Tape transcribed by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
(Short newscast unrelated to Peoples Temple)
Hare: Welcome to Reactions. Maybe I shouldn’t have used our theme song tonight with what I’m about to introduce– You know there’s a church here in San Francisco, and the press has said this about it. It helped to keep open a medical clinic in San Francisco which otherwise would’ve closed. It benefited the search in the medical fields of cancer, heart disease and sickle cell anemia. It has also supported educational broadcasting such as KQED, and provided emergency cash to distressed families, particularly those of slain law enforcement officers. I could go on and on with the list of what it has done, but the name of this church is the Peoples Temple Christian Church. I don’t know why “Christian” is there, but the minister will tell us about it very soon, because I think it’s sort of inter-denominational. But the man behind this many-faceted church is the Reverend Jim Jones, and I’d like to welcome you to Reactions tonight.
Jones: Thank you very much.
Hare: And I’d also like to welcome um, Michael Prokes, who is an associate minister of the same church, who’s also as modest as Reverend Jones. But tonight we’re going to just throw that aside and let them actually tell us some of the things that they’re going to do. Now, Reverend Jones, I’d like to begin with this: You’re probably the only man in the world who could bring together in one room at the same time Eldridge Cleaver and Kathleen [Cleaver], Assemblyman Willie Brown, the John Birch Society, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, Mayor [George] Moscone, the police chief Charles Gain, District Attorney Joseph Freitas. And most people would wonder, who did that? President [Jimmy] Carter? God? But I found it wasn’t them, it was you. How did you bring these entities together?
Jones: I really can’t say, other than I suppose that we have a common concern for justice with people, and of course, Cleaver at the time, there was some question– a great deal of alienation because of his views, and Peoples Temple felt that a person should not be judged because of their views, and we did come to his legal defense. That was not to say that I supported his ideology, but uh, that is probably some explanation. We supported John Bircher once who was being discriminated against, John Bircher who, contrary to all the opinions I’d been told about the Birch Society, he was not a racist, and uh, uh, that– I think that explains it. We– We don’t have uh– an arbitrary attitude of serving only people who agree with us. And that may explain some of it.
Hare: You happen to remind me of someone [Nathan Hare] with whom I have lived for a number of years, when he taught at a predominantly black school, some of the students asked, why would you bring a member of the John Birch Society in to address your class? But he said that the only way you will grow is to be exposed to all ideologies. So I’m glad to know that that’s existing here in San Francisco. Now uh, something else that you’ve done that I don’t really understand. Your church is located in somewhat of a transient area in predominantly a black district.
Jones: Indeed. Indeed.
Hare: Uh, many people have tried before you to bring the grass roots together, the so-called– the black bourgeoisie, the uh, national uh, state and local elected officials to begin to see that the struggle lies in really bringing together all these people instead of one predominantly ethnic group. Now how have you been able to do this?
Jones: Again, I– one doesn’t think about their successes, I gather, they’re more concerned about the failures. We preach inclusiveness very strongly. We preach that– or we speak, we uh, state that it’s very important that all people who have been to some degree left out of the uh, process of economic success, that we get together, that we unite in the common struggle. And that’s very important to us. We also are determined to see that there is a good attitude on the part of the majority members, the Caucasoids who are in our (unintelligible word), that they have proper attitude, understanding of the problems of the Third World. But we don’t compromise on our principles in any way in concern uh, for the struggle of the Third World people. But we have a number of good white people that we jokingly say are very well field niggerized.
Hare: How about that. I love that expression. (Laughs softly) Well, how did you uh– Where– what were you doing when the struggle was going on between just the Asians and just the blacks or just the Chicanos. Uh, you were here in this area, but somehow you were low profile. Why are you just now surfacing?
Jones: We– we were not here as a center. You see, it’s only been in the last um, two years that I have been located in San Francisco. I was serving in the northern part of California, in an agricultural community, which was the biggest mistake of my life.
Hare: Why was it a mistake?
Jones: (Laughs) Well, there’s not enough uh– there were not enough people representative of all groups and uh– an agricultural community is a little more sterile. I’m frankly a little bit afraid of what’s happening in agricultural communities these days. Having a multi-racial family, uh, I noted a great deal of prejudice. Not only anti-black feeling, but anti-Semitic feeling, and it’s on the increase across America. And we need to get alarmed about it. All people who have ever suffered any kind of oppression or discrimination need to reckon with this factor. After all, in the past few months, we’ve seen blacks run out of Taft. We’ve seen Indians um, mistreated terribly in different areas, and even our p– our own state, blacks burned out of Siskiyou County, we had buses surrounded, just because we had black drivers, in Sonoma County. And fortunately the court– a good judge for the first time come up against this racist element, but they are– they are there, very very much there in the outlying areas of the big uh– big cities, and certainly our metropolitan areas are not free of racism.
Hare: Well, unlike the white popular thought that the church has been a leader in the black community – it has led, but I have questions about the nature of the leadership – but in your church, somehow, you’ve brought together uh, the militants, the agnostics, the uh, atheists, the fundamentalists. How have you gotten all these people together?
