Friday, April 27, 2007


I have finally finished Tim Reiterman's book about Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. At 580 pages, it's exhaustive, but very difficult to put down. I limited my time reading it though, because the material is so heavy. All through the book, I knew what was going to happen at the end, which made it hard to read.

Reiterman does a good job of explaining that Jim Jones held sway over his flock, and how. Did you know that they did not consider themselves Christians? They worshipped socialism and Jim Jones (though no one was supposed to admit to the latter).

I'm not a religious person and I am naturally rather skeptical. While I understand Reiterman's explanations about why people followed Jones into the jungle, let alone over the edge of the abyss, I still don't really "get" it. I don't understand why people send money to The 700 Club and similar shows, so I don't understand why someone would have sold their property and moved into Temple housing, which is described as almost always crowded and often substandard in other ways.

A friend said that she wondered if she would have gotten sucked in had she been in her late twenties when Peoples Temple existed. She said that she had been seeking, confused, disillusioned with traditional religion, and wanting to "belong" at that time. And since I too was seeking, and cut loose from a lot of the things I thought I'd known when I was in my mid-20s, I can understand that a little bit. But I still don't really understand why all those older people, middle-aged and elderly, joined up and tolerated that life. I guess I think that they would have been wiser somehow, even though Jones tricked educated, politically-savvy people such as Willie Brown, Angela Davis, and George Moscone (not to mention Rosalynn Carter and Harvey Milk).

We know why people didn't leave, but we'll never know why all those people followed Jones to Jonestown. I imagine that each person's reasons were different, and they took those reasons to their graves.

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