Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid
The Origin Of The Saying
In November of 1978, the world was shocked by the suicide deaths of 913 members of the People’s Temple cult. Jim Jones, the leader of the group, convinced his followers to move to Jonestown, Guyana, a remote community that Jones carved out of the South American jungle and named
after himself. Jones constantly feared losing control of his followers. His paranoia was the main reason he moved the cult to Guyana.
The mass suicide occurred after U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California and a
team of reporters visited the compound to investigate reports of abuse. After some members tried to leave with the congressman’s group,
Jim Jones had Ryan and his entourage ambushed at the nearby airstrip. He then ordered his flock to commit suicide by drinking grape-flavored
Kool-Aid laced with potassium cyanide.
The mass suicide wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. During the weeks that preceded the dreadful event, Jones had conducted a series of suicide drills, according to survivors. An alarm call would sound and every person in the camp would line up to receive a fatal dosage. These exercises in insanity proved that all of the adults at the compound knew what would be the result of their actions.
The People’s Temple did not start off as your average mind-controlling
cult. It initially gained much respect as an interracial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless. Jim Jones did not manifest his darker side until near the end.
Learning From Their Mistakes
When authorities and reporters entered the compound after Jim Jones and his followers had killed themselves, they found a roofed pavilion with a sign that read, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The image of dozens of dead bodies surrounding this banner stands as one of history’s greatest ironies. The only other example that could match this level of contradiction would be the sign above the front gate of the Auschwitz death camp that read, “Work shall set you free.”
One has to wonder what lesson from history the Jonestown folks were trying to avoid repeating. It must have been something minor, like don’t go swimming right after a heavy meal or never run with scissors in your hands, because they obviously repeated every major error imaginable.
Because the People’s Temple tragedy happened well over two decades ago, many of you are probably learning of it for the first time. One reason this tragic event has faded from memory has to do with our natural tendency to try to forget incidents that have unhappy endings.
I’m sure the people at General Foods, the makers of Kool-Aid, would love to see the stigma removed from their best-selling powdered drink mixes.
I think its wrong for us to wish away Jonestown. The Word of God never
tries to hide or minimize people’s blunders. The reason we don’t see a
whitewashing of biblical characters is so that we can learn from their
It is a horrendous calamity for more than 900 people to lose their lives to a madman, but their mistake provides us with a valuable case study of what not to do. The lessons of Jonestown certainly could have
helped the 74 folks who followed David Koresh to their fiery deaths in
…………… M. Tindall