Thanks to Eugene Smith:
A Review of Back to the World

by Rev. Richard Lawrence

Way too many people died in Jonestown, but the survival and the writing of Eugene Smith will help us both to feel the powerful draw of Peoples Temple and to understand the purpose of the trek to Guyana. We will learn much more of what kept alive the dream of making paradise of the hell that the hard-working followers of “Father” Jones found in that jungle.

Thanks to Eugene Smith for the courage to fight and survive, because being a survivor meant:

Relatives of people who died in Jonestown are coming into the Georgetown Airport with weapons. ‘My mother or father or sister or brother died [in Jonestown]. How come you didn’t?’… The Guyanese hate us, and the Americans want to kill us, and the whole world thinks we’re nuts.

Thanks to Eugene Smith for holding on to the belief that no sacrifice for the good of the community is worth the loss of one’s love for self.

Jones was able to convince people to love the cause more than themselves… But when you love something more than you love yourself, do you really love yourself?

Thanks to Eugene Smith for writing a book that combines a compelling narrative with an unfaltering determination to tell the whole story with no concern for anything but the truth presented as faithfully as possibly could.

I’d been in Jonestown a week or so, and there’s a person and he’s called to the floor during meeting, and his children testify against him… And he gets disciplined. What do you do with that? You don’t trust your children… No one trusts anyone … and you’re walking around with fear in your heart.

Thanks to Eugene Smith for holding on to his unshakable belief that mothers and fathers do not kill their own children, and if someone else performs the slaughter, then it is time to fight no matter how slim the odds or what the cost.

If Eugene Smith is representative of the survivors of Jonestown, then it may be that the celestial dream that was Jonestown did not die on November 18, 1978 but lives on and will help pave the way toward the salvation of the USA after all – not by leaving this country for a distant dream, but by reminding us all how we know when it’s time to take a stand and fight for what makes us love ourselves.

I hold Jonestown survivors to a higher standard. We’ve been here before. We know the truth… Multiple generations were murdered or committed suicide… rather than face what was happening in the United States… That means we have to stand our ground.

You and I are Jonestown survivors, and we must stand up and speak out for truth, justice and peace, or quietly tolerate a continued massacre of the faithful.

Thank God for Eugene Smith.

(Rev. Richard Lawrence is a retired Methodist minister and community activist. His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. He may be reached at ralawrence36@gmail.com.) 

Originally posted on September 16th, 2021.

Last modified on October 12th, 2021.
Skip to main content