Jonestowm Essay

This essay has a total of 2221 words and 9 pages.


jonestowm





Jonestown: The Terror Within.
Cults have existed throughout history since the beginning of time. A cult is defined in
Webster’s dictionary as a “system of religious worship with a devoted
attachment to a person, principle, etc.” Over the past thirty years numerous
religious cults have caused “ tens of thousands to abandon their families, friends,
education’s, and careers to follow the teaching of a leader they will never
meet”(Beck 78).

Opinions vary as to why people are drawn to cults. “Martin Marty, professor of
religious history at the University of Chicago, attributes the growth of cults to the
frustrations of seemingly rootless people”(U.S. News and World Report 23).
Marty’s classification of a rootless person is a person who is overly frustrated by
modern life and is at a loss for direction. Often the rootless individual will
“short-circuit and try to hook their lives to any guiding spirit” (U.S. News
and World Report 23).

The psychological classification of people who join cults are those who feel neglected by
their society. ”Cults are picking up on these people who feel their interests have
been overlooked” (U.S. News and World Report 23).

The sociological studies on cults and those who join them have found “that many of
the converts are young people, often without strong family ties, who are unsuccessful in
dealing with life’s problems and are seeking instant solutions supplied by
others” (U.S. News and World Report 23).

The People’s Temple was religious cult founded and lead by Jim Jones, based in
Jonestown, Guyana. The converts belonging to Peoples Temple may have joined for various
reasons differing from one another, yet the one common bond they all shared was Jim Jones.
They loved Jim, they feared Jim, and eventually they died for Jim .

Jim Jones was “a self-proclaimed messiah in a polyester suit, a man who played God
from behind mysterious dark glasses that gave his followers the impression that he was
omniscient”( Axthelm 54). Born in 1931 in Lynn, Indiana to James Thurmond and
Lynetta Jones, he was looked upon by his parents as a gift from Saint Francis.
Jim’s father was white and an active member of the Ku Klux Klan. His mother was part
Cherokee which lead Jim in later years to refer to himself with pride as an “
All-American mongrel”

The Jones family was financially in the lower class. Jim’s father fell sick and
died early in Jim’s life leaving Lynetta to raise and support Jim on her own. Hard
times and lack of money lead to Lynetta occasionally having to work in a factory twenty
miles away from their home. Jim still being a youngster was left in the care of a
neighbor. Even though Jim and his mother were separated frequently they still kept close
ties with each other.

Jim was brought up as a Methodist. He became quickly fascinated with the pulpit oratory.
Vera Price, a childhood playmate remembers, ”He’d always be the preacher,
standing up making sermons”(Axthelm 54). Even at the young age of seven Vera,
recalls Jim’s speeches encouraging strict discipline. She remembers occasions when
Jim was playing with other children and “he’d hit them with a stick and make
them cry. He had a power that most boys don’t have”(Axthelm 54). As Jim
matured into a young adult this internal power he possessed was not fully matured. In
high school Jim was in the popular crowd, but never the leader of the pack. “Only in
retrospect does anyone claim to have spotted seeds of the horror to come.’ I had a
hunch something bad was going to happen to him,’ says a middle-aged man in Lynn. He
was smart as a whip. But he had some strange ideas. He never fit in with the town. He was
different”(Axthelm 54).

Jones graduated from Richmond High School just outside of Lynn, It took him ten years of
off and on schooling to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree from Butler University. After
graduation he worked for a short time as an orderly at a local hospital where he met his
future wife, Marciline Baldwin.

Jones’s strong dedication to the church soon led him to becoming a pastor at a
Methodist church in Indianapolis. Jones vocalized his strong views favoring integration,
throughout his sermons. These opinions made him a clear target for bigots. Jones endured
harassment not only verbally but it went as far as having dead cats tossed into his
church. Soon after these incidents Jones “decided that ‘there was no love
‘ in the Methodist Church”(Axthelm 55). This revolution sparked him to create
his own church. To raise the funds enabling him to create a liberal minded place of
worship he sold pet monkeys door to door for twenty nine dollars a piece. The taunting and
torment Jones was faced with by bigots while raising funds only made him more determined
to reach his goal.

In 1956 his dream was born. The doors to the first People’s Temple on North Jersey
Street in Indianapolis were opened. The temple was a textbook model of integration and
liberalism. It offered a soup kitchen to feed anyone that was hungry regardless of race,
creed, or culture. The temple staffed an employment desk offering assistance to those
needing help finding a job. The nursing home of the Peoples Temple offered care to the
sick and elderly. In 1961 Jones was appointed to the city’s Human Rights
Commission. “As his mother’s dream had promised, Jones seemed to be making at
least a dent in the wrongs of the world”(Axthelm 55).
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