Transcript prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
Tape opens with segment of distorted tape, a two-second snippet from first conversation which follows.
Mike Prokes: Greetings from the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project of the Northwest region in Guyana. We’ve been hearing a portion of music as presented by one of the Peoples Temple choirs. I’m with Bishop Jim Jones, and Bishop, Peoples Temple has always been human-service oriented in terms of reaching out to peoples’ material as well as spiritual needs. Many religious leaders feel that the role of assisting people in a material way ought to be left up to social service agencies and not to the church, which they feel should be left to concentrate on saving souls. What was it that convinced you that religion must be made practical?
Jones: The church’s inception on the day of Pentecost had very little to do with just the esoteric or the metaphysical. Certainly the new birth was the beginning. But after the inception of the Christ within, we saw manifestation in every phase of human life, a total restructuring of apostolic society. People selling their possessions and having all things common, going about from house to house, sharing, enjoying a humanistic relationship of a higher dimension and higher order. Jesus Christ in his judgment in the latter day, in Matthew 25, did not judge those who were believers on whether they had been baptized by trine immersion or by other type of liturgy. O– On the contrary, he judged the church by whether they had fed the hungry that had come to them, whether they administered to those that were without homes, who were naked, who needed clothing, who were oppressed, who were in prison. He said if you did not do it unto the least of humanity, you did it not unto me. So the Christian message, the Christology, the logos, emphasizes social justice. That’s why I practice social action every day in our relationships.
Prokes: And how do you see Jonestown as fulfilling what you’ve just described?
Jones: Well, in essence, it is the church in action. We don’t require this uh, lifestyle for others, but indeed it is a takeoff from the early church. On the day of Pentecost they settled a community. People came together, a hundred and twenty came together, and immediately there was a sense of community. Apostolic relationships. We read a literal – or if you choose to be symbolic about the biblical passages – a figurative statement about uh, Ananias and Sapphira. They came before the apostolic council and held back some of their possessions. I believe Scriptures relate that they dropped dead, both of them, because they withheld only a small portion of their wealth from the community. Egalitarianism was basic to the Christian concept, and so Jonestown is an egalitarian community. It is a communal community, it’s a socialistic community, and that’s a long discussion of what Jonestown really is, there’s uh, not enough space, but if the antichrist, the fascistic, the selfish nature, it’s people against people, people separated from people, then Pentacostalism or socialism is people for people, people with people.
We want to share the wealth of the world fairly, to make sure we all have good housing, good education, creative work, which is the thrust of most of the economies of the world, and, as we have in Jonestown, the finest medical treatment possible. It’s just a delight to watch, in the last two days, where we have gathered all residents of the nearly thousand that’re in Jonestown, and done thorough cancer pap smears, thorough cancer testing for the lumps in the breast region and rectal area of the men and fe– the females, and also prostate, all of these uh, things that would not be available unless you had an egalitarian, a Pentecostal – which means a socialistic – community. And it is just fantastic to see the church in action. Now, others may not feel that that is their cup of tea or their lifestyle, but to us, it’s very satisfying. Not only do we meet the residents of Jonestown, which include our Guyanese nationals and we from North America, but we’ve reached out to literally dozens this week, as our medial st– team went up in the [Matthews] Ridge area, went into Kaituma, we saved two little children by intravenous feedings that were brought in by Comrade Holden and uh, Ennings, I believe were the name, Ennis children. Those children would have died without the medical care made possible by a Christian community sharing all of its wealth equally. And we feel that there is no greater fulfillment than that kind of lifestyle. The Christian lifestyle. Socialism is basic to that Christian lifestyle, in my interpretation. I would by no means impose my interpretation onto others, but it indeed satisfies us. We see in backward areas of the world now, people who were living in the most feudalist conditions, are eating every day, whereas in western civilization, in many of the countries of advanced technology, we see millions going to bed hungry. We see in poor Third World developing countries the people riding on subways that they own themselves. They don’t have to uh, find a coin. It’s their country, because they helped to build it. And that’s why we love the Christian community in Jonestown, although theologically, there’s no requisite to be Christian. We have agnostics, we have atheists, we have Mohammedans, we have uh, Jews, Hindustani, people who have tired of the worship of things. Jesus’ brother James said, Pure religion undefiled before God and the Father was to minister to the orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted from the world, or the worship of things, in the Greek. And that’s indeed what we see in the Jonestown setting. It’s wonderful. The medical care, as I said, here is a right, not a privilege. No one is denied because they don’t have Blue Cross or no one has to sell their house for their last operation. Those going in our boat, which include, as I said, our Guyanese national neighbors, as well as we who are new immigrants to this beautiful, beautiful land in the Northwest District, all going in on our boat, because every potential cancer has been found, and that was six in this community of a thousand. And we’re filled to live Christianity. Christianity’s something more than words. Uh, Jesus said that we must live it in deeds and actions, not be hearers of the word, but doers of the word. And that’s what we’re doing. As you hear the saw in the background, building housing for everyone, so that each can share and enjoy the great facilities of an apostolic setting. No one is denied because they don’t have job salaries of the levels of the highest paid. From each according to his ability to each according to his need, was not a political philosophy. It was found, incorporated, in the New Testament Christianity.