Jones: In our worship style, we respect people based on what they produce, and that’s [of] course consistent with Moses’ teasing– teachings and Jesus’ teaching. Uh– Judge a tree by the fruit it bears. So uh, if an atheist does the works of all these great teachers through history of all the religions and uh, the fundamentalist does the work, lives a life of character and concern and shows compassion, we find that we can get along very well. Because Jesus said, he who’s not against me, is on my part. When one of his disciples came up to him early in the ministry, when all the followers that Jesus had were with him, so it had to be someone of another faith, Islam or Hebrew teaching, or some other, Zoroastrianism, who uh– who knows. But John said, what’re we going to do with this gang. They’re not with Jesus. He said, they’re not against me. They’re for me. And so I think we’re doing what uh, Jesus really– he was in a sense a great revolutionary. And I think we’ve neglected that aspect of Jesus’ teaching. When he judged people– in Matthew 25, the only judgment that ever came out of the mouth of the Nazarene was, I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, I was thirsty, you gave me no drink, I was a stranger, you didn’t take me in. I was in prison, oppressed, and you didn’t do something to get me out of that condition. They said what– when did we see you there? He said, in that you saw the least of suffering humanity there, you saw me. And so you didn’t help them. Now depart from me. I never knew you.
Hare: Well, how is it that uh, in your membership uh– Well, first, what do you think is the failure of the black ministers, why they haven’t been able to organize people to do the kinds of things you did? Because I understand that it was your church, which you have a lot of grassroots people there who were responsible, uh partially responsible, for freeing the four uh, reporters in Fresno.
Jones: That’s true. I think particularly so there. We uh, we heard indirectly from a jurist that there was going to be adimosy [animosity? advocacy?] on that issue, and then when we uh, introduced the pe– couple of thousand, with Parr, we had over three thousand– uh, ju– uh, Farr [newsman Bill Farr] rather, in Los Angeles. But one of the jurists said, I guess I’m going to have to– we’re going to have to get a– get a– a judge to do something about this to get all these niggers out of town. And that was of course a compliment to us. Uh– the press is the people, and we felt uh, that uh, very basic issue here creeping again, even after Watergate, (unintelligible word) the press– and I know the press has behaved grossly irresponsible in many many areas, neglects the problems of the Third World, we see it every day. But when a press cannot keep its sources confidential, we’re in trouble. We’d’ve never heard from Deep Throat at Watergate if there hadn’t been that protection. And we’ve seen a couple of cases with (unintelligible names, sounds like “Gary Kearney and uh, Rossetti”) and what they knew evidently something about uh, conspiracy against [former President John F.] Kennedy. Boom, the moment it was revealed publicly that they were going to be witnesses, both of them ended up dead, one was shot in the neck in typically Mafia fashion, the other floating out on the Bay of Biscayne near Florida in a barrel. So we thought that this was an important issue for some people– I– I– I thought particularly they should understand that it meant nothing to us, we had no uh, following in– in uh, Fresno, it was just an issue of concern. I think some people thought we were courting the press, but on the– when you do that sort of thing, you only bring the press’ uh, inquiry more into your activities. I’ve never seen so many reporters in my life since then, and going through you– like uh, uh, you know, scrutinizing you very very closely. And we were aware when we took that stand that it might be suspect, but we felt– we waited for several days and no one seemed to take up the cudgels of this, this important issue. There were no one– There was no one there marching.
Hare: Well, was this before the grant that you uh, gave to these church– to the– the three newspapers, the Chronicle and–
Jones: No, no, we had done that– we had done that uh, (Stumbles over words) the Nixonian [former President Richard Nixon] period, when it was really dangerous to support the press. Across the nation, any newsman that came in difficulty with the system – (small sneeze) excuse me – we– we immediately assisted. I think we assisted Farr to the point of four thousand four hundred dollars. But we see uh, religion should be a practical thing. We– we feel the highest worship to a deity, however you uh, you see it, should be service to your fellow man. And in reference to other churches, I think they’re caught up in this futurism, and uh, honestly, I don’t see how they get it out of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said uh, petition or pray that heaven come on earth. Heaven is within you. Uh, do something with the problems of the here and now. But you hear this pie in the sky uh, stuff and futurism about the furniture of heaven and the temperature of hell, and that’s where too many of our churches you know uh, are– their heads are still there, even in 1977.
Hare: With that, let me say amen, ‘cause we’re going to pause and come back in just a moment.
Hare: –Prokes has been associate minister of the same church. As you may recall, Proposition T now calls for the election of supervisors by districts. Now the Reverend Jim Jones, a powerful moving force, as you can see – or as you can hear – in the predominantly black Fillmore area, was a prime organizer in this district, and is now facing probably exclusion from the Black Leadership Forum, and the Black Summit, two powerful political entities, because he isn’t, quote, 100% black. Are you determined to make it into these organizations?
