ESPN recently aired a story about Reverend Jim Jones on its popular Sunday morning show Outside the Lines. Those of you who were around in the 70's might already know the Jim Jones story, but I had never even heard of Jim Jones before I watched this show. It was a very sad ending to a very sad story. I would like to give you a brief summary of the events that transpired and my thoughts on the story of Jim Jones and the Jonestown mass murder-suicide.
Reverend Jim Jones was the founder and leader of the People's Temple, a religious organization founded in 1955. The People's Temple was organized in California; the one place Jones thought could survive a nuclear holocaust. Jomes was able to recruit new members through manipulation and by his supposed miracle healings. The People's Temple moved to a secluded area in Guyana after there was an investigation over tax evasion. Jones envisioned setting up a utopian society based on socialistic principals, and his members truly thought they were going to make a difference in the world. Little did they know that their time left on earth was nearing an end.
Jim Jones was widely believed to be a drug and human rights abuser. He was always looking for positive press, but he also feared negative press. When a U.S. congressman came to visit with a number of People's Temple detractors, Jones staged a party based on the false announcement that the People's Temple basketball team won their game. When the congressman interviewed the People's Temple members, surprisingly most of them appeared happy. The congressman invited anyone who wanted to leave (about a dozen people) to join him back to the states, but when they were boarding the plane they were fired upon. The congressman and four others were killed and Jones knew this would bring bad press. This led to the unimaginable events that followed.
Children were ordered to go first to drink the poisonous kool-aid. Audio recored crying kids and Jones speaking of the necessity of the act. Just listening to this tape makes me sick to my stomach. It is unknown if all 900+ casualties committed suicide or if some were murdered, but judging by the tape it didn't sound like many wanted to die. The Jonestown mass murder-suicide occurred in 1978, but it is a prime example of what can happen in a culture of death. People can easily be manipulated to believe just about anything, and when fanatical leaders have the power to manipulate people, tragedies like this are possible.
Over 900 people were murdered or convinced to commit suicide by a fanatic who thought he was solving society's problems through a revolutionary suicide. We must never let anyone convince us that abortion or premature death is right. Life is priceless, and the cowardly act of suicide is never the answer to our problems. The basketball players are among the few People's Temple members that survived this terrible tragedy. Tonight I ask that you pray for the victims and survivors who lost someone in the Jonestown mass murder-suicide. Pray that a similar tragedy will never again occur.