A couple days ago, I found myself uttering a sentence that seemed impossible, not only to say, but to believe: “Jim Jones did a lot of really good things!” Amazingly, it’s true; as a pastor in Indianapolis, IN, he served for many years and helped a great number people in various ways. Much of that gets overshadowed, though, by that one really bad thing he did. Jeff Guinn’s book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple sets out to tell the whole story, the good and the bad.
I was six years old when Jonestown happened, and for most of my life, pretty much all I knew about the whole situation was that ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ meant that you’d fallen victim to the words and ideas of someone, most likely not a good someone. I knew nothing about Jim Jones the person, what he did, who followed him, why they were in Guyana (for a while, even the location of Guyana was a mystery to me). What happened in Jonestown is, of course, interesting in its own, horrific way, for many reasons: you’ve got a cult and its charismatic leader, some poison, meddling politicians, guns, and a very bad ending. Just as interesting, though, is how Jim Jones became that leader, and how he and his followers ended up the way they did. Read the rest of this entry »