I am finishing the book about Jonestown. There are many features of a cult in it but the one mentioned in the book has made me write this text. Jim Jones was the founder and mastermind of the most dangerous cult with the highest number of suicides ever committed simultaneously in one day. Death toll was over nine hundred adults and children. He ran the organization consisting of public relations office, security, fund-raising, mess hall and preaching. Once the person is in the cult, total surrender was assumed including assets and property which get transformed into communal living.
The cult-feature I am writing about is requesting surrender. Each prospective member was presented a blank piece of paper requesting their signature. Jones was asking the People’s temple church members to sign the blank sheet of paper and hand it to him. Later on, he and his staff decided to add to this paper anything their sick minds thought of, ranging from punishment, job assignment and expropriation of member’s property, legally binding.
Can you imagine the scenario ? There are preachers out there who invite membership and ask them to surrender their entire lives to whatever whim the leaders might have. And in Jones case, he blatantly announced many times before mass suicide in Jonestown, that he would one day ask them to die for him. He kept his promise, which claimed not only cult-member lives but several of the innocent people visiting the camp.
What is sobering for me in this dark story is that the entire wicked spiritual journey starts with an open invitation. Jones’ church was running public recruitment campaigns in buses, with preaching and programs. Everyone contacted was publicly invited to the lure of initial “self-improvement”, turning into grim outcome of mass-suicide. It is sad that the members of this cult had freedom to say no to the invitation. However, for the reason of not knowing the word of God, they made wrong decisions costing them their very lives.
And why have all those people signed up for the cult leader to end their lives ? Is it not the vast emptiness in their hearts that only Jesus can fill, but for some reason they did not know about Him ? For had they known the Lord, would they not be able to remember:
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13,1-5 NIV) The word of God stands as a shield to evil spiritual advancements.
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