Who was the leader of Peoples Temple?
James Warren Jones (1931-1978)
was the founder and charismatic leader of Peoples Temple. He began his
career as a student minister in 1952 at a Methodist Church, and soon
left when the church refused to allow African Americans in the service.
He preached a "social gospel" of human freedom, equality, and love,
which required helping the least and the lowliest of society's members.
Later on, however, this gospel became explicitly socialistic, or communistic
in Jones' own view, and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed.
Jones visited Father Divine and his Peace Mission in Philadelphia several
times, and modeled himself after the black preacher who organized a
large inter-racial religious group. Jones encouraged Temple members
to call him "Dad" and "Father," just as Father Divine did. He also asked
his members to consider him the incarnation of Christ and of God. He
warned his followers that a disastrous period of fascism, race war,
and nuclear holocaust was coming. Jim Jones preached a message of socialist
redemption, and "in the end Jones left this world without making off
with any of the Temple's substantial financial assets. Unless new and
decisive evidence becomes available, there can be no basis to judge
him a swindler out for personal gain." (John R. Hall, Gone
From the Promised Land, 1987, 35).