Jones: No, because I don’t think they’ve ever determined really what’s going to take place in the community. I– I regret that they would come out with such inane uh– or such uh, stupid positions in a time when we need coalitions so badly, and what could very well happen when we only have black uh, population of 42%– that’s the highest we have in any district. I am terribly regretful, and I think some of them are doing it very sincerely, but this is the stupidest blunder that was ever made. I’ve already been interviewed, I’m trying to handle it very cautiously, I say this doesn’t reflect on the black community and it doesn’t, I’ve had ministers, I’ve had back– black leaders, business people who’ve called, very regretful over this whole thing, uh, so it doesn’t in any way reflect on the black community. But I’m afraid that the great body of uh, citizens who read this kind of thing, that we’re going to have reverse racism – as well as we can understand it – after all, 300 years of Ku Klux Klan and so forth and so on, but two wrongs will not make a right, and we’re facing some pretty difficult situations in this decade, and we’re going to have to come together. There’s no (unintelligible word under Hare) for it.
Hare: But do you feel this is a majority of the– the uh, black community or the leaders or– who are these people?
Jones: Oh, I know it’s not the majority. (sighs) Uh, I had people came– who came out of the Black Forum and told me with disgust some of the things that were said. I mean, people who were there. So, it isn’t in– even in– in any way uh, the majority of the– I don’t– or not– it certainly– it is not all of the Black Forum.
Hare: But how’d you happen to choose, you know, to locate in that particular area, as opposed to the area where Grace Cathedral is located or the Sunset or the Richmond? How’d you happen to decide to bring this group together?
Jones: Well, what could we do with all those hotels, you know, and fineries? Uh, we were needed in the Fillmore. And that’s what determined our locating there.
Hare: All right, uh, Mike (unintelligible word)
Prokes: And that’s why Jim insisted on living in the Fillmare– Fillmore, and uh, he believes that a pastor should live in the area that he serves. And Jim also is uh– well, he– he’s– has the greatest character of any person I’ve ever met, at the risk of embarrassing him here. When I came four years ago, uh, I could not believe all that I was seeing that was done for people who were poor, who were in destitute circumstances, and I came in the church and saw people from every kind of background imaginable, whole cross-section of the human race, not just in terms of race, but in terms of religion and socio-economic, educational background. Uh, I began to look into the program and saw that uh, here was a place for people who uh, come from poor backgrounds who had no place else to go, because Peoples Temple has become a– a last resort for a lot of people from backgrounds of uh, crime or militancy and drugs, and– but we found that, if you offer these people – and– and so many of them are young – programs that uh, give them the chance to get involved, that occupies their time with productive things, uh, things where their talents and abilities best apply, this fills a vacuum that caused them to uh, go on drugs or commit crimes in the first place.
Hare: And now, we know these people aren’t wealthy, most of your members, and yet you have Greyhound buses that uh, take children to Los Angeles for summer vacations, they go all the way to Washington D.C.–
Jones: Every year.
Hare: –and suddenly the representatives– Well, where do you get the funds from?
Jones: This is uh, a thing that happens with people. I don’t care how poor they are, they uh– they become very industrious when they see things happening that serve their needs. When you’ve got a free medical facility, for instance, around the clock there, under the auspices of doctors and giving free examinations, free physical therapy, Jacuzzi bath, ultrasonic treatment for uh, arthritic conditions that the poor can’t afford. Free legal services and uh, nutritional food service of 1800 meals a day. People in uh– get– and you’d be amazed at what little old ladies (unintelligible word), 70 years of age, seniors, they’ll get out and they’ll have a little project, pillow (pie?)-making or uh, uh, a bake sale, and– and it’s– people just get more industrious, and– and it’s really tremendous to see that. We– we get no outside help. I can’t recall one donation – maybe there was a donation, someplace stuck in my mind, there might’ve been one donation from a single individual – but then, it would be no more than a few hundred dollars. So I think it’s the fact that when a church or any uh, service-minded organization begins to really produce, people get enthusiastic.
Hare: Well, are they tithers, or what do they do? Do they give 10% or–
Jones: No, that’s uh– that’s not uh– No, I don’t believe in that, because that can’t be fair. Uh, some people on a limited income just can’t afford tithing. But that’s left up to them. But I imagine a good many do, and some do more than that. (unintelligible under Prokes) Um-hmm.
Prokes: They do it voluntarily. And they– they see where their money’s going.
Hare: Is it only with money, or is it with property, is it with material possessions or with what? How do they tithe?
Jones: We’ve had– we’ve had some people who have uh, turned over some property. We– But uh, the majority of the people take on projects – that’s where it’s at –
Jones: –in their own home, in their own neighborhood. Uh, as I say, a bake sale, a pie sale, a garage sale, that type of thing. They’ll have their own little activity. A group of seniors here, and whatever various uh, neigh– neighborhoods they happen to reside in. And I think that is the backbone, uh– But as– I don’t think– I think this arbitrary tithing is unfair, because there’s a cer– a certain aspect in the gospel that said, we should give as we are blessed and it’s the duty of those that are strong to take care of those that are weak, sort of, from each according to his ability to each according to his need. They say that Marxism originated that, but I find it very intrinsic in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I don’t like an arbitrary statement that says that you’ve got to give so much money. Some people give their time, and that’s uh, more valuable to us in many ways than money on instances, in particular, when we’re trying to serve 1800 people a day in a kitchen. Some of those people are giving their time. We don’t salary. And if we had to salary, we just could not manage at all–
Prokes: When– when they see a pastor who wears only used clothing, owns no car and–
Hare: Wait just one minute. Is this suit that I see the Reverend Jim Jones in (unintelligible word), you say this is used clothing.
