Jim Jones – Over 900 People Died because they Didn’t Know the Truth, Will It Happen Again?
By Rock Kitaro
December 11, 2017
On November 18th, 1978, a man named Jim Jones somehow managed to convince over 900 individuals to drink cyanide and take their own lives. You could read it that way. You could also read it as, On November 18th, 1978, over 900 individuals allowed themselves to be manipulated by Jim Jones into taking their own lives. But the thing is, over 300 of them were children. So, my heart is soften and reserved from being too harsh.
Then, recently, in an article I shared about how Christians don’t want to discriminate against gays, I engaged a stranger in a conversation about the differences between race and sexual orientation. I told him the practice of homosexuality involved actions, such as intercourse or the actual act of getting married, while race is something about your appearance you can’t do anything about one way or another. He countered with, “So do you suggest…”
I had to stop there.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Where in the Bible does it say…”
I’m like…you’d know if you read it. Then you come at me with conviction instead of skepticism. Have the courage to declare your interpretations and I will lovingly engage you to correct or be corrected. But when you reach a certain maturity, you can tell fairly early on whether the person’s inquiry is to learn or to attack.
So when the young man asked, “So do you suggest….” I had to stop there because I knew. Or rather, I saw what this young man was doing. And it reminded me of the followers of Jim Jones who died that fateful day on November 18th 1978.
When I read and watched a documentary about how over 900 individuals died by drinking Kool-Aid cyanide in Guyana, I cried. It was tears of frustration. My fists were clenched. And as angry as I was with that asshole Jim Jones for having led his flock astray, I think I was more pissed about people missing out on the truth. Had they just taken up the Bible and read for themselves what’s what. They might have been saved from having gone to Guyana in the first place.
Too many times I’ve seen individuals throw out scriptures here and there in debates like ammunition from a sniper rifle. I can hit you with a New Testament scripture. You can counter with an Old Testament scripture. But if we don’t know the context, is it really doing anything?
I know I’m all over the place with this essay but allow me to explain what happened in 1978. It began with an evangelical Disciple of Christ named Jim Jones. Now, I wasn’t alive in the 1970s, but I’ve read a few things. America had just come out of a turbulent 60s where influential leaders were assassinated left and right. Racial injustices were skyrocketing, revolution was in the air. Essentially, the timing was ripe for a religious leader to take a stand and grab the reins.
Jim Jones did just that. He was charismatic. Fiery. Passionate. More than that, he had the ability to transmit his passion from himself to another. I credit this as a gift. We’ve all seen it once or twice in our lives. Individuals, who could move entire crowds with a single speech. Paul Pierce once mentioned how Doc Rivers could give pre-game speeches that would have you believing you could run through walls. This is indeed a gift.
Couple that with the profession of having God on your side, then you truly become something extraordinarily powerful. And here’s where things get a bit dicey.
I’m weary of mentioning Hitler as an example of it because I believe, at heart, he was more in lined with Nietzsche’s philosophy of the Ubermensch. Hitler used his ability to move crowds more in the sense of nationalism not religion. Nevertheless, that fervor led to his countrymen doing a number unspeakable acts.
And before I continue, let me just stop you if you’re one of those who are just looking for counters. Yes, Christians have done horrible things too. The point of this entire article is to be weary of those who use religion or philosophy to convince their followers to do bad things.
Now then, where was I? Ah, yes. Historical examples of passionate leaders able to move crowds. I suppose the biggest example that comes to mind is L. Ron Hubbard. (stops to listen if anyone’s breaking in).
For those who don’t know, L. Ron Hubbard is
credited as the Founder of Scientology. I’ve dabbled a bit in his philosophies back in 2010, I’ve read up about his background and most recently, watched a highly detailed documentary about him, featuring several of his followers who were once high-ranking members. These followers eventually came to see the truth for themselves and had some critical things to say about Scientology. Even L. Ron Hubbard’s first wife had some pretty shocking things to say about his motives. I’m not going to go into all that. I’d just encourage you to watch “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” to determine for yourself what’s what.
The thing Jim Jones and L.Ron Hubbard have in common, in my opinion (based on what I’ve learned about them), is that they are hypocrites. And my heart palpitates to say that about L. Ron Hubbard after learning about the tactics his followers use to silence dissenters. Again, watch the documentary and decide for yourself.
But first, let’s break down what a hypocrite is. Because I notice that society has a way of bending and expanding definitions to mean whatever they want it to mean.
