Read Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History by John R. Hall Online


In this superb cultural history, John R. Hall presents a reasoned analysis of the meaning of Jonestown--why it happened and how it is tied to our history as a nation, our ideals, our practices, and the tension of modern culture. Hall deflates the myths of Jonestown by exploring how much of what transpired was unique to the group and its leader and how much can be explainedIn this superb cultural history, John R. Hall presents a reasoned analysis of the meaning of Jonestown--why it happened and how it is tied to our history as a nation, our ideals, our practices, and the tension of modern culture. Hall deflates the myths of Jonestown by exploring how much of what transpired was unique to the group and its leader and how much can be explained by reference to wider social processes....

Title : Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History
Author :
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ISBN : 9780765805874
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 404 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History Reviews

  • Eric_W
    2019-03-24 05:31

    On November 18, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan and several others were shot to death as they attempted to board a plane leaving Jonestown, Guyana. Jim Jones, the spiritual and charismatic leader of Jonestown, then convinced over 900 of his followers to commit ritual suicide. Why? Was this a case of an evil man, some would say the Antichrist herself, leading hundreds to their doom? Or, was, the episode a rational response to an untenable situation in keeping with historical ŕeligious practice? Is there something uniquely American that gives rise to such religious fanaticism?Charlatans have been successful as religious leaders for several reasons: religion deals with what is sacred to individuals, thus providing easy access to intimate knowledge; religious leaders are granted unparalleled legitimacy and adherents disregard their commands only at great peril; religious ideas can be opaque to interpretation and factual verification; people willingly part with large sums of money to obtain their entry into heaven; and it requires virtually no training to become a religious leader outside the traditional churches. Was Jones a fraud? Ultimately, it becomes a question of motive. Jones lived quite poorly and was unínterested in material benefits for himself, not at all in the style of the Swaggarts or Falwells. He did practice deceit, especially as it pertaíned to his Pentecostal gifts, but Jones admitted these "embellishments of reality" as he called them. Jones’ religion was a mixture of pentecostalism, revolutionary fervor (this was to become very significant in the mass suicide), and early Christian communism (he repeatedly cited Acts which urges true followers to pool their wealth "distributing unto every man as he had need.") He was outwardly quite mainstream in his ideology, even affiliating his church with the traditional Disciples of Christ. Jones was fervent in his racial integration of Indianapolis churches, at significant personal risk. (His church was the first to be integrated and he and his wife were the first couple in Indianapolis to adopt a black child.) Because of his prominent Good Samaritan-like actions on the part of the poor, homeless, and the aged, as well as for the Black community, he gained a large and devoted following. Gradually, however, his doctrine became more charismatic and apocalyptic: a doctrine that perceived the world as a miserable place with class and racial inequities and the potential for nuclear holocaust. The People’s Temple took on a utopian communal aspect. It was the only way to the promised land and Jim Jones, he argued, was the only leader who could take them away from the sinful world. Segregatíoníst pressure forced Jones to move his church to California, where he established a large, main-line evangelical type of church, unusual only in its very strong emphasis on social welfare. The People’s Temple, as the church was called, established highly regarded homes for the retarded and emotionally disturbed, and much of the church's income came from successful vineyards and ranches in addition to religious radio broadcasts. Later, opponents would argue that church members had been brainwashed, but they ignored the religious commitment of Jones’ followers and the more subtle coercion of mainstream religions. The People's Temple had a very high dropout rate. There was considerable choice and the Temple screened members very carefully. Not everyone was privileged to hear Jones’ radical message of wealth sharing and oommunalísm. The Temple used traditional evangelical techniques to build adherence by monopolizing the members’ time and exposing them only to its own orthodoxy. Central to most religions is the concept of an evil force. This is necessary to bind the followers together in a sort of paranoid delusion that the evil world is out to get them. They create a sense of guilt in the disciples, then offer their particular form of spirituality as the only means of soul cleansing. It is clear that Jones fomented a sense of persecution, even going so far as to manufacture incidents which were intended to show oppression fggm outside forces. Another technique was to create pseudoevents, using modern public relations techniques to create the impression of belonging to the mainstream reality. (Daniel Boorstìn in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America describes a pseudoevent as an event created to foster a positive image, the image becoming the reality, one of the major functions of public relations.)All the while Jones was becoming more paranoid; not a clinical paranoia but rather that of Hofstadter: "What matters in politics is the successful public promotion of a theory that grandiosely links the disparate threads of history into an organized, hostile, and conspiratorial effort to undermine a people representing principles of truth, justice, and the good." The move to Guyana was very traditional if placed in an historical context. Many, if not most, modern religions have a flight from religious persecution somewhere in their past, from Moses to the Puritans to Joseph Smith. Flight is an attempt to create a permanence or persistence of the religion by breaking conflicting social ties. Elimination of external temptations increases the commitment of its members. Unfortunately for the People’s Temple, their migration took place in the 20th century, when it is easy for adversaries to follow. All they had to do was hop on a plane. The "Concerned Relatives," a group of equally paranoid individuals, Created enormous pressures on the Guyana migrants, creating a fortress-like mentality in them from which there may have been only one escape: suicide. Both sides generated so much pseudoimagery by this time that one Disciples of Christ review committee member said, "I never got into a situation so paranoid on both sides." Jones built on the siege mentality created by the Concerned Relatives to argue for stringent security measures iwhioh made the Concerned Relatives even more upset.) Jones had prepared his followers for suicide. He even held rehearsals on numerous occasions. Mass suicide is very different from individual suicide (which Jones had always vehemently opposed). Durkheim identifies three types of suicide: egoistic, anomio, and altruistic. The first two result when the individual gets out of sorts with his community, but the last is based on the idea of doing something noble for the community (kamikaze) and hence the act becomes honorable. There is evidence that Jones had studied the Thucydides story of the Pelopponesian War, ín which the people of Coroyra committed suicide when it became apparent their cause was lost. Other examples of ritualistic suicide include the mass suicide at Masada in 73 A.D. and The Old Believers in Russia in the 17th century who herded their children and themselves into churches which they then set afire to protest reform of the Russian Orthodox Church. Martyrdom can become a way for a. religious society to show that no accommodation or compromise with the evil outside world is possible. A nurse at Jonestown left written on a piece of paper just before she died, "We die because you would not let us live in peace." Hall ends this most illuminating work with a discussion of the Jonestown mythology. As with most mythology it has little to do with historical events; "The task of myth is to close the curtain on a tragedy steeped in stigma so as to reaffirm the normal social world...Myth naturalizes history by simplifying the uneven paradoxes of real life at the same time that it strips events from their historical connections." (Roland Barthes) Society created a myth that portrayed Jones’ cult as centering on a paranoid megalomaniac who controlled people through blackmail, or as a. puppeteer controls his puppets. The truth, that 900 people willingly believed they had been forced into a corner from which no escape was possible, is perhaps more tragic indeed. I read this a few months after the book came out, and it had a profound impact on my thinking. For one thing, it became obvious how easy it is for a charismatic individual to persuade people of his righteousness and to begin what essentially was a new religion. This book will help you understand all religious movements and why they succeed. Ultimately, most new movements succeed because they first condemn the world around them as heretical and evil, then lead their followers to the "promised land." Certainly that's what Joseph Smith did and what Jim Jones tried to do. It was his misfortune that because of modern telecommunications and ease of travel that his movement was unable to escape the material and so were left with no choice but leave it spiritually. Persecution is essential to the success of a religious movement. Shades of suicide bombing; death becomes an illusion. A very important book.completely revised 12/14/10