Prokes: How did Jesus Christ teach socialism?
Jones: He demonstrated it. Jesus was teacher, but he was also the master practitioner. He went about doing good. He was always exemplifying the spirit of cooperation, the cooperative republic spirit. He showed by his example how to live socialism, by the m– uh, the– the miracle – whatever level you see it – of the loaves and the fishes. Constantly Jesus emphasized this kind of cooperation, which gives productivity and self-respect, because it shows that you are not left alone to rot by yourself in your own selfishness, after your last friend or your cat dies. And then to be found ten days after you die only because your welfare check or pension check is inadequate or was unclaimed, and te– until then, no one has missed you. Pentecostalism, communalism, socialism, is much more than a fair distribution of goods and services. It is a system of human relationships where domination is replaced by cooperation, where the masses of people shape the country they live in, or the community, and exercise collective control over their destiny. It is power, really, to the people in a non-violent sense.
Prokes: Here in Jonestown, you can find people from practically every racial and religious background under the sun. The members comes from all walks of life and seemingly with nothing in common. What is it that has enabled such a large group of diverse people to hold together so well and– and be able to live and work together in harmony?
Jones: The dynamism of Jesus Christ philosophy, pacifistic socialism. That is the process. And with it has brought many victories and of course many problems, as we came through racism and relocated 6000 miles away, and we came to the point where we overrode graft and brutality and sadism that comes out of a– a society in some ways that glorifies violence in its TV media. We overrode unfairness, and we have reached that beautiful philosophy of sharing, of egalitarianism, Pentecostal socialism. But yet we’re not narrowed in theology to exclude people who disagree with us, who may not believe in an anthropomorphic being. That’s irrelevant, because it is written, God is love, and you could easily reverse that – love is God – and there can be no love without equality. It would be impossible to think of there being love, equality, with some being as kings and others living in dire poverty. It is socialism that keeps this community together.
Prokes: It’s working for this community of over 800 now. Do you think it would work on a larger scale, the type of socialism we live here for a– a nation?
Jones: Why not? We’re no more talented. We have no more brilliance than any other people. We have a sense of commitment, indeed, productivity. This is a model community, as people visit daily from all levels of government and various parts of the world, and the frequent quote is, this is a model to be emulated the world over, and indeed, it can be. And by necessity, we must, because two out of three of the world’s babies are going to bed hungry, I believe, by report of the president of the United States [Jimmy Carter]. Therefore we have no alternative but to attempt to live a sharing philosophy. It is immoral to consider two out of three people going to bed hungry.
Prokes: What is it that has brought people along, who come from backgrounds of– of crime, of which we have a few, and– and drugs and uh, antisocial behavior? What has made people uh, grow out of that and be able to function in a normal and productive way here?
Jones: A true family spirit, socialism. It’s sad that not all respond to this. Selfishness is in deeply engrained in many, many people, but that shouldn’t discourage us, because we have seen the most difficult cases here overcome. In Jonestown, for instance, where we have audio-vision that does not communicate violence. I think much of the background of violence and drugs are uh, put before us, paraded before us as lifestyles that we should emulate. So in– with structure and love, and an emphasis upon understanding cooperation, we have been able to override some m– grossly difficult backgrounds. It is not an easy process, always. And it’s sad that many don’t seem to want to emulate it. But I am encouraged, when after all, mankind, after thousands of years, has been denied the opportunity of running their own lives, and have been living in a sort of nihilism and animalistic anarchy, it is amazing to see world developing throughout the whole of this planet, preaching and practicing equality.
Prokes: Thank you, Bishop Jones, for your thoughtful commentary. We’ve run out of time, but we’ll be back again at this same time next week. Until then, as always, we invite you to write us with your comments and suggestions, even your criticisms, because this is how we best feel we can grow and progress and learn more about this wonderful country. Our address in Georgetown is Post Office Box 893, or you can telephone us if you wish. Our number is 68787. Until next week, on behalf of Bishop Jim Jones and all of us in the Jonestown community, peace and blessings.
(last segment repeated) –community, peace and blessings.
(tape silence for several moments)
Mike Prokes: Greetings from the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Jonestown of the Northwest region in Guyana. You’ve been hearing a portion of some music performed by one of the Peoples Temple choirs. With me is Bishop Jim Jones. Bishop, I would like to ask you at this time for an update on the progress of the Jonestown community.
