Imagine you go to a religious establishment such as a church or mosque or temple. What do you feel when you go to said church or other establishment? If you are a Jehovah Witness, what do you feel when you go to the Kingdom Hall, for instance? Is it spiritual oneness? You can answer in the comments, and don’t be ashamed of it. But let me tell you about an interesting book I found while browsing Bard, and it is about a famous cultlike church that existed in the ’70s. You guys might not know this, but churches sometimes go bad, not knowing what they do to their followers. I have had no problems with JW members, Catholics, or Muslims or Jews. However, this book gives you an inside look at the most damaging cult in recent history. It carried the biggest casualties, even more than Waco, Texas did, at like 900 followers dead. It was so damaging that the survivors opened up in interviews to the author of this book whose name I’ve forgotten for some reason.
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and People’s Temple was written in 2017, decades after the Jonestown suicide massacre in Guyana. Does anyone remember when that occurred? Well, this book should jog your memory.
Joe Wilson narrates this book for the NLS talking book program, but it is probably available for Kindle, paperback print, and other formats if you desire.
The book begins with a telltale sign that Jim Jones’s mom, Lynette or Lunetta, wrote in the Jonestown logs that she had raised the greatest man alive. Jones was, however, not really the greatest man alive. This book tells you why. It begins with Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he began what became known as the People’s Temple. Later, the book covers how Jones manipulated and fenagled his followers through good works and strict rules and rigid boundaries into a rather deadly situation. This book to me is an invaluable guide to understanding how a popular cult can be damaging and how one man can use psychological manipulation to cause such atrocities, spare Hitler. Hitler, of course, ran Germany like his own personal playground, and the worst thing was the casualties he brought. 6 million plus men, women, and children were systematically wiped out of existence because of Nazism, including disabled people, who were euthanized. But that’s a story for another day.
Jones’s casualty count being less, much much less, he still held damaging control over 1000 plus people who settled a farm in Guyana. After he was ready, Jones committed a final act of horrible abuse and murdered a Congressman at that.
So how do cults work? This book doesn’t exactly go into other cults, but it does give an idea of how Jones recruited his followers. Jones recruited a lot of disenfranchised individuals, poor, black, white and poor, anything you could name that existed in the ghettos of cities like Indianapolis or Los Angeles. Both cities had black populations that were disenfranchised, but they flocked to Jones because he was charismatic. Cults generally have a charismatic leader, someone who claims special powers, can raise the dead, heal, etc. I’ve never been a fan of faith healings or have ever thought that any but God would raise people from the dead. And then, I was taught that only Jesus rose from the dead, but even that is questionable because none of the material holding Jesus is here, and all we have is a book penned by followers to go by. So to hear a charismatic leader like Jones talk about healing cancer and raising the dead would have turned me off.
The next clue that Jones’s church is a cult is the rigid boundaries. Think of a group of people that follow strict rules, dressing modestly if you’re a female, giving your body to said charismatic leader etc. That’s what Jones’s women did. They were frequently approached for sexual dalliances outside his proper marriage with his wife Marceline, and worse, younger followers were beaten with a board or a hose. Jones frequently humiliated his followers who disrespected him and eight people defected because they saw bad stuff going on in temple. The defections are a clue that others should have taken that Jones was dangerous and could manipulate people through supposed good works.
Isolation is the number one symptom of a damaging cult. Frequently, cults will keep you working day and night to serve them, and then they will estrange you from family and friends. Jones had whole families in the cult, and some kids got sucked in while their parents watched. It’s awful to watch as your loved one is isolated from you in such a horrible way, but Jones knew how to do this well.
Cults frequently steal finances from people. Sometimes they steal your entire workday, making it impossible to talk to friends, socialize, or even see films you want. Jones forbade those activities because he feared his followers would be led astray.
If you or your loved one is in a damaging cult, here’s some steps provided by an article I read about a young woman who got sucked in.
Carrie was sucked into a micro control group, but when police came to investigate the group she was in, she weighed less than 90 pounds. She had scars, both physical and mental, because she’d been controlled. Carrie ended up in a transitional living facility for former cult victims, and her article appeared in Seventeen’s early 2000s issues. She spoke of having to discipline her former group, and having to abuse herself as well. She met a charismatic leader in church at college, and got sucked in when he presented her with a sizable mission, to pray for the Parsi people to convert to Christianity. YEah, sounded like a good mission, but in reality, she was withdrawn from her friends and family, abused, and beaten nearly half to death. She was taken to the hospital because someone found out what was going on, and so far as I’ve read, the police were contacted and the group was torn apart. And for good reason.
Carrie is probably well adjusted to life outside the cult by now, and there are other cults, big and small, like Carrie’s, like the Jim Jones group, etc. HEre’s another example.
Carolyn was born to the Blackmoore family, who had for generations been in a polygamist cult led by charismatic leaders. Carolyn was abused frequently by her mom when her father moved them to cult headquarters in Short Creek, the twin cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. Colorado City had multiple families in the cult, and Carolyn wrote in two memoirs about how she survived, and the ultimate straw that broke the camel’s back for her was the way her husband treated her and her sister-wives. Carolyn later wrote in her later memoir, Triumph: Life After the Cult–a Survivor’s Lessons, that the raid in El Dorado, Texas revealed what Warren Jeffs had done to these people. Recently, way after the raid, Lyle Jeffs took over leadership of the cult, but he was charged with welfare fraud because of the tenet of “bleeding the beast.” There are good polygamist families, but this cult totally ruined everything for Utah food stamp recipients who really need it. This cult could have damaged folks like Carolyn, who is now in a relationship with a good man as far as I know, so she’s been out of the cult for a long time.
Take a lesson from the Jonestown massacre, read The Road to Jonestown, and other memoirs of cult survivors. However, the best medicine for cult survivors is good counseling and therapy, medications included if necessary. Carolyn Jessop remembers talking to counselors and having to shuffle her kids to appointments, but remember, the counselors may be swayed not to go against cult principles. Jessop’s story demonstrates that sometimes counseling is ineffective, but with her strength of character, she was able to get her kids through counseling and eventually won sole custody so that the half siblings and husband as well as sister wives could not mess with them. We are all vulnerable in some way to cults, so take these lessons seriously.
P.S. Due to the commentary I received in the past, I will carefully look at your comment and check for hatefulness, bigotry, and threats. I will not approve any comment that begs to be approved and contains vile language and is synonymous with stuff I’ve recently received. Please keep the comments relevant to the post, nothing else.