* Jim Jones and the People Temple * When you think of Jim Jones and the People Temple the first thing that comes to mind is a mass suicide, not only involving one specific sex or race, but involving men, women, and children of all races. However, do we ever take the time to sit down and look into what Jim Jones and the People Temple actually stood for? There must be a reason behind all the things that were done. Behind the reason Pastor Jim Jones preached what he did and had such a major impact on the members of the People’s Temple. People take leadership in many things throughout everyday life.
Yes, some on more significant levels than others. There are leaders of groups, companies, churches, and even leaders of cults or whole nations. Every leader has their own way of going about things, but James Warren Jones just went to a greater extent. * James Warren Jones was born May 13, 1931 in Indiana to parents James Thurman Jones and Lynetta Putnam. Jones claimed his father was associated with the Ku Klux Klan. Growing up Jones was seen as a weird child, with a great obsession for religion and death. It was brought to the attention that he would perform funerals for animals and even killed a cat with a knife.
In his family his father did not work, while his mother worked to support the family. So Jones grew up as a wild child just on his own. In the documentation, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Jones brings out how when growing up there was “feeling as an outcast, I’d early developed a sensitivity for the problems of blacks”. (Nelson) This brought Jones at an early age to not segregate against African Americans. When the separation of Jones’ parents occurred he moved with his mother Lynetta to Richmond where he graduated early from Richmond High School in 1948.
Jones then attended Indiana University at Bloomington. * The People Temple also known as the Jonestown Cult was founded in Indianapolis, in 1955 by James Warren Jones. James and wife Marceline Baldwin, who married in 1949 bought a building and moved the church there, changing the name to Wings of Deliverance Church. However, later that year the church was renamed again to The People Temple Full Gospel Church. In 1960 Jim and Marceline were the first to adopt an African American child into their white family in Indianapolis. After many years of ministry here in Indianapolis, Jones and his family did some study.
When they returned the first demonstration of power that he had amongst the People Temple members was brought out. “Jones announced to his congregation that his family would be moving to Redwood Valley, California. He encouraged the members of Peoples Temple to relocate with him. ” (Maaga 2) Just from looking at this statement Jones was able to persuade his members to move with him. The reason he gave the members was that Ukiah was one of 9 places on earth that would survive a Nuclear Attack. Jones got about 70 or more members to relocate to Redwood Valley, California in 1965.
They spent a few years growing as a church getting new members starting with a few here and there. Finally, the “People Temple was able to build a church of their own in Redwood Valley, which the group named Happy Acres. ”(Maaga 3) Once this occurred the number of members grew significantly especially since the ministry was expanded to urban blacks of Los Angeles and San Francisco, leading to the opening of two more churches in 1970 and 1972. * The People’s Temple was gathering more and more members as it went on. Over summer they would take bus trips and go around preaching to places.
The purpose of these bus trips was to gather more members and spread the word. People would hear Jim Jones speak and pack their things and get on the bus with them. The members of the People Temple were a majority of African American people. Members themselves would say how, “Jim sounded like a black man, he fit right in. ” (Nelson) So it was as if there was some kind of connection between them that they just understood each other in some way. What kind of things was Rev. Jim Jones preaching that had these people jumping for joy? The main message of the Peoples Temple was, “The Dream is Alive. (Nelson) Jones claimed that there was no heaven up there; you have to make a haven down here. For what you see is what you know. He would preach to people that he would be whatever they wanted him to be, “if you see me as your friend I’ll be your friend, if you see me as your father I’ll be your father, if you see me as your God I’ll be your God”(Nelson). When hearing this and listening to him preach the members just ate up every word he said and most never questioned any of it. There were defiantly things being done wrong within the church. The biggest one was his sexual approach of things. Jones used sex to tie people to the group. Like a matinee idol or some politicians, he promoted himself as the ultimate sex object”. (Reiterman 172) He would offer himself to men and women of the church. To him everyone was a homosexual and he was the only heterosexual, and all sexual relationships between people were selfish. It was getting out of control one man even brought out how,“Jones’s sex life is really getting kinky. One of my friends heard him say he can go to bed with any of the girls when they reach eighteen. ”(Kerns 132-133). How could any pastor think such a thing?
These are young women just entering their adult stage and you want to go to bed with them now that there legal. That is disgustingly wrong to even have that thought cross your mind. These are not the only things wrong with the church. There were beatings taken place and family members turning against one another. If one wanted to leave they couldn’t say goodbye for it was like the Gestapo in Germany and they would report them. Pretty much once you got involved with the People’s Temple there was no way out. Even though all this unrightfully stuff was going on within the church, it is still known that “he had power, there was no doubt about it. (Kerns 40) He has had such an impact on people that no matter what he does, members still fear him and his doings. Jones liked to keep things secret and he didn’t like his members leaving. They feared leaving the temple for they feared what may happen to them. Many changed their names, tried to get family to also get out of the church with them but one was on their own. Any “fraternizing with an outsider was no small sin. ” (Kerns 75) and punishments were defiantly assigned. Phil Kerns, author of People’s Temple People’s Tomb, talks about the actions he took while part of the Temple and even once he got out.