Jones: It’s borrowed. (stumbles over words) I don’t know why he– you may know more about it than I do, but I– I find you can come– buy a lot of good things in the Salvation Army and thrift stops– uh, thrift shops around here. And uh, my wife’s awfully careful about that, uh– and people often say well, why do you only have one pair of shoes, and I say, well, I only wear one at a time. And I’m not knocking people who live uh, you know, in a different lifestyle than I, but my ego is fulfilled by seeing people fed and uh– what we can help groups get liberation both here and abroad. As you may or– may be familiar, we have uh, 27,000 acres undertaking abroad in a mixed society, black president, but a beautifully racially-inclusive society, and uh, it’s an agricultural project. Uh– Several of our members there, couple of hundred of our members. It serves many purposes. Not only does it help feed and clothe and house the people in an emerging Third World nation, and give jobs to– I think now we’re employing 91 people, but we have run into individuals who are almost lost in the asphalt jungle. And so social service agencies or judges will say, you either take them, and uh, if you– you’ve got a place abroad, fine, otherwise they’re going to jail. And we’ve got 22 people now, young people, who were at the l– very lowest extremity, some who were kleptomaniacs, uh, they weren’t members of the parish, but uh, kleptomaniacs. I think of a child molester. All sorts of social deviation.
Jones: Incorrigible. That’s right. Thank you. And when we put them in this new environment– I’m an environmental determinist, it’s made me an environmental determinist, more than anything–
Hare: Repeat that, again, what is it, an environmental determinist?
Jones: Determinist. Yes, I believe that uh, if you– if we don’t do something about the environments– they’re talking about crime in the streets, you know, uh, and– I think if a lot of the youngsters saw something done more about the crime in the– in the suites, we would see uh, a change in attitude. Opportunities are not there. Uh, recreational opportunities. Jobs opportunities. Fifty percent of our black youth are unemployed. And the work ethic’s very strong emphasis in America, and that’s (unintelligible word) it should be, but what does this do to the morale of a person– I think behind every situation you see, there’s always– there’s much talk about crimes of violence today, and yet only six percent of the crimes in the United States are violent, and of that six percent, ninety percent of those crimes are happening to us, the poor white, the poor black, the Indian.
Hare: Yes, we’re the victims of it.
Jones: Be– uh, uh, one case I was called in to, I didn’t know them, but called me the other day. The husband has stabbed the wife. And said, he’d never been violent in his life. And when I got into the situation, she said, why don’t you get a job? And that was the worst thing she could’ve said to him. But an understandable thing. And there’s uh, drinking– typical kind of thing, we’ve got a type of welfare system, I think, could stand much improvement. We give money to people instead of creating opportunities, jobs and programs, but naturally, I’d be– that fellow who has not been able to uh, meet the standards of success in American society, which is to work and produce. He gets his money, and before he gets home, he– to buy food for the family, he gonna be at the tavern quite frequently, and I think behind every bit of the crimes of violence that I’ve run into, there is a social condition, and I’m very much concerned–
Jones: –Uh, uh, very much concerned about this talk, we’re going to bring back capital punishment, because I notice capital punishment doesn’t work for the rich.
Hare: There’s never uh– You’re right. There’s never been a deterrent– deterrent to crime either.
Jones: Neither. Neither. Thank you for that. Uh, we find that– I think it’s been pretty well supported, one with fifty thousand dollars of assets has never gone to a gas chamber or been hung or shot or electrocuted in this country. And we also find that there is a tendency today in the world towards dictatorships. Be they right or left. And often the execution later becomes a political tool to do away with dissenters. And yet you hear so many people rapping about, let’s bring back, uh, capital punishment. And as you say, it is not a deterrent. In fa– In fact, there’re a whole lot of folk who are so miserable out there, they want to commit suicide like [Gary] Gilmore, and yet they– they, uh, little fearful of doing it themselves and I– I think we’ll see more of peo– more of this type of thing. They’ll kill somebody or do something of a capital nature so that the state will take care of ‘em.
Prokes: And why are there– Why are there more blacks and minorities in jails and– and prisons uh, in comparison to their uh, percentages in the population? To say that uh, you know, they’re uh, that it’s not the environment, that it’s
not social conditions, is to say that they’re inferior. I’m not ready to buy that. I think it’s because–
Hare: I refuse to buy it. I’m happy to hear you say it.
Prokes: And– and the fact that there’s no jobs that, as Reverend Jones said, there’s uh, over fifty percent unemployment for black, what are they going to do? They watch television, they see families with material goods uh, living comfortably, uh, material things that they can’t have, so they try and get it. How– the– the only way they can is to turn to the streets, and they– they’re already in the streets as a means of survival.
Jones: Um-hmm [Yes].
Hare: Well, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to come back in just a moment, because I know that any time there’s a groundswell and people who are concerned with the social movement as you are at Peoples Temple, there must be some kind of surveillance, and I noticed tonight, you didn’t come in here with a battery of bodyguards, so I don’t– I want to know how you move freely with the FBI, the CIA, and whoever may be infiltrating your church.
