GULLIBLE WARMING AND JONESTOWN
I had the distinct privilege of meeting Hattie Newell several years ago. She sent me a New Years greeting this year along with some encouraging words. I was reminded of her powerful testimony.
She lost most of her family in the Jonestown massacre that took 918 lives. She was spared by God’s grace alone. In her words, “You may be wondering how I survived the massacre. I believe it was the providence of God. I tried on three separate occasions to go to Jonestown. I wanted to be with my mom, but when Jim Jones’ staff approached him about it, he said, “No, let her stay there and continue the work she is doing, let someone else take her place.” Someone else did take my place, but I am reminded of the One who truly did take my place. Jesus Christ.”
I wrote an article on “Gullible Warming” 2 years ago (see the Articles Archive on my website http://www.Larrybubb.com). I recently read the following powerful article by Hattie on the subject . . . only with lots more weight and credibility based on the tragedy she experienced first hand.
“Do Not Be Gullible” by Hattie Newell
Christians must guard against deceit by knowing what Scripture teaches. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
People do not set out to believe lies or to be deceived, and they definitely would not die for a lie if they knew it was a lie. They are slowly immersed into believing something is true, like a frog, which is put into a pot of water and slowly boiled to death as the heat is turned up one degree at a time. I was once that frog: I was mesmerized by the man in the long white robe and dark sunglasses, and little by little I was completely drawn into his world. I was naïve and spiritually blind. After joining Peoples Temple in LA, I remember going to Jim and telling him I wanted to move to Redwood Valley because I needed more structure in my life. But I was a teenager at the time, and as any teenager – or parents of teenagers – can tell you, they want freedom, not structure. I must have had a case of temporary insanity that lasted for five years.
Many lives have been lost in cults since the incident in Jonestown, Guyana . . . People who are lonely or misunderstood by family members or church people are also at risk. When their hearts are hurting and they have no one to turn to for help or comfort, they will take the hand of anyone who reaches out to touch them with love and ease their pain.
Believers are in a war, a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Before I moved to Redwood Valley I had this feeling that I should be in his meeting in San Francisco. I talked a cousin into going with me. We rode in one of the buses and stayed in the housing that had been arranged for us. During one Temple meeting, I wrote a note to Jim asking him what could I do if my parents did not want me to move? I had sensed their reluctance, but I did not talk to them about it. I did not give him the letter, but somehow it disappeared. Later during a “healing” session, he called my name, he told me several things about my life, and he told me he was healing me of breast cancer that was too far for the doctors to reach. I did not take the time to process this information or question him as to whether it was true or not. I ran up to the podium crying and I hugged him and thanked him for healing me.
I was moving away from the truth in falling deep into the realm of darkness. 1 Timothy 4:1,2 says, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the truth, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own consciences as with a branding iron.” I moved from Los Angeles to Santa Rosa, Redwood Valley and finally to San Francisco. Over the years I advanced from just a member to security guard, greeter, nurse on his “healing” team, choir member, counselor and finally bodyguard/companion to his wife Marceline. I had to cook for her. Since I hated cooking and really did not know how, I’m surprised she lived through that ordeal. I once got a letter from Shirley, my older sister, from Jonestown teasing me about that. Recalling the first time I tried to make cornbread, which turned out very hard and dry, she said, “You didn’t cook her any cornbread.”
2 Corinthians 11:13,14 says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” I never feared Jim Jones, but I should have. On the contrary, I liked being around him. And I was pleased when he noticed me. For example, I lived on the third floor of the church in San Francisco. One night I was at the top of the stairs and he was at the bottom with his guards. I had on a long multi-colored lounging gown. He looked up at me and said, “Darling, you look like an African queen.” I smiled, said thank you, and went on my way. Another time I had to go to Los Angeles for business. I was on his bus, and I rolled out my sleeping bag in the luggage rack next to his room (I’m not the only one in the Temple who could tell you, the racks were the most comfortable places to sleep on long trips). When he got on the bus, he stopped by me to ask if I wanted anything to eat. I said no thank you. I wrote poems about him and gave them to him. He liked them and sometimes read them to the people who were still in the church after the meetings. I did not see the dark side of him. All I saw was a handsome man with dark features. I did not know he was planning or plotting this nightmare.
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During World War II, Adolf Hitler said, “If you tell a lie enough times, people will believe it as truth.” That, in my view, is what propaganda is all about. And for several years, Hitler successfully created a state of delusion among his people. Jim Jones did the same thing.
Christians must be students of the Bible, and not just take someone else’s word for something. Take your Bible to church with you every time you attend and follow along with the pastor to see if what he is saying aligns with Scripture. 2 Timothy 4:3,4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” I did not know the Bible and I could not dispute Jim’s words, and as a result I was almost destroyed. I made it, but my family did not.
Perfectly normal people get involved with cults, but the most vulnerable are those people who are idealistic, folks who want to change the world or people who are going through some kind of crisis. These same people have this attitude that they could never be recruited into a cult, they could recognize it as a cult and avoid it. Not true. Cult leaders and recruiters are crafty; they know when to scoop in and draw you into their webs of deceit.
Remember, most of Jim Jones’ followers were good people who wanted to do something good or change their lives. I know this from personal experience. I saw the humanitarian work he was doing, and it appealed to me. We had our share of former drug addicts and ex-cons, just as he attracted college professors, white-collar professionals and Ivy League lawyers. Between these extremes were decent hard-working middle-class folks who believed in interracial harmony and helping others. I knew a lot of them and I know they were only looking for a better way of life. Jim had the right idea, but he went about it the wrong way. You cannot achieve utopia outside of Jesus Christ.
Jim Jones was a master manipulator: he used mind games on his followers; he isolated them to make them dependent upon him; he demanded that they break ties with families except when we could get money from them for the cause; he used harsh or strict discipline, long work hours and very long meetings to control people, to wear them out to the extent that they couldn’t see that was no way to live. I do not know how many of them thought about leaving the group. I know I never did.
Rudyard Kipling said, “I had six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew: Their names were, where and what and when and why and how and who.” We all need to know those six serving men very well; we need to know what we believe; why we believe it; where to find truth; how to discern error; who we can trust and when to walk away.
The Bible warns us over and over to be aware of false teachers and leaders. 1 John 4: 1-3 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of which you have heard that is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
My purpose is to encourage Christians to be faithful to read and study the Bible so they will know it for themselves, because most likely they will not have their pastors around to speak the Word for them when Satan comes to tempt, deceive or destroy them. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” He is still in the business of saving lost souls. It is not His desire for any to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Remember God loved us so much He sent His Son to die on the cross for us, and if you say there is no God, Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”
I can smile again, I do not know how, but the one thing that has made it easier is my trust in Jesus who said, “Cast all your cares on me, for I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7).