Anniversaries  

Monday, November 24, 2008

Last Tuesday was an anniversary for my husband and I. It was the date four years ago when he proposed to me. It's also the birthday of one of my best friends, which is why I actually remember the date.

Another friend also reminded me this year that it was also the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown deaths. Thanks, dude. Way to go ruining one of my favorite days of the year.

I'm old enough to remember Jonestown. I was pretty young when it happened, but I know it was a big blow to the religious community my family belonged to. Although Jim Jones had been completely discredited by the time of the deaths, his movement, always viewed as somewhat eccentric, was seen in a good light by the charismatics. Here was a man who was making things happen in the name of God.

And even now, watching the documentary there are many positive things that he and his followers did. I find it sad that a movement, which could have been positive and peaceful, ended up being such a tragedy.

It was earlier in 1978 that my parents moved to North Carolina to join the movement of another Jim. Fortunately Jim Bakker never called on his followers to give up their lives. I never thought of PTL as a cult, but as I was watching the video of Jonestown I noticed many parallels between the two movements. Both men exhibited an extreme paranoia of the government and an ego maniacal sense of godhood. Both wanted to build an empire.

But for all I reject the teachings of the community, PTL was still a positive experience for me. People worked hard, often many hours without sleeping to make sure everything was perfect for Jim. Yet, for the most part we were happy. We were a community pursuing the same purpose. Parents felt safe about having their children there.

I think that there must have been an underlying sense that something wasn't quite right. How many people really questioned what we were doing? I know my mother had questions, but we stayed in the community. We continued as if nothing would ever change.

How many people at Jonestown felt the same way?

I guess I'll never know how far I would have gone in the name of religion. My gut reaction is that I would have never gone so far as to harm myself or my friends or family. But what makes a community turn from productive and happy to paranoid and deadly?

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8 comments: to “ Anniversaries

  • the chaplain
    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 6:00:00 PM CST  

    I never thought of PTL as a cult, but I'm not surprised that you see some parallels between the two groups. It's scary to think of how fine a line there is between devotion and fanaticism.

  • Ordinary Girl
    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 10:30:00 PM CST  

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I don't think, or at least I hope I wasn't ever fanatical about my religion, but I may have been at times. I hope I'm never fanatical about not believing.

  • Venjanz
    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 12:47:00 AM CST  

    Jim Fucking Jones was a hard-core Communist and an atheist.

    "I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church. So I consciously made a decision to look into that pro— that prospect."

    --Jim Jones

    This fuckface thought of himself as the next Mao, Castro, Robert Mugabe, Stalin, etc. and he figured that the best way to take his sheepish followers down this path was to cloak his message in the form of the Southern Black Baptist Church.

  • Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D.
    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 3:53:00 AM CST  

    Well happy anniversary. We got married on the 4th of July, you'd think we wouldn't have trouble remembering that one.

    PS Thanks to you I have discovered Bloggerbuster.com

  • davohynds
    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 7:42:00 AM CST  

    "But what makes a community turn from productive and happy to paranoid and deadly?"

    Good question. One that I ask myself frequently since I live in a spiritual community. Fortunately, my friends study cults enough to have some safeguards. But it still freaks me out sometimes. Either way, I plan on always skipping the koolaid.

  • Brian
    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 11:24:00 PM CST  

    Wow! I remember PTL quite well, except that I was a Jimmy Swaggart fan and we used to make fun of the PTL crowd. We would watch the show just to see Tammy Faye cry with gobs of mascara running down her face.

    I guess you must have been embarrassed when the big Jim Bakker scandal hit. I'm certainly glad I was a Jimmy Swaggart fan instead... oh wait.

  • PBS
    Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 1:31:00 PM CST  

    Happy Belated Anniversary!

    I sometimes wonder, were there any diaries or writings left behind from the Jim Jones people? Whenever people stop thinking for themselves, an egomaniac like JJ can lead them to dangerous places.

  • the chaplain
    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 9:20:00 AM CST  

    Well, having been an evangelical rather than a fundy (like there's a huge difference!), I thought Bakker and Swaggart were both a bit too far out there. We evangelicals, on the other hand, knew how to balance biblical faith with real-world pragmatism.

    Yes, you may laugh with me and at me. I deserve it.

 

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