Hare: –when this is over, you’re going to want to know where it is – is at the corner of Geary and Fillmore, and I’ll give you that exact address, in case you really want to see uh, Reverend Jones in action. You’re hearing him tonight. Reverend Jones, before I get back to that question about surveillance, despite the oath that doctors are popular– that doctors take, they are popularly thought to be uh, to place profit above philanthropy. And yet you have doctors and lawyers who are volunteering. How did you accomplish that?
Jones: Well again, we can– we can’t generalize. I found some extremely sensitive people who are in the upper middle class in our church. As you mentioned, we have crossed that class barrier. We’ve overcome the racial barrier.
Prokes: Age barrier.
Jones: Age barrier. I– Thank you for that. I uh– I see that uh, the most beautiful thing, the youth and the seniors doing things together. And uh, we– we respect our elders. That’s one of the old proverbs that we hold dearly. And as a consequence, our seniors– I think we have a– the age– (Laughs) the normal age of our seniors is in the eighties, uh, we have one centenarian, she’s 106, still going. And she pr– she fixes lemon pies in her little humble home.
Prokes: Best pies I’ve ever eaten.
Hare: Good. (Laughs)
Jones: And sells them. At a hundred and six, you know. If we can just eliminate these barriers that’ve uh, developed in our society between race and class, and I think Peoples Temple has gone a long way towards that, and– and as I say, you can’t make generalizations. There are people in every class who are concerned about the uh, deprivation and (Stumbles over words) poor distribution of our wealth that we see so obviously before us in the country–
Hare: And I– I know you must pose a threat to ministers here with established so-called churches that begin at what I have often defined, the most segregated hour in this country is 11 o’clock Sunday morning, that’s where you find (unintelligible under Jones)
Jones: Very true.
Hare: – churches. So I know– what’s the feeling of them? Have you made enemies, or are you coming together with them? Do they view you as a threat, as sort of siphoning off membership–
Jones: Amazingly, amazingly enough, we are finding a number of ministers – white ministers, particularly – one ordained Baptist Church in San Leandro has done a good– a– a minister there, has done very uh, good things uh, for his people and works closely with us. We have uh, on Martin Luther King Day, the– the Council of Churches just voted that it be conducted in Peoples Temple. We had 91 ministers there. I’m not saying that they were all together, you know, in terms of perspective, but there is emerging in this community that kind of concern. Black ministers of the caliber of Reverend Hall. Theologically, I don’t know where he and I stand, but uh, Reverend Hall has a great empathy for people at Bethel AME.
Hare: Amos, yeah.
Jones: And uh, uh, so (Stumbles over words) It’s happening. More than I’ve seen it. And I think, as we see economic conditions change – and they’re going to change unless there’re some miracles – we’ll see more unemployment, necessity’s going to be the mother of invention. Folk are going to quit talking about heaven, when they’re hungry, and uh, that’s why I hope the church and all agency begin to do voluntary things. We don’t want to see a violent revolution in this society. And so society’s going to have to revolutionize itself from within, or it’s going to be torn apart.
Hare: You’ve often said that uh– in your ideology, you’re not uh, violent by nature, but you’re pacifist, and yet you think– you tend to get things done. And usually any movement that really has gotten off the ground, whether in this country or in other countries, there has been a bit of bloodshed. But you feel that that isn’t necessary.
Jones: I would hope it’s not necessary. Now when we took uh, took up the defense of the Jewish community, uh, not long ago, when the Nazis were emerging, not only against the Jews, it’s al– they’re– they’re against everybody, I guess, these– these bums. But (Stumbles over words) they– they began to threaten and they– I think they thought, well, we’re pacifists. They’ve forgotten certain things that Gandhi said. Gandhi said if a mad dog’s running loose, uh– meaning a mad human within a society, endangering it, you don’t allow that to happen. Now pacifism doesn’t mean that you roll over and play dead. Now indeed, if uh, uh, a bunch of bums come into our Temple, uh, we’re not going to turn the other cheek.
Hare: –turn the other cheek. (laughs)
Jones: We’ve turned all the cheeks we’ve got anyway. And so we’re– we’re not– we’re going to be uh– we will resist evil. But what I’m saying, we don’t believe in offensive violence, like we’ve seen happening here by groups that call them– themselves the Left, bombing uh, people’s homes and a– a supervisor’s home, uh, endangering her children. I– I don’t happen to believe these people really have a political– I think many of them are provocateurs who want to bring down the– the demo– the democratic structure. Uh, I can’t– I can’t see anyone in their right mind that could think that they could convey any political message by blowing up the district attorney’s car, for instance.
Hare: You know, I’m glad you mentioned that, and even if they’re listening tonight, I mean, which is probably a very dangerous thing for us to venture to say, I hope that they will know that that is not how you raise the revolutionary consciousness of people, because when acts are done to people and you do not politicize them to tell them why it is being uh, done, then what you tend to do is alienate the people, and you try to bring on a revolution before the people are politically ready for it.
Prokes: Plus, you could help to create a police state.
