Reflection on “The Only God You’ll Ever See”, chapter 10 from Charisma, C. Lindholm.
Leader of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones was a charismatic figure who initiated the mass suicide of 900 followers without the use of force nor insanity. As a frustrated boy, it wasn’t until a neighbour lead him to Pentecostal church that he found happiness in preaching. This led to dedicating himself as a preacher/healer, where eventually he started claiming himself as “God”. Jones’s early success originated from his desire to create a multi-cultural society, which attracted underprivileged African Americans in search for harmony. The Peoples Temple planned to consist of complete equality: a utopia challenging modern civilization. Inside of the Temple followers would work hard without refreshments, relationships were separated, and once moved to Guyana, the constant changing of rules made sure all energy and guidance was focused on Jones, which increased his powerful significance. Jones started relying on what made him different from his followers rather than what previously made him similar. Guards had to protect his followers from his violent outbursts, which was interpreted as “spiritual energy”, and Jones would no longer personally interact with everyone, making his work harder and less rewarding. Abusing prescription drugs and the threat of the Temple collapsing, Jones took it upon himself and his followers to eradicate themselves in an act of defiance, telling his followers that it was an escape from corruption and a plea for the love of Jones.
Jonestown was reported as a mass...