His punishment for associating with a teacher about things other than homework was that no one was allowed to talk to him for 48 hours, a whole 2 days. Rev. Jim Jones was a God to people. One man named Archie James told a household member of Jones that, “The only God I believe in is Jim Jones. ”. (Kerns 58) For someone to call this man there god is crazy; they must have really been touched by the words he had to say. The decision to go to Guyana as soon as possible happened pretty much over night. A newspaper article was coming out the next morning about Jim Jones and how they should investigate him.
The article had information from a former member. She read what was going to be printed to Jones over the phone the day before and he made the decision then to have everyone flown over. Guyana was a location in South America that was being built for the People Temple. It was in the middle of the forest. A plan of 90 members went in December of 1975 to check the progress of the community and the building. “Footage showing the first there looked like freedom everyone wanted to go”. (Nelson) There was letters and footage getting sent back of people just loving it there. The people that were not there were jealous and just could not wait.
The night that everyone flew over, people just packed belongings and took family members. Some people came home to find that their wives took their children and valuables. Leaving with nothing behind as to where they were going. People that did not get out to Guyana then came out later and could not wait to get there. In Guyana the only radio that was there and played was one of Rev. Jim Jones talking. It went on all day and all night. “There was no other radio and no television, or contact with family members in the states. No matter where you were you heard the radio going. (Nelson) There were spies or undercover people that would go around and see who wanted to leave. People were turning others in. You were told if someone said they wanted to leave you must report them. There were people and groups out there to help those who wanted to escape. Jeannie Mills, who had changed her name from Deanna Mertle for protection against Jim Jones, “formed a new organization, a nonprofit corporation called the Human Freedom Center. If we couldn’t stop the madness that was happening in Jonestown, at least we would be able to help people who escaped or who had found their way out of other cult groups”. Mills 84) So there were people out there ready to help those trying to escape. It was getting a hold of them and then finding the right person that was the problem. Families were worried about their loved ones that just up and left to Guyana. They were protesting and contacting the Congressman Leo Ryan to do something about the disappearance of these family members to Guyana with the Peoples Temple. So Congressman Ryan and a group of reporters took a trip over to Guyana in order to find some answers to their questions.
Never, in any of our meetings, did we think to discuss what to do if the congressman and four of the newsmen were attacked. ” (Mills 86) The congressman investigated it and the People temple welcomed them. Singing and going about as if nothing was wrong and the people wanted to be there. Then people started slipping notes to them saying to save them and get them out of here. That is when they started to question. In the Documentation it brings out how one boy yelled “he is passing notes” when a member of the people temple put a note in the arm of the camera man saying, “help get out”.
The note had fallen and the member mentioned that he dropped a piece of paper and gave it to him. It was then that the Congressman brought it to the attention that some people wanted to leave. Rev. Jim Jones tried to convince people to stay but they had their mind set to leave. This caused commotion in the temple. On November 18, 1978 “A knife attack on Ryan by Temple member Don Sly left only a superficial wound but had a chilling effect on the delegation and community. ” (Magga 5) This was their clue to get their stuff and leave. When they arrived to the Port Kaituma airstrip a truck that followed taunted them.
Then blocked entrance to the forest and opened fire. Congressman Leo Ryan was killed along with 4 other people. Once this occurred Rev. Jim Jones took matters into his own hands. Within hours James Warren Jones and his followers were all dead. He called for everyone to go into the pavilion and told them that the congressman was dead and they must go so that they do not torture them for this. “You think they are going to allow us to get by with this? You must be insane. They’ll torture our children here. They’ll torture our people. We cannot have this. If we can’t live in peace, we’ll die in peace. (Nelson) These are the words Jones told the people while they brewed the poison drink, which contained cyanide. This was the thing that killed most of the people of Jonestown. “Vast majority of whom died by ingesting a cyanide-laced beverage” (Magga 1) Jones will serving the drinks still talked to the people telling them how they did not commit suicide but committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world. It was horrible no statement was made just a waist of many live. 913 people killed Jones killed by a possible self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
So as you can see this cult was filled with lots of lies and untold stories. The belief and lies that was filled into the members head brought them all to suicide. One man and his control over all these people, brainwashing them so that they cannot see for themselves the wrongs and rights of what was happening. Many lives were lost and few were saved. Families lost brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, nieces and nephews. All loved ones who took their life under one man’s command. Some may call it a mass suicide others may call it murder, but behind all of that this is what the members of the People’s Temple believed.