Jim Jones was a self-obsessed American Cult leader who manipulated the poor and vulnerable, demanded their complete obedience, and ordered the murder of thousands of people, including two hundred children, to take their own lives in a jungle settlement in South America called ‘Jonestown’, constructed around his own warped and paranoid fantasy.
Jim Jones once said, “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one can come to the father but through me.” James Warren Jones was born in Indiana to a family that was struggling to cope with the effects of the Great depression. From a young age Jim felt sorry for the poor and had empathy for them, and as a teenager he became strongly involved with the Pentecostal Church, preaching to black and white people on the streets. With his jet-black hair and olive skin, his shades and his fixed confident grin, Jones was a handsome and charismatic person, not only that but a person that would convince and manipulate many people.
But even from a young age there were hints of a darker side to Jones. He clearly did not appreciate rejection, and once shot a friend who did not do as he commanded. For many years his wife Marceline, who held traditional Methodists views, suffered his jealous and manipulative behaviour. When Jones for a short period of time rejected God early in the marriage, he threatened to kill himself if she continued to pray and he forcefully and unsuccessfully tried to adopt a 12-year-old son of Marceline’s cousin, against the boy’s wishes. His behaviour was often hypercritical, he demanded clean living for those around him.
In 1952 Jones seemed to have recovered his faith, partly because he realized that his wife’s Methodism religion was interested in the plight of the poor. But Jones personal views, mixture of Christianity and socialism, traditional family vales and social liberalism led him to establish his own church, the ‘Peoples Temple’ which he would have a high ranking position. The people’s temple set up a soup kitchen and offered support to the poor and outcasts, such as former prisoners and drug addicts. Jones promised miracles for all kinds of illnesses, including cancer in an attempt to recruit more followers.
Jones did not do much good for the people that followed his ways and views. Jones just thought that he was doing well, when in reality he was doing the complete opposite. Unless convincing parents and children to commit suicide was a good thing to do, I think not. He was motivated by his own power hungry appetite and self interest.
In 1965 Jones moved with his family and 140 followers to Ukiah in northern California, apparently because he believed it would be safe from a nuclear attack. By 1968, as his following dwindled he affiliated the Peoples temple with the Disciples of Christ, a larger church group, which gave him access to 1.5 million members. But as his cult grew even bigger, so did the scrutiny from journalists and politicians, accusations began to emerge that Jones was taking fund from cult members for his personal use. Eger to escape in 1977 Jones and his followers moved to Guyana, where, in the rainforest, they set up a commune called ‘Jonestown’. In the process, his followers handed to Jones control of all their possessions. People were already moving giving him control of possessions and following Jones wherever he wanted with his manipulative ways and his persuasive manner. He had clear control and brainwashed many people but as he got away from all the suspicion of the public eye, Jones began to tighten his grip on his followers. There were reports of beatings and death threats, and each person was required to confess their sexual practices and fantasies, which women were, encouraged to criticize their husbands’ skills in bed.
On the 17th of November 1978 United States representative for California Leo Ryan arrived in Guyana with a group of journalists and concerned family members to inspect the camp. After fourteen members of the cult agreed to defect, Jones gripped by paranoia believed that his fantasy was crumbling around him. On 18th of November, as Ryan and the defectors made their way to the airplane that was due to fly them home to the United States, they were attacked by members of the Peoples Temple. Jones got people to attack others, which they would possibly never of even considered if they hadn’t been overcome by the control of Jones. Ryan was shot dead, along with three journalists and one defector. Back in the camp Jones ordered his followers whom he had trained for mass suicide on many occasions to come together drink a punch laced with cyanide. The vast majority went through with it unthinkingly; babies had the lethal cocktail force into their mouths with syringes, which anyone who objected was coerced or shot. Jones took an easy way out shooting himself in the head. When Guyanese troops arrived at the scene to pursue those who had committed murder on the airstrip, the sight of nearly a thousand bodies, men, women and children greeted them, slumped together on the ground. From Jones manic desire of domination and when that control was threatened, he was prepared to bring destruction down on all those around him. He had ultimate control over everyone who was brainwashed and believed every word that came out of his mouth.
He was most certainly a monster and will be remembered for a long time for all the wrong reasons. Anyone who could convince not only adults to commit suicide for him but also force their kids to commit suicide as well had to have a very manipulative, persuasive, cunning, selfish and power hungry persona. Jones was someone who will go down in history that’s for sure, someone who had men, women and children’s deaths on his conscious, their blood was forever on his hands.
- by Mia Holt, 10eng