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-23 23:33

    John R. Hall has taken a different angle than many of the books that flooded the market following the Peoples Temple tragedy. Hall argues that Jim Jones and Peoples Temple are both products of the cultural norms of the day. He likens them to other left-leaning organizations, conventional churches, Father Divine and black Pentecostal churches. He looks at factors that contributed to the rise of Peoples Temple as a social movement and a religious organization in the U.S. Hall views Jones as more than just a megalomaniacal charlatan who preyed on the elderly and poor. Somewhere something just went terribly wrong. Hall offers a convincing argument. Peoples Temple did not start out as a cult; at one time it offered its members many needed social services. This book is a very good analysis of Peoples Temple in the context of the culture that surrounded it. Hall questions the motives and tactics of many of those who opposed the People’s Temple. Hall’s book stands out from other books written about this event in the way that he looks at how this tragedy affected American society. He also believes that there are many lessons to be learned from this tragedy. This second edition has a new introduction by the author. This introduction was previously published in the January/February 2004 edition of Society. An extensive bibliography, citations and an index also compliment this book.

  • Jason Dikes
    2019-04-11 06:33

    A really work that places Peoples Temple within the larger cultural forces that surrounded and created it. Also asks the disturbing question: to what extent did Peoples Temple and the Jonestown event reflect America?

  • Jerrica
    2019-04-12 07:36

    ya but why did jim jones wear those sunglasses all the time? answer some real questions.