Recently published, The Road To Jonestown by Jeff Guinn. Excellent research and writing. It was a bit painful to read but highly informative. If you choose to read it you can draw your own conclusions.
Also the link to the Peoples Temple survivors' web site hosted by San Diego University.
MAKING SENSE OF THE NONSENSICAL: AN ANALYSIS OF GGWOJohn Collins wrote:Dec 10, 2006
While reading an old Factnet thread, I ran across a brief excerpt from the following article. The original was written as an analysis of a different late 20th century church movement. As I read that article, I became more and more uncomfortable at the similarities between that other church group and The Bible Speaks / Greater Grace World Outreach.
Those of you who are or were part of TBS/GG, or have/had families and friends who were part of GG: as you read this, ask yourself, could it have been written about GG and Carl Stevens? To make it easier to envision it as being about GG, I took the liberty of editing minor details of the original article ever so slightly. It now reads as if it was written about Greater Grace.
I’ll soon post details about these edits, and the identities of that other group and its leader below.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it...”
The story of Greater Grace is not enshrouded in mystery. As the congregation grew, Carl Stevens gradually increased the discipline and dedication that he required from the members.
Behind his public image as a beloved leader espousing… harmony, "Pastor" as Stevens was called, assumed a messiah-like presence in the ministry. Increasingly, he became the personal object of the members' devotion, and he used their numbers and obedience to gain power. Within the ministry, Stevens demanded absolute loyalty and enforced a taxing regimen. His most vehement anger focused on the "enemies" of the ministry-its detractors and especially its defectors.
Amid the stories about the ministry, along with the lurid descriptions came some attempts at analysis. Most discussed the charisma of Carl Stevens and the power of "cults." Stevens was described as "a character Joseph Conrad might have dreamt up…" a "self-appointed messiah" whose "lust for dominion" led hundreds of "fanatic" followers…
While a description in terms of the personality of the perpetrator and the vulnerability of the victims provides some explanation, it relegates the movement to the category of being an aberration, a product of unique forces and dispositions. Assuming such a perspective distances us from the phenomenon. This might be comforting, but I believe that it limits our understanding and is potentially dangerous. My aim in this analysis is not to blunt the emotional impact… by subjecting it to academic examination. At the same time, applying social psychological theory and research makes it more conceivable and comprehensible, thus bringing it closer (in kind rather than in degree) to processes each of us encounters. Social psychological concepts can facilitate our understanding: many of the occurrences can be viewed in terms of obedience and compliance. The processes that induced people to join and to believe in Greater Grace made use of strategies involved in propaganda and persuasion. In grappling with the most perplexing questions “Why didn't more people leave the ministry? How could they actually believe this stuff” the psychology of self-justification provides some insight.
The original name of this article was “Making Sense of the Nonsensical: An Analysis of Jonestown” by Neal Osherow. It is referenced as source material and/or in the syllabi in courses at many universities. Follow the link above for dozens of cross reference links, links to Neal's recently updated version and an extensive bibliography. (All the links there were accurate in 2006. I'm some have since disappeared).