A hypocrite is someone engaging in hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. That’s one definition of it. I believe this is the best definition of it. I would use Merriam-Webster, but alas, that organization is guilty to updating and changing definitions to go along with the times. (nothing’s sacred anymore)
The reason why it’s important to nail down the definition is because I believe it should be distinguished from the word, contradiction. Hypocrisy and contradiction is not the same. Otherwise, all parents are natural hypocrites. But that’s not the case.
If I’m a parent, and I tell my child not to drink beer. And then I go ahead and open up a cold one. This does not make me a hypocrite. However, if I go so far as to say, “You should not drink beer because it ruins your life and its evil.” Then wait for you to go away and drink it when you’re not looking. Then you’re a hypocrite. Get it?
This is why the word, hypocrite, was usually designated for the clergy or politicians standing on high moral grounds. Because they were preaching one thing, but behind closed doors, doing the opposite of what they preached.
Jim Jones was indeed the ultimate hypocrite. He claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ, even going so far to put on elaborate displays of his healing power in his church. I’ve seen testimony of individuals colluding with him. Pretending to be sick or injured only to have Jim Jones heal them in the middle of a sermon as if it was a divine miracle! I’ve read how he preached the casting off of material possessions and living as Jesus Christ lived modesty. He encouraged hundreds to leave their earthly possessions, their former lives behind and join him. And that sounds great. Truly it does. But he talked about joining him. Jim Jones. Not Jesus.
Eventually, Jim Jones went so far as to throw the Bible from the pulpit out into the nave of the church, saying, “WE DON’T NEED IT!” And it was met with thunderous applause. I encourage everyone to read this friends’ article about Jones’ derision of the good book, as Kristian Klippenstein goes into great detail how Jones manipulates and twists meanings, doing as I suspect so many do today, taking scriptures out of context and rubbing them in the dirt. – http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=34280
And ladies and gentlemen, the only reason why people like Jones can get away with it is because of a lack of personal theocratic responsibility. How can you have a relationship with God if you don’t know Him? And if you don’t know him, but know of Him, don’t you know how dangerous it is to be led astray?
It reminds me of a quote from the movie, “The Robe.” It goes along the lines of “Because men claim to seek the truth, but they can hardly live with it.”
We are all humans. God knows our flesh makes us weak. Our heart pulls us one way, our minds another. So when that friend conversing with me about homosexuality asks, “Do you suggest…” I had to stop because I knew, this man shouldn’t be asking what I would suggest. I am but a man. Man cannot lean upon their own understanding. What he should be asking is, “Does God suggest…”
Why don’t people ask this anymore? I’ve been pondering the question and I’ve discerned that there’s so many reasons. It could be because humans know in the depths of their heart that what they are doing is wrong, and the very idea of reading scriptures to confirm their doubts terrifies them. Because they can no longer claim ignorance and thus, will be held accountable.
Also, there’s the reason of feeling burdened by the Bible. If you read something in the Bible that conflicts with who you are in your heart, it’s tremendous. It’s like…what do you do? Homosexuality comes to mind, because it’s an issue in current events. And if I may, I’d like to reveal something about myself here.
I don’t know what it’s like to be born with the inclination to be attracted to the same sex. However, I do remember a time when I was attracted to another man. I was eighteen. I’ll see if I can find the music video. Back then, I was very much into J-pop music. The lead singer of a group called L’Arc En Ciel had a music video called “Blurry Eyes” and in it, the lead singer had long hair, and was wearing a dress. And I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s gorgeous!”
Of course, lo and behold. I found out he was a man. Apparently in Japan, the androgynous look was/is somewhat fashionable. But I delved into the concepts of sexuality and attraction. And I thank God for guiding me to and from this dangerous territory. And it was dangerous for me. Because I could have very well allowed my heart to follow that leaning and call myself Bi-Sexual.
As a man, I’m attracted to women who look like women. If you’re a man dressed up and dolled to look like a woman, I don’t feel ashamed for having been tricked. I can acknowledge you are indeed beautiful. But I won’t be attracted to you. Carmen Elektra is beautiful. But I’m not attracted to her. The same goes for all married women. The same goes for my cousins, family members who have very beautiful features. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging their beauty, but to let your heart lust for that which is abominable in God’s eyes is wrong.
