On November 18, 1978, at the direction of charismatic cult leader Jim Jones, 909 members of the People’s Temple died, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning,” including over 200 murdered children.
Mel White, a Christian writer and filmmaker and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, set out to investigate the causes of the Jim Jones’ Jonestown tragedy in the Guyana jungle, and published his findings in Deceived (1979).
In talking to defectors and survivors, he discovered that Jones’s victims had church backgrounds, but they did not find love there. Jean Mills, for example, a defector after seven years, said, “I was so turned off in every church I went to because nobody cared.”
And Grace Stoen, whose lawyer husband Tim became the second most powerful man in the People’s Temple, said, “I went to church until I was 18 years old .. . and nobody ever befriended me.” In the People’s Temple, however, according to Jean Mills, “everyone seemed so caring and loving. They hugged us and made us welcome … and they said they wanted us to come back.”
This discovery led Mel White in his last chapter (entitled “It Must Not Happen Again”) to list several resolutions, of which the first is, “I will do my best to help make my church a more loving community to our members and the strangers in our midst.”
Please make this one of your resolutions for 2019!