critical reports about the powerful and over charismatic minister emerged in San Francisco. But as the saying goes living life so lavishly can catch up to you. Former members claimed that Jones forced irrational decisions by encouraging corporal punishment to disobedient members that had faked faith healing and miracles. Some even claimed that Jones had ordered ex-members to be killed. Negative publicity, coupled with a federal tax investigation prompted Jones and a thousand members to immigrate from San Francisco to Guyana in 1977.

From the cultural standpoint Jones’s mental and physical health deteriorated in the tropical climate, and his leadership became more erratic and abusive, as an addiction to tranquilizers worsened. (1) I would assume his uses of tranquilizers were used of anti depressant purposes. A small leadership group, comprised mainly of women, Jones focused on what he believed were conspiracies against the community, now called Jonestown. His paranoia was the main reason he moved the cult to Guyana. In November 1978, California Congressman Leo A.

Ryan arrived in Guyana to investigate charges of kidnapping and abuse. And to also survey Jonestown and interview its inhabitants. After reportedly having his life threatened by a Temple member during the first day of his visit, Ryan decided to cut his to cut his trip short and return to the U. S. with some Jonestown residents who wished to leave. As they boarded their plane, a group of Jones’s guards opened fire, with a burst of gunshots killing Ryan and four others. A dozen others were wounded at the Port Kaituma airstrip, six miles from Jonestown. 2) Some members of Ryan’s party escaped however. Upon learning this, Jones told his followers that Ryan’s murder would make it impossible for their settlement to continue functioning. Rather than return to the United States, the People’s Temple would preserve their church by making the ultimate sacrifice; their own lives. As a tape recording made at the time indicates, Jones exhorted his followers to drink from a vat of poisoned punch. Jones’s 912 followers were given a deadly combination of a purple “grape kool- aid” drink mixed with potassium cyanide, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

Over more than 900 Americans died in a South American jungle upon the orders of Rev. James “Jim” Warren Jones (1931-1978), who had tried to create a socialist paradise that survivors called a slave camp. (2) Cyanide is generally considered to be a rare source of poisoning. It is a major contributor to the mobility observed in approximately 5,000 – 10,000 deaths from smoke inhalation occurring each year in the United States. (3) Chronic consumption of cyanide – containing foods eventually can result in optic neuropathy.

Consequently, the tissues with the highest oxygen requirements being the brain and heart are the most profoundly affected by acute cyanide poisoning. (3) Jim Jones criticized traditional Christianity for being complacent and hypocritical in the face of massive suffering and injustice, and he disparaged otherworldly religion, which neglected the here-and-now. He advocated a type of “apostolic socialism,” which followed the example of the early church (Acts 2:44–45, 4:32) in which everyone contributed to and shared in the common good.

He wrote The Letter Killeth, a pamphlet that identified contradictions and injustices in the Bible, and during some services he would throw the Bible onto the floor in disdain. (1) Modeling himself after Father Divine, the black leader of the Peace Mission, Jones encouraged followers to call him “Dad” or “Father. ” (2) As opposed to Divine and other charismatic preachers, however, Jones eschewed the trappings that usually accompany celebrity. He wore used clothing and secondhand shoes, traveled and ate with his members, and shared the same type of housing.

His modest lifestyle allowed him to have such worldly success. The mass suicide wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. During the week that preceded the dreadful event, Jones had conducted a series of suicide drills, according to survivors. An alarm call would sound and every person in the camp would line up to receive a fatal dosage. These exercises in insanity proved that all of the adults at the compound knew what would be the result of their actions. The People’s Temple did not start off as your average mind- controlling cult.

It initially gained much respect as an interracial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless. Jim Jones did not manifest his darker side until near the end. One has to wonder what lesson from history the Jonestown folks were trying to avoid repeating. It must have been something minor, like don’t go swimming right after a heavy meal or never run with scissors in your hands, because they obviously repeated every major error imaginable. Because the People’s Temple tragedy happened well over two decades ago, many of you are probably learning of it for the first time.

One reason this tragic event has faded from memory has to do with our natural tendency to try to forget incidents that have unhappy endings. I think its wrong for us to wish away Jonestown. The World of God never tries to hide or minimize people’s blunders. The reason we don’t see a whitewashing of biblical characters is so that we can learn from our mistakes. It is horrendous calamities for more than 900 people to lose their lives to a madman; to I have happened to share the same name with. I just found this topic so very interesting. But their mistake provides us with a valuable case study of what not to do.

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Jonestown Massacre. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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