Hare: Exactly. Terrorism being, you know, a result of– comes as a result of–
Jones: I’m very suspicious of it, because we’ve seen it done before. Now, uh, we had an FBI man in our congregation last week, (unintelligible word, sounds like “Austell”) Hall recommended him, and I thought well, you can’t generalize about the FBI, even, we’ll uh– while I’m speaking, wanted to give uh, certain pointers of how the people could be – defend themselves uh, from attack. I said, now I don’t want a lot of propaganda, and I talked to him very frankly, I said I uh, think it’s deplorable what the FBI did, according to the media, to Dr. King, to try even what it seemed to be, to arrange his suicide by giving a lot of information to his wife and threatening him, and all those dirty tricks, uh, I went through it for three hours, he surely had to endure a great deal, I had Joe Hall, NAACP, who’s a fine chap, uh, and different black leaders staying there and we– we really interrogated him. But then I looked at his program, and I thought, well, we didn’t think of it, uh– little guidance for instance about how you can avoid burglary, things you can do to avoid being uh, a– a victim of mugging. That isn’t going to take the social economic conditions away that caused them, but I don’t believe in prejudice against anybody. So we let him speak, and the man came off very– with a great deal of understanding – shockingly enough – an empathy and ashamed of what the FBI had done, and I really believe sincerely he did not know of the dirty tricks. Someway he– he was a younger man, of course, and I don’t know what caused me to mention that. Now, what was the point?
Hare: Maybe it was (unintelligible word under Jones) the issue of the FBI, the CIA and people like that, just being involved in your church.
Jones: We were talking about violence. Uh– uh– But we– we tend to turn– we tend to turn people away by acts of terror, and as I started to say, the FBI – this is what I was getting at – the FBI, uh, I think, you know, it was oh, several years ago, set up, as I recall reading, a– an organization known as US, uh, it now come out, and as to when the Panthers began to talk about more internationalism and uh, racial inclusiveness, and working within the system, uh, all this uh, hell-raising begun. And US was talking in the same terms that some people are talking right today in San Francisco, we can’t cooperate with any others, we– we have to be black only, and we’re going to have to define what black is, and now we find out that behind all those black-only was white establishment plans to divide–
Hare: Yes, that was in Los Angeles, too.
Jones: –and it caused– yes, and it caused the death of several Panthers. So I’m suspicious of these people who want to divide when the community could really come together in San Francisco. Now we hear all this talk s– behind some of this, I wonder if we don’t have a nice agent provocateur.
Hare: Well, I’m wondering what are the reasons also that when blacks really cried out for uh, black films, you know, some value in black studies and black literature, we didn’t get it. And suddenly, ABC – that certainly is not a paragon of liberalism – gave us Roots, and bombarded our homes with it for eight nights straight. Do you begin to wonder about those kinds of things? You don’t have to answer if you don’t wish.
Jones: I’m never one to shun a response. I think that uh, uh, anytime we see the establishment producing such uh– a s– historical document, it– it– it’s shock. Uh, perhaps their motivation was good. I imagine the major motivation was, they knew they made money, and they did. Um– Overall, I can see some good that has emerged. I’ve talked to white people who have gotten the consciousness that they never had. Un– Unfortunately, I think that there are some who thought well, I watched it, and now I– I understand and I care, and it’ll be forgotten. Also, there’s a dangerous aspect, they called it– I believed [Alex] Haley wrote– it was a saga of an American family, but I notice ABC called it the triumph of America–
Hare: Triumph of– of an American family. That’s what disturbs me. Not only was the saga, but also probably of one black American family. Now they’re calling a tragedy an American triumph. Now look at the people who will not read the subtleties as you’ve read that. And see, we will– are going to now go back ten or fifteen more years, just because of this, because of Roots. I’m not that concerned of where I came from, but where are we now and where are we going?
Jones: Oh, that was exactly what I said Sunday. And who are (unintelligible under Hare)
Hare: Were you thrown out of your church for saying that?
Jones: No. But who in the– who of us have gotten money to go back to Africa to find out where we came from? And again, it’s not so important where we’ve come from, but where we’re going. I’m an American mongrel. Hell, if I began to look w– where my roots were, I’d– I’d have to spend a million dollars to find my roots. I’m not going to start on that course. And then just because one person found his roots, that’s not going to help the millions of people who do not have roots. A person–
Hare: Not only black people, because we– we live in a rootless society.
Jones: Yes, yes. That’s true. That’s what I tried to say.
Hare: I’m sure that if you poll the average white person, they wouldn’t know, you know, from whence they came. But somehow this was fed to us that we had to move on with it. When you took the people to Washington, D.C., uh, what were the– really the motives for it. Did you want them to see how their representatives worked there in Congress for them, and were the representatives intimidated at your presence?