Jones: Thank you, Mike. I think one of the interesting facets is that we have been able to reach out into the community about us, with our medical team, in a true apostolic Christian socialistic example. [Larry Schacht] Our doctor’s going to the community just north of us and to Port Kaituma area one day each week. We minister to approximately 73 nationals, neighbors, and this is uh, to us, I think, the most fulfilling thing that’s happened lately. Our housing increases daily. We’ve been able to build a library. We now have introduced into the area – and also to share with the community – an audio-vision, based on a TV concept, but it doesn’t monitor or bring in TV from the outside or any TV station. It’s closed circuit. And we have a library of films, non-violent in nature, for the most part documentaries. For instance, Roots and all of its serials that was shown and appreciated so widely in the United States. I think that’s an interesting development of recent date in the Jonestown community. Our nursery has been equipped with autoclave and sterilizers. We have been able to eliminate totally gastro-intestinal problems. Also, most conditions or illnesses that we had stateside before we became residents in this beautiful country of Guyana, as one distinguished American guest, author who just left, and perhaps the most active lawyer in the civil rights fields, Charles Garry, referred to it after several days’ visit here, as “paradise,” and mentioned that he wanted to retire here in future years. We’ve achieved, as I said, remission of many disorders and improvement of all except one problem, emphysema. It is often associated with smoking to an excessive degree in the States. So we’ve built a unit with air-conditioning, and that of course makes life very, very pleasant. Otherwise the humidity is just a little too much for those who have emphysemia [emphysema]. However, blood pressure problems, hypertension, all have reduced. Diabetes mellitus has practically disappeared in the community. Arthritis is greatly reduced. People I see, like Mrs. [Carrie Ola] Langston and Erma Winfrey and Mrs. Taylor, who were absolutely infirm, now walking about joyously. Perhaps it’s the freedom of tension of uh, race prejudice that does exist in some sectors of Western society. Also, faith, being out with the beauty of the country life, animals, wildlife, we’re building a zoo, as we of course displace the ecology somewhat to have more area to plant food, we find little animals, and we’re building a zoo. We try to protect all the animal life and get them back to their setting, so that we will not disturb permanently the ecology. And this is fantastic new development of– in the community. We have now monkey, we have an anteater, we have sloth, we have uh, toucan, and we have parrots. And of course we have our own chimpanzee that we brought from the States that was being experimented unnecessarily by a private group, and he is so human-like, he can almost talk. I think that the housing development, the housing scheme, the school, the adult education classes, the language– To think that many in the community are learning not only Spanish and French, but the natural language of our people, Swahili. And to see seniors as– I saw one senior in last evening’s adult class, 83. This is some of the things that come to my mind, Mike, that’re happening and updating of Peoples Temple Pentecostal socialistic community.
Prokes: Some of the children are learning foreign languages as well, even before they can read or write, and that’s uh, quite unusual, I’m sure.
Jones: Yes. Indeed, it is. I’ve been very much impressed with our basketball team. We’re hopeful that within a few days our basketball team will go in to participate in intramural sports in the Georgetown area and neighboring communities. It has been said that our basketball team is probably going to be uh, very professional. Also, our drill team of young women, a dance drill that they give, with w– lyrics to our beloved Guyana, which has become our home, and we love Guyana so much. All sorts of talent is being expressed. Every day we see new forms of talent. The calypso has become a part of our music, our demonstration, appreciation of art and– and music. And the calypso, I don’t know how I’ve lived all these years without it.
Prokes: Hmm. This is of course an agricultural project, although one might not know that, to hear you describe the various activities going on here, but how is the agricultural coming?
Jones: Very important. Thank you for reminding me. Naturally, in the agricultural setting, you have to have food, and we’re doing very well. In eddoes, we’re doing I think exceptionally well, in getting prepared for future nursery uh, lime, oranges, tango, uh– the tangerine, uh. We’re going into mangos, uh, breadfruit, uh, papa– pawpaw, as it’s known here, papaya, which also has tremendous healing quality.
Prokes: How so?
Jones: Well, we learned of it through a British uh, medical magazine, where a doctor had done a kidney transplant, and placing some of the uh, tissue of the skin on the transplant enabled the transplant to work. We found one lady, 91 years – uh, Mother [Burger Lee] Dean, we call her – she had ulcerations for about five years that would not heal, with all the advanced medicine in the United States. But within a matter of just days, the pawpaw, or the papaya as we call it in the United States, healed them completely, and now she, at her ninety-second year, is walking around free from all those ulcerations. It does work.
Prokes: And so are a lot of other seniors who’ve been healed, I know, through the years of every kind of infirmity, and the environment here has helped that process along. The uh– the warmth has helped tremendously with arthritis. I remember seniors in their former environments who had great difficulty walking, now move about here like young children.
