Drinking the Kool-aid

photo credit: https://cookingwithkoolaid.wordpress.com/

"Drinking the Kool-aid" is a phrase that gets used regularly in today's society. If you are under 40 years old, you probably have no clue where it originated. Back in the 1970s, there was a "minister" by the name of Rev. Jim Jones. Jones had served as student pastor at Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1952, but parted ways with the church over racial integration issues. In 1954, he  rented some space in Indianapolis and launched his own church, Community Unity Church. By 1956, he and had garnered enough funds to purchase his own building naming it Wings of Deliverance and then the Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. In 1959, they joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and renamed itself as the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. 

 Jones spread a message of racial equality while mixing elements of Christianity, socialism, and progressive idealism that appealed to the masses. In 1961, he announced he had a vision that revealed to him the cities of Indianapolis and Chicago were destroyed in a nuclear attack and began the process of searching for a new location for his church. Jones spent two years traveling in Brazil investigating possible locations before returning to Indianapolis in 1963.

In 1965, Jones began predicting a nuclear holocaust would occur on July 15, 1967 and proclaimed the surviving elect would create a new "socialist Eden on earth". Jones and approximately 140 faithful followers moved the ministry to California's Redwood Valley in July 1965. He opened facilities in San Francisco in 1971 and Los Angeles in 1972 where the combined congregation swelled to over 5,000 members. 

As they gained in popularity, Jones and the Peoples Temple became the target of numerous media investigations for "suspicious activities". In 1972, both the San Francisco Examiner and the Indianapolis Star ran the first of an expose series on Jones and the Temple written by Lester Kinsolving. 

After the defection of one the church's leader, Joyce Shaw and soon after the mysterious death of her husband, Bob Houston, the local police began to become suspicious of the actions of Jones and the Temple. While Jones had made strong political allies with San Fransico's Mayor George Moscone, as well as Governor Jerry Brown, Mervyn Dymally, Willie Brown, Art Agnos, Harvey Milk, Walter Mondale, first lady Rosalynn Carter, San Francisco Sun Reporter's publisher Carlton Goodlett, and San Francisco Chronicle's columnist Herb Caen, media scrutiny continued to heighten. 

Seeking to rid himself of the media and police scrutiny, in 1974 Jones led the church to lease land in Guyana, the remote country east of Venezuela. In Guyana, the group created the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project which became informally known as "Jonestown." Jones moved to Guyana in 1977 following several unfavorable newspaper articles listing numerous allegations against Jones and the Temple. 

photo credit: People.com

By 1978, Jonestown had a population of over 900. On November 17, 1978, United States Congressman, Leo Ryan accompanied by three reporters, visited Jonestown to investigate claims of abuse within the Temple. Upon the conclusion of his trip, several Temple members requested to leave with the congressman. Temple security guards met the group at the local airstrip at Port Kaituma, where they opened fire on group, killing the congressman, the three reports, and one of the "defectors".  Bob Brown, a  NBC cameraman and one of the journalists killed in the attack managed to record several seconds of the gunfire. Following the killing, Jones ordered a mass suicide of the inhabitants of Jonestown - women and children first. His chosen method for the suicide: cyanide-laced, grape-flavored kool-aid. 

All told 918 people, including 276 children "drank the kool-aid" and died that evening.


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