Jones: Uh, no– uh, certainly uh, the Burtons [John Burton and Philip Burton] were very responsive, and so– strangely enough, a very conservative man by the name of [Don] Clauson, I thought, was most responsive. Uh, I was shocked. You never can– You never know what uh, to make of people– when you start to generalize. Here, uh, recently, we– we’ve seen– When I met with Mrs. [Rosalynn] Carter, I uh– she asked to meet with me just before the election. I’m not partisan in politics, but I suppose because of our size, we got 9000 members, and I said, uh– she said, well, what would you like to see come out of the administration? I began to talk about uh, interventionist policies in Chile, this horrible thing uh, that we’ve no– admitted that we’ve played a role in, the murder of an el– a duly-elected man [Salvador Allende], they talk, uh, about fear of totalitarian communism, and yet here was a– a socialist that was elected by the people and was trying to maintain a democratic course and included non-socialist, liberal, progressive elements, and he ends up murdered with our assistance. I said uh, the interventionism in the Third World’s got to– interventionist policies got to stop. And we see Carter– he kept his word on that. Uh, the name that was thrown around, [Theodore] Sorensen, was put in as the CIA director, and woe be unto us, we see a liberal coalition block Sorensen’s appointment. I said, we ought to stop giving aid to Chile, and uh, again, the shocker. All the liberal cats, uh, the dudes went along with it, and three Republicans voted against the uh, fifty-five million dollar assistance that was given a couple of weeks ago. It blows my mind. You don’t know where– you– you can’t possibly say that uh, this group of uh, coalition’s going to consistently– consistently stand for the right things. All of a sudden, up comes a conservative and stands uh, more resolutely for uh, decency than the– the so-called liberals. Tha– That’s why I refused to get involved in the partisan two-party system.
Hare: Well, one reason I refuse to get involved in it – I’ve often made the same statement that you have made, and people have wondered about it – uh, I am really afraid too much– of too much liberal thinking. I prefer people almost to the extremes. You know, you either a– stand for something or you are (unintelligible word) opposed to it, because at least I know how to fight you or how to address you or how to talk with you. But the liberals tend to be on the fence. When the going gets rough, they tend to fall to the side of the fence that seems to have– well, that seems to be the strongest. In– You mentioned uh, Mrs. Carter, and I wondered about that when she came out. There’re a lot of ministers here, there’re a lot of people here who would love to’ve had her ear, but yet she requested yours for dinner. What was the reason for that?
Jones: I should imagine it’s votes. To be very pragmatic–
Hare: Well, there are many people she could’ve asked, but – don’t be modest – she asked you.
Jones: Well, again, there’re not so many people that have that many members. I think we’re the largest church in town. Uh– I think she had mentioned s– hearing something of, of uh, our human service program. I can’t recall what it was–
Prokes: About drugs?
Jones: Yes. Having to do with drug rehabilitation. Thank you. And of course you know, Mr. Carter come couple of s– years before to Delancey Street, so there must be a pu– uh, a certain sensitivity there. Uh, his uh, his arch-fundamentalism – or what appeared to be arch-foundamentalism– uh, fundamentalism – gave me some concerns when he was elected president. But some of the nominations he’s made, at least in terms of foreign relations, the SALT, the gentleman for the director of SALT, uh, who’s having a tough time because he said that he would make every effort to bring détente in this thermo-nuclear age, when we can wipe out all of civilization and it looks like he might not get– make it. Uh, the man see– And Andy Young. I’ve known Andy Young to be extremely sensitive, at least in the early seventies in the struggle, of course people change, I don’t uh, know, I see he’s has now made three statements in the recent days that show that Andy’s still in the– coming from the same stock when he said that in Angola, in spite of what we may feel about Cuba, that they stabilize situations, and of course he got slapped down by Mr. [Cyrus] Vance over it, but I notice even Mr. Vance uh, the Secretary of State, saying, was it yesterday, that uh, we’re going to have better relations with Cuba, which is long, long overdue. I’ve been to Cuba. I have seen in Cuba a different form of communism than what has been depicted uh, to me in Eastern Europe. And uh, I disagree with uh, Mr. Cleaver, I did not recognize racism there. Um– Sure, there are certain facets of Cuban life that wouldn’t work for America, that’s why we gotta get out of this thing. One solution that will work for Cuba will not work for America. But I saw a tremendous amount of individual liberty. I was shocked at the amount of individual liberty. And a great deal of criticism – of course, within a socialist perspective – but criticism of the government. Uh, no fear of the government. That was pleasant to me, to see no fear. And the standard of living, compared to un– being under [Fulgencio] Batista is like comparing night to day. Uh, health care guaranteed, and uh, the standard of dress. I thought I was in the best neighborhood, you know, the best neighborhood of an American city. I noticed uh, Senator [George] McGovern’s children have been there for some weeks, and they’ve been saying the same things. Cuba is American in its orientation, it’s American in its culture, its appreciation of the arts. I don’t know what this stupid boycott uh, is– is going to do at all for us. I think that uh, with a bit of effort, we could be allies, and they could be of tremendous help to us. Their standard of moral sensitivity, uh, their cultural progress, their progress in health, high schools there just amazed me, uh, they’ll have– they limit 500 students to a high school, the high school’s put on an acreage of 500, they have 500 acres allotted to a high school, kids not only uh, work with their mind in the intellectual processes, but they– they spend three hours a day working in the fields. And they develop their own food, which gives them a real sense of– of fulfillment, plus – so there won’t be division, and Cuba is very much opposed to dividing on the basis of race or religion – they produce for the national economy. And uh, being a clergyman, I was concerned about freedom of religion. And I didn’t take any guided tour, because I– when I go into a situation, I want to be uninhibited. And uh, I haven’t found anything perfect in society, and certainly not Cuba either– either. But I talked to 400 different people from every strata of life, uh, professional people, people who’ve been poor as Job’s turkey, and I found no dissatisfaction. But we’re going to have to learn to relate in this world, we’re going to blow ourselves up. We’ve got to overcome these ideological barriers. At home, certainly– we’ve got to begin with home. I– I don’t– I didn’t mean to get on the uh, subject of Cuba. We’ve got to come together in this United States first.
