A brutal critique of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.
Jim Jones 1 A brutal critique of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple

James Warren Jones, known as Jim Jones, was born in Crete, Indiana, in 1931. He was an introverted child who preferred to spend his time reading books over playing with friends.

Jim lived his childhood in poverty because of the Great Depression.

Thanks to that same socio-political scenario, the racist organization, the Klux Klux Klan (KKK), was living in its golden days. They helped the broken whites regain their self-esteem while imposing themselves over the Afro-Americans.

Jim’s father, James Thurman Jones, was one of the KKK members.

Despite his father’s ideas, Jim Jones grew up with a legitimate obsession for human rights.

He was a weird kid who spent hours to days studying religion and reading about Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler.

The little Jones was obsessively curious about death. He used his parents’ garden to perform ritual funerals for animals, many of them killed by him.

Despite this creepy habit, Jones made his way to adulthood, showing a brilliant intellect and a lovely passion for humanitarian causes.

He began attending gatherings of the Communist Party in 1951 but soon realized the risk of openly being a communist in the 1950s.

In 1952, he joined the Somerset Southside Methodist Church and became a student pastor. The church was the perfect cover for his ideological purposes.

He left the Methodist Church just one year later after being forbidden by its leaders to interact with black people in the congregation.

Despite his young age, brave Jim Jones declared outrage at the racism in his religious community and decided to start his own church, opening it to all ethnic groups.

An ideological but pragmatic man, Jones also understood at a young age the importance of having financial resources to accomplish his social cause. After watching a faith-healing service at the Seventh Day Baptist Church, he realized how potentially profitable it was.

In 1956, Jones realized his first religious convention, managing to attract some big names of the evangelist community. The success of the event was enough to consolidate his church, called Peoples Temple.

In 1960, Jim Jones was appointed director of the Indianapolis Civil Rights Commission. He saw his new position as the perfect opportunity to gain more visibility on the radio and tv.

As a charismatic leader, Jones inspired the crowds through words and action. He actively participated in the racial integration of churches, hospitals, restaurants, and other services.

After a collapse in 1961, Jones was placed by accident in the black zone of a public hospital. He not only refused to be moved but started assisting the black patients, cleaning their rooms, and emptying their chamber pots. After that, the hospital stopped dividing the patients according to their color.

Constant threats and attempts to his life from white supremacists didn’t stop Jones. His congregation kept growing, and he became an influential person in the US political sphere.

Jones and his wife adopted several non-white children and inspired other congregation members to do the same.

Jim Jones seemed to be a man of God and a man of the people. Yet, in 1962, his first sights of insanity started coming to the surface. He made his first travel to South America, seeking refuge from the possibility of a nuclear war.

Back in the US, he prophesized a nuclear war to be unleashed in August 1967, changing the world into a socialist Eden. He then exhorted his congregation to move to Northern California, where they would be protected from the nuclear bombs.

He started becoming more openly socialist. He once preached to his congregation:

“You’re gonna help yourself, or you’ll get no help! There’s only one hope of glory; that’s within you! Nobody’s gonna come out of the sky! There’s no heaven up there! We’ll have to make heaven down here!”

On one occasion, he slammed the bible on the pulpit, yelling, “I must destroy this paper idol.”

At another sermon, he spoke:

“There’s no God. I see there some still not aware of what God is. God is perfect freedom, the justice equality and thus the only thing that brings justice freedom and equality, perfect love and all of its beauty and holiness, is Socialism. So, Socialism is God.”

As Jim Jones’s lack of judgment grew, his congregation also expanded, setting branches in many Californian cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. The First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, spoke at the grand opening of the San Francisco headquarters. His political influence got so big that, in 1975, a mayor couldn’t be elected in San Francisco without Jones’s blessing.

Jones forged powerful alliances with politicians and media outlets. He was at the top of his career. However, what was going on under the surface was a much more bizarre story.

The public services were essentially a Saturday’s show for the outside public.

Meanwhile, the congregational members were demanded to assist services three or four times per week. Some of them would take night shifts. In the ceremonies, they were required to write their confessions on sheets of paper, sign their names and give them to Jones. As proof of faith, they were also demanded to sign papers in blank and hand them to their pastor.

Jim Jones 1 1 A brutal critique of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple

The members were urged to sell their houses and other goods, donate money to the congregation, and live in the church.

Slowly, Jones’s practices deviated further and further from the equality he preached.

His disciples were forbidden to have sex, except with him. Jones had sex with many of his female disciples and fathered some of their children. He declared himself “the only true heterosexual man” but had many homosexual intercourses with members of his congregation. According to him, he did it only for the men’s own good to symbolically seal their connection with him.

Jones also conducted “catharsis sessions,” where those who didn’t behave according to his principles (which involved donating all their money and being subservient to him) were put in the center of the church to be verbally attacked by the rest of the congregation.

Over time, the penitential practice evolved into physical aggression. Around 100 members would line up while the rest (around 1,000 people) would beat them with paddles for small infractions, such as not paying enough attention to Jones’s speech.

Many of the congregation members had renounced everything, including their houses, jobs, friends, and external worlds. It was almost impossible for them to break the spell and leave; they had nowhere else to go. Those who tried to leave were harassed and threatened by Jones and congregation members.

Jones studied Nazism for years, fascinated by Hitler’s power to command the masses. He also learned from the cult leader, Reverend Father Divine, to give his flock an enemy, engage them in the fight, unify them, and make them subservient.

Jones pushed for desegregation and the fair treatment of Black Americans, adopting a “fight the power” stance that endeared him to many followers and new converts, keeping his congregation together.

In 1977, journalists Marshall Kilduff and Phill Tracy managed to trespass Jones’s screen of smoke and gathered explosive testimonials of ex-members who managed to escape Jones’s grasp. They published them in an article called “Inside Peoples Temple,” causing Jones’s abrupt evasion to Guyana, South America.

Together with Jones, around 1,000 disciples traveled to Guyana’s rural settlement, which they named Jonestown. After their arrival, members were not allowed to leave the settlement.

Concerned with what was happening in Jonestown, Peoples Temple defectors, together with relatives of those who followed Jones to Guyana, formed the “Concerned Relatives” group. They pressed the US government to investigate the settlement. The movement received repercussions after a member of Jonestown’s congregation managed to escape and provide the group and the press with detailed reports of the human rights violations happening in the settlement.

In November 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan went to Jonestown, heading an investigative commission composed by journalists and relatives of the temple members.

They were received and hosted by Jones, but three days after their arrival, a man tried to stab Ryan in the temple, hurrying the commission to leave the next day. They managed to bring 15 members of the congregation with them.

Tragically, the commission only managed to travel four miles. They were boarding two small airplanes in Port Kaituma when Jone’s “Red Brigade” attacked them with guns.

At the same time, one of the supposed defectors drew a gun and started shooting the people in the second airplane. Five people, including Congressman Ryan, were killed.

Later that same day, Jones gathered his devotes to deliver his last speech. There were 909 people (304 of them were children). He said that capitalist organizations against the temple were about to parachute to torture their children, people, and seniors. According to Jones, the invaders would torture the children and convert them into fascists.

He then exhorted the congregation to drink a mix of cyanide and flavor-aid and a sedative to leave their bodies and be together in another plane.

Jones and his 908 disciples all died that day tragically on August 18, 1978.

L. Ron Hubbard 1 A brutal critique of L. Ron Hubbard and his teachings

A brutal critique of L. Ron Hubbard and his teachings

wf fbshare sales Is WildFit by Eric Edmeades worth it? Here’s my honest review

Is WildFit by Eric Edmeades worth it? Here’s my honest review