Thursday, November 13, 2008

Looking for a New Church

The thirtieth anniversary of the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana will be this November 18th. MSNBC has been showing a documentary on that event (it's scheduled to be shown again this weekend, November 15th and 16th). 913 people gave up their lives, more or less voluntarily, on that day.
How did so many people get caught up in that madness? The documentary reminded me of this tale from a then 17-year-old, and how his family dodged a bullet, so to speak. (His mom was a "shoestring relative" through marriage. Something of a hippie, she had moved her family to rural Ukiah, California in the late 1970's. Her son told this story on a camping trip around 1982.)

We were living in Ukiah, and my mom decided one day that it would be a good idea if we started going to church. "Everybody should belong to a church," she said. There was a new one near us she'd heard about. A lot of people were going to it. It was a different kind of church. It was called "The Peoples' Temple." I don't remember much about the service. Music and talking, I suppose. There were a lot of people there, and they seemed friendly. But what got us was these guard towers all around, with guys with guns in them. I mean, what was the point of that? It sort of creeped us out, and we never went back, not to that church.

A lot of people got caught up in a lot of crazy things back then, and we suppose they still do today. That family has had their ups and downs, but Jonestown was one bullet they were able to dodge.

Moral: If your church sports a guard-house, you'd better keep lookin'....

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