And if you’re dealing with that. If you’ve read the Bible and saw something that conflicted with who you believe you are, or what you want, or what you desire, the burden is extremely heavy. It can drive one to deep depression and even suicide. Thus, the Bible can be a bit scary. I know. Truly, I understand. I understand because I’ve allowed my mind to explore and see the world from the perspectives of others.
But here’s the thing. And if you take nothing from this, I truly hope you believe what I’m about to say. Just like there are men and women who truly understand what you’re going through, whether they’re your parents, your best friend, a therapist, psychiatrist, a teacher or a coach.
Take solace in knowing that God also understands, better than anyone else on Earth. I promise you, He does.
He created the heavens and the earth. All the stars, every single grain of sand, every molecule and atom was design explicitly by God. You were merely born in the 20th Century or later. He’s seen everything, EVERYTHING that’s come before you. He knows the depths of our hearts because he created us. He doesn’t want to see us suffer. He doesn’t want to see you depressed or in pain. He knows what you’ve done. And still…he’s waiting for you to come back to him. Because He loves you.
Some of his most endearing servants, like David, Noah, Moses, Samson, Gideon, all of them have failed him in more ways than one, but still he showed them grace and salvation. The Israelites, God’s chosen people whom he led from captivity in Egypt. Who betrayed Him by building a Golden Calf and committing idolatry, not once, but twice.
Even after he brought them to the promise land, eliminating their enemies, feeding them, handing them decisive victories and bringing them peace, the Israelites turned to worshiping false Gods. Despite all of that, God loved them and stayed with them. He disciplined them with famine, military losses, and captivity. But he did it because he loved them. To get them to turn away from doing what is bad.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I know all of this because I’ve read the Bible in its entirety. I am far from perfect. My heart is dark and my thoughts can be wicked as hell. So many times I’ve cried reading the Bible, feeling that terrible burden I spoke of. Just to share one.
I believe the first time I wept reading the Bible was with the story of Jephtah in the Book of Judges. This military leader of Israel was the son of a prostitute who rose to prominence. Then, hastily, he vowed to God that he’d sacrifice the first person who exits his house to greet him if God would deliver a military victory. Tragically, the first person who exited his house was his beloved daughter. From what I read, he kept his vow and indeed sacrificed his daughter. (Judges 11:34-40)
This burdened me so, because I also made a vow to God. I did it in haste and on a whim and it was foolish of me because I did not think it would ever be a problem. When I was 21, I missed the Memorial of Jesus Christ. I begged for forgiveness and said, “If you forgive me, I promise I’ll stay a virgin until I get married.”
That might not seem like a big deal depending on who you are. But back when I made that vow, I was about 378lbs, I considered myself highly undesirable and honestly believed no woman would ever want me. So the vow was easy to make. Fast forward five years…well, I don’t want to brag but suffice to say, I’ve made vast improvements on my appearance. Culture has changed so much that, it is popular opinion and widely accepted that you should have sex before you get married.
I’ve had girlfriends. I told them, that I wouldn’t have sex until I was in love with them as some kind of compromise on the vow I made. But after reading the Bible in its entirety, I fully intend on keeping that vow in its entirety. I’m a 31-year-old virgin. While I take pride in keeping my vow with God, it is somewhat of a burden living in this current system of things. I’ve missed out on several promising relationships. My last girlfriend even went so far as to jokingly say:
“Haha! Usually it’s the man trying to get in the girl’s pants, but with you, it’s the other way around.”
Yep. That’s not emasculating at all.
Still…in reading the Bible, I’ve found encouragement in keeping my vow. I’ve seen how God rewards those who keep their word. Hannah is a good example of this. If you’ll recall, Hannah was the second wife to a man who had a son through his second wife. Hannah was apparently barren, and the second wife ridiculed her for it.
So when they went to the temple that year, Hannah prayed for a child and promised that if He would bless her, she’d hand him over to God’s service. Hannah prayed and believed and behold, she gave birth to the prophet Samuel. And she kept her word, handing Samuel over to the priest Eli. And God rewarded her with five more children.
The point of my sharing my experience, particular this one, is several. In the point of homosexuality, I’ve had people tell me, “So what, I’m not suppose to have sex then? If that’s what my heart is telling me? Am I supposed to remain celibate my entire life?”
I think, having read this far, you know the answer to that question. I think one of the main reasons why they’re soliciting a response from a mere human instead of inquiring of God through means of the Bible is because they can then counter with that cliché response of, “Well you shouldn’t judge me. God created me. So who are you to say what’s right and what’s wrong.”