Hare: All right, we’re going to come back in just a minute and continue this profile of Reverend Jim Jones.
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Hare: Welcome back to Reactions and our discussion with the Reverend Jim Jones and Michael Prokes of the Peoples Temple. Such an appropriately named church.
Prokes: Julia, I just wanted to add that when Reverend Jones met with Mrs. Carter, he didn’t spend his time talking or complimenting her or praising her husband, he talked about issues and needs in the poor and black communities.
Jones: Free press, too. I was greatly concerned about what the stands were going to be on the free press. We came to the rally for one rea– we were all wearing uh, badges at the time, it was during that Fresno crisis, and it said free– Free the Fresno Four. So I acquainted her with that.
Hare: Well, since uh, your church has been entered into the Congressional Record recently, uh, a whole page is so devoted to it, uh, there are those who may feel that you have political aspirations, even with ramifications for the Black Leadership Forum. Are you interested in that, becoming a supervisor?
Jones: Not– unequivocally no. And you’re very sensitive to perceive, that’s the whole issue of those few that didn’t want me in the forum because I’m lighter-skin, even though I’ve a mixed background. Uh– uh, they’re afraid, uh, so I’ve been told reliably, that I’m going to be the next supervisor of the Western Addition or promote a supervisor. We’re not even promoting a candidate within our church, because we want unity so badly that, even though we have thousands of people and had black leaders, a bl– a newspaper publisher [Carlton Goodlett], uh, professional people who, outside of our parish who suggested that we do that, we feel for the sake of unity, we will stay out of the arena, and as for me being a supervisor, in all due respects to uh– to the supervisors, I’m not the type of personality for it. We have to have some people outside the system, pointing at its errors. And I feel that’s my role, presently at least. I– I wouldn’t be able to work within the two-party structure, so I have no political ambitions, and this foolishness of the rumor that I’m going to be a mayor, or– I mean, throw my hat in for the mayor, I have no intentions of running for any elected office. And that is absolutely so.
Hare: Is that just here in the city, or is it– do you mean to set a statewide level or nationally or–
Jones: Yes, I– I– I don’t think that there’s a place for as free a thinker as I am at this stage. I hope I’m wrong. I would serve, of course, if I could serve. But it seems to me that when a man speaks, as I just spoke, about Cuba, uh, mention that you’ll go to Cuba, because of détente – I must say, while I was at Cuba, I also mentioned to them, highly-idealistic people, their intervention in Angola was greatly appreciated – but I– as I warned them, I said Uncle Sam is in a kind of a bad state of mind these days, he’s sort of a little bit like the man who went through the menopause and uh, once was the most attractive guy around town, the most potent guy around town, but he’s lost his girlfriends in Vietnam, and he’s lost in Cambodia and Angola and a lot of places in the world, and I said, he’s a dangerous creature because we read a few weeks ago of a man who uh, gone through that very uh, period and uh, suspected then that his wife was having an extramarital affair, and he ended up killing her and killed the grandchildren – not at my church, but uh– (Struggles for words) not too far removed from our community – and he wiped out everyone, and I said uh, to the Cubans, I said, you’re going to have to be very careful with your idealism, because it is a realistic fact that America is sick. It’s disturbed, as anyone would be that has had great power, and misused it unfortunately, but then see that power removed suddenly, lose all that potential, that potency, that attraction, uh, America has had so many reverses. I was amazed that they got by with Angola, and I asked them what– well, what will you do if you’re asked into Zimbabwe, and they said, well, we’ve not been asked. But if it was a populist reaction, we’d have to go. I said, don’t you realize that that could bring about thermonuclear war, and they said– one little lady in the Central Committee said to me, we all have to die sometime. You can’t start compromising your principles. You have to live by your principles. And I hope that America wi– is aware of that, that Cubans are not the type of people you will change by bluffing, no more than you’re going to change America. And we do have some realistic difficulties out there. We need– We need a new change in foreign relations, we’re going to have to have dialogue, we’ve got to have disarmament, my God, uh, (Struggles for words) every minute it’s increasing, the dangers of war by accident, and no one wins in a thermonuclear war, and uh, I’m all for Carter’s efforts to uh, (Struggles for words) re-emphasis of moral values, rather than thinking pragmatically whether we have uh, two more missiles than the Soviet Union. In the first place, if we had just a limited number of missiles, it’s enough uh, of a deterrent.
Hare: You know, millions of people visit Washington, D.C. every year. But why did your church get the tourist of the year award?
Jones: Well, The Washington Post gave us that, because when we go in to any area, we– we’re ecology-minded, and so we cleaned up that uh, little uh, pool that they have, and uh, it was a terrible thing that many tourists come in to the city, they throw all their paper and their debris–
Hare: You mean, you literally got out and cleaned–
Jones: We got in it. We got inside that pool, some of us 70 and 80 years of age–
Prokes: Rolled up their pant legs.
Jones: –rolled up the pant legs and got in there and cleaned that city up like it’d not been cleaned up.
End of tape
Tape originally posted January 2011