Jones: Indeed, true. I couldn’t begin to enumerate the number of people who have been healed, and – or as one scientifically would prefer – enjoy remission from diseases, such as crippling arthritis and chronic hypertension, and diabake– and diabetic conditions. I think we have now been able to eliminate a couple of dozen people from insulin, who had permanently on insulin, but our medical doctor and the practitioners– the medical practitioners and the registered nurses, have been able to very satisfactorily eliminate insulin. Their blood sugar is balanced, and of course, we have all those remarkable uh, medical equipments to test that sort of thing daily, to be able to do blood work, and uh, we have a microscope that is about ten thousand dollars in value, Guyanese, that’s able to study pa– parasites in the blood and the intestinal region, the bladder, so forth. We really do see a tremendous sense of development every day in Peoples Temple. And we of course base this community on the Acts of the Apostles, where people, after they’ve received Jesus Christ as their sovereign, the savior, their liberator, their leader, they immediately went about establishing a community. The 120 gathered their possessions together and brought them to the apostles’ feet, and they distributed, uh, from each according to their ability to each according to their need.
Prokes: One thing I wanted to mention regarding the health care, the community here is enjoying the highest level of health that they’ve ever known, which is somewhat ironic, considering many people before they came had a apprehension about moving to the jungle.
Jones: My, my, how wrong any of us were that did have apprehension. Not only have we developed that medical care to the highest, and just finished thorough medical check-ups on all, and our lovely boat just took four of our own people and two of our Guyanese neighbors where we had found the early stages of cancer, it is uh– it’s just a fantastic community in that sense. The jungle is uh, so misrepresented in modern society. It’s like a glorious page– uh, Shangri-La, uh, something out of fantasy land. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. So uh, much abundance of good air and all of– uh, the lovely fish in the rivers, the fields that grow so bountifully, the harvest of eddoes and cassava and pineapple, and I could go on endlessly, beans, wingbeans, we now find good crop in that, and uh, the uh, remarkable thing that we found in the bean that uh, we use as a meat substitute that many thought would not be usable, a cutlass bean. That has become immensely inspiring. The whole of the forest life, living in the bush, as I said, is our cup of tea, and we grow our own tea (laughs), we don’t have to buy the soft drinks that decay the teeth from sho– so much sugar, we’re able to provide so many w– myriad of drinks right on our own community, and never have to buy a soft drink, and we don’t miss it.
Prokes: And I’m sure this accounts or– in some parts for the higher level– level of health care, uh, because the food doesn’t have the chemicals that uh, uh, the people here were used to eating.
Jones: Yes, indeed, and then of course, our salt is medicated, [if] there was any outbreak of malaria, which we have not had any, and the mosquito population is negligible, and now we’re about to get the fly population under total control. It isn’t easy to build a communal society. We don’t impose that upon others, we don’t feel that one has to agree with us, the– the communal life structure, the socialistic life structure is essential to be a Christian, but we would be miserable without our sense of community. We’ve had so many va– victories, so many fulfillments by living this socialist life in Jonestown.
Prokes: I guess it’s a matter of getting rid of one’s insecurity. Socialism, of course, means sharing and equality and uh, as the Scripture puts it, uh, requires a pooling of resources, and uh, there’s some insecurity about giving up something, which really is no sacrifice, as it turns out, because it’s been equally distributed, and it guarantees people their– their– that their needs will be met, but until that’s done, I guess there’s an apprehension uh, about it because of uh, a former conditioning as to uh, gaining of material possessions and holding onto them.
Jones: Indeed. I’m sure that some had apprehension about the cooperative lifestyle until it came time for an eye surgery, and all the medical community of Georgetown can attest, whenever we have an emergency that our medical staff, our medical doctor can’t meet, we send them to the best surgeons and we have very fine medical pre– people in Georgetown. We’ve never found anything that we couldn’t resolve in Guyana, so we’re very strongly committed to self-sufficiency, that we eat what we grow, that we produce things from our own soil, and we’re (unintelligible word; could be “helping,” “happy,” healthy”) with that. We’re producing furniture, we’re producing toys, we’re producing things that we’re going to share with the local Port Kaituma school, we’re building– getting prepared to build a lovely children’s park– recreational park like we have in Jonestown, so it’s uh, an immensely fulfilling thing, but of course, people are apprehensive until they see they get far more from it than they give up.
Prokes: They certainly do. Thank you, Bishop Jones. We’ve run out of time, but we’ll be back again at the same time next week. Until then, please write to us. Our address is Post Office Box 893 at our headquarters in Georgetown. That’s Post Office Box 893, Georgetown, or if you wish to call us, our phone number is 68787. Thank you for tuning in. On behalf of Bishop Jim Jones and all of us here in Jonestown, peace and blessings.
End of tape
Tape originally posted May 2013