Hearing the Voices of Jonestown

By Mary McCormick Maaga | Go to book overview

7
Freedom and Loyalty, a Deadly Potion

The questions of how the decision to commit suicide was made and by whom have not been frequently asked about Jonestown in part because of the assumption in both popular and scholarly literature that Jim Jones was primarily, if not exclusively, behind the decision. Therefore, asking why a sick, self-centered, possibly insane man would recommend a sick, self-centered, insane act to a community within his control, is a tautology. In this chapter I link the themes of the previous chapters with a consideration of the relationship between loyalty, betrayal, and the decision to commit suicide by the inner circle at Jonestown. I also explore the increasing hopelessness that contributed to the decision to commit suicide by the leadership circle and the motivations to end their lives for the Indiana sect, new religious movement members, and urban California black church members. I argue that each group, in its own way, was attempting to salvage a piece of the dream that had originally committed them to Peoples Temple.


Loyalty as a Central Community Value

The centrality of loyalty as a community value increased as threats to the unity of the group mounted by the Concerned Relatives, Congressman Leo Ryan, and the media gained momentum during the spring and summer of 1978. At the same time, a desire for freedom from the psychic stress and physical demands of life in a community where most of the population were dependent increasingly influenced the decisions of the people in leadership at Jonestown. Two women defected during the months before November 1978, Debbie Layton

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Hearing the Voices of Jonestown
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 - Who Were the Members of Peoples Temple? 1
  • 2 - Deconstructing Jonestown 14
  • 3 - The Triple Erasure of Women in the Leadership of Peoples Temple 32
  • 4 - Restoration of Women's Power in Peoples Temple 55
  • 5 - Three Groups in One 74
  • 6 - From Jones the Person to Jonestown the Community 87
  • 7 - Freedom and Loyalty, a Deadly Potion 114
  • 8 - Conclusion 136
  • Appendix A - Jonestown Demographics 145
  • Appendix B - Suicide Tape Transcript 147
  • Appendix C - A Witness to Tragedy and Resurrection 165
  • References 169
  • Index 175
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