Christians talk a lot about serving and giving and releasing rights and putting down self—and we should. It’s part of the whole Christian package. It’s expected, to an extent. But isn’t it possible to go overboard on stuff like this? Aren’t there some people who will take advantage of servants and turn them into slaves? You bet there are!
In fact, that is the ace trump among cultic leaders. The secret of their success is mind control. They want your mind, and they are not satisfied until they have absolute control over it. The ultimate control is behavior modification, which is just another word for brainwashing.
A tragic example of this is the story of a religious leader named Jim Jones who headed a cult called The People’s Temple in the sixties and seventies. In part, Jones preached a radical social gospel based on feeding the hungry and housing the poor. But it went beyond that. Thousands flocked to his revival services, and they eventually founded communes in California’s Redwood Valley and around San Francisco.
But the power was apparently too much for Jones. At some point, he proclaimed himself the “only hope for salvation,” and there were stories about beatings and blackmail of his followers, as well as rampant promiscuity. When officials began making inquiries about Jones and his followers in 1976, The People’s Temple fled to the tiny nation of Guyana on the northeast coast of South America, where they formed a community known as Jonestown. By 1978, the stories of violence and abuse at Jonestown hit the headlines, compelling California congressman Leo Ryan and a group of investigators to fly to Guyana to look into the charges. Shortly after arriving, Ryan and his colleagues were machine-gunned and beaten to death! In the aftermath, Rev. Jim Jones persuaded his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking a concoction of Kool-Aid and cyanide.
This dark and grisly affair shocked the entire world, but it proved just how far men and women who are deluded by their lust for power will go to carry out their fantasies. The story isn’t mentioned very often these days, but may God help us never to forget the lessons of that terrible episode or the dangers that always follow when such people gain complete control over other people’s lives.