With people like that, all I can say is “this is what the Bible says. The decision of what to do and think is yours.”
And the beauty of that response is the reminder of an essential quality so many overlook. “Free Will.” With Free Will, you can do whatever you want. Even in a Secular society, devoid of religion, you still have free will. But your free will, the decisions you make in handling your free will has consequences. In Ecclesiastes 8:11 it says “Because sentence against a bad deed has not been executed speedily, the heart of man becomes emboldened to do what is bad.”
So when you see what everyone else is doing and feel bad because you think it’s not fair that you can’t do the same. Remember that scripture. It’s not to tell yourself, “Yeah, they’ll get what’s coming to them.” But it’s a greater understanding of why everything looks good and fun, when in God’s eyes, it may not be.
Well, Rock! How do you know what’s good in God’s eyes? I’ve seen pastors with million dollar homes and fancy cars and the hottest wives. You trying to tell me that’s all bad? I want that! What’s up!
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
Start there. Instead of questioning other humans about their understanding God with the intentions making that the deciding factor of whether or not you believe, take responsibility for yourself and seek the answers from the source. I honestly believe, with the exception of the children who should do as their parents instruct, the 900 individuals who died on November 18th 1978 might have avoided that untimely demise if they took responsibility in reading the Bible in its entirety.
The illustration I see so vividly from that day in history is one…I am very much afraid of it happening again but on a much larger scale, one with a death toll so high it’s very much unfathomable. Only this time, it won’t be confined to the religious being led astray by those twisting scriptures for their own selfish gains. But also humans abandoning religion due to the influence of entertainment and fear of the court of public opinion.
In the book of Revelations, there’s illustrations of one third of the population being wiped out by plagues (Rev – 9:15). And as a Christian that hurts me. I don’t want anyone to die. But even if my body is destroyed, I have faith that I’ll see my loved ones again. That hope is what Jesus taught his followers to go out and share. But if people ignore his teachings, disregard the Bible and do whatever is good in their own eyes, what salvation is there for them?
In this John MacArthur Study Bible I’m reading, the author describes Revelation as the book that records the end of human existence. Just think about that. Actually pause, and think about the end of human existence.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve shared a lot with you. I’ve talked to you about hypocrites and manipulators, and followers who were led astray, costing them their lives. This isn’t to say that congregations, or churches, or pastors aren’t good. In the Old Testament, it’s pretty clear that God loves the praising from assemblies. The important thing is that regardless of what’s being preached, it’s on you as an individual to take personal responsibility for what you believe.
Don’t fall prey to theocratic laziness. God knows our heart. If our motives are to refrain from seeking the truth so we can claim oblivion when we have to answer to Him, he will know (Romans 14:10-18)
I know you might have questions. I know there’s a lot left to be desired. I didn’t write this to attack or impose, but to share. To encourage. To uplift. I love you my brothers and sisters. I care for your families. I care for the sinners and I care about the non-believers. I don’t care about people like Jim Jones, those who know the truth but choose to defy it. I know I should forgive people like him, but that’s something I still need work on.
The answers you’re looking for are all in the Bible. Trust me, it’s not all doom and gloom. To me, it’s more of a history book in which so many marvelous lessons are taught. You just pick it up and start reading. Don’t stop. Even when you get to some part of it that conflicts with your very being. I urge you to keep reading. The explanations are there. Don’t be afraid. If God sees you trying he will shepherd you. You just have to believe.
If I may, allow me to leave you with perhaps the most encouraging chapter I’ve read in the entire Bible. I hope it leaves you with a smile on your face the way it did with me.
Psalms Chapter 32, written by David, inspired by God.
1, Happy is the one whose transgression is pardoned, whose sin is covered.
2 Happy is the man whom Jehovah does not charge with guilt, In whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away because of my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength evaporated like water in the dry summer heat.
5 Finally I confessed my sin to you;I did not cover my error. I said: “I will confess my transgressions to God.” And you pardoned the error of my sins.
6 This is why every loyal one will pray to you. While you may yet be found. Then even the floodwaters will not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;You will safeguard me from distress. You will surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.
8 “I will give you insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give you advice with my eye upon you.
9 Do not become like a horse or a mule, without understanding, Whose spiritedness must be controlled with a bridle or a halter Before it will come near to you.”
10 Many are the pains of the wicked; But the one trusting in God is surrounded by His loyal love. Rejoice in God and be joyful, you righteous ones; Shout joyfully, all you who are upright in heart.