Jim Jones

Topics: Leo Ryan, Jim Jones, Jonestown Pages: 14 (4807 words) Published: July 22, 2012
Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple ethical or unethical practice?

In the 1970’s Jim Jones established a church called the Peoples Temple which eventually became a cult. The foundation of the church was based on social and racial inequality for all. The church started small yet eventually grew to 5,000 members. The Peoples Temple accumulated media and political attention which earned Jones popularity; this resulted to his nomination and selection to city commissioner. According to many Jones did not have much and cared little for wealth and fame. Despite his lack of interest for wealth, the church still accumulated a sum of over 20 million dollars due to many financial contributions. His charismatic approach enabled the church to gain fame and earn a respectable reputation. During this time frame the Peoples Temple was the only church which allowed individuals to join regardless of sex, religion, age, and social status. Subsequently following the civil rights movement many blacks were not welcomed into white churches, but Jones eliminated any racial obstacle and allowed all blacks, poor or rich to join.

His vision for a better world helped enable him to establish the Peoples Temple. Although he was charismatic, he was also a very disturbed individual. Unfortunately, his unstable personality eventually prevailed and he became responsible for the deaths of over 900 people, most of whom committed "revolutionary suicide" at the Jonestown compound in Guyana. In this paper I will provide insights from Plato, Yukl, Hobbes, Rawls, Arendt, Rand, Mill, Buddha, and Confucius to demonstrate Jones abusive and irrational behavior. Also, I will address the following topics pertaining to Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple; Power, Self-Interest, Virtue, Character, Duty, Intention, Social Utility, Justice as Fairness, The Moral Relationship of Leaders and Followers, and The Emotional Relationship of Leaders and Followers.


Throughout history many important leaders have been given power or have taken it. In the case of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple he was given the power and he felt it was not enough and took it upon himself to have more of it. Yukl mentioned that “The essence of leadership is influence over followers” (Ciulla, 2003, p. 3). Also, Yukl mentions that in order to have influence over another person they must first have power. According to Yukl there are many different types of power which are reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, and referent. An important source of power is the “The desire of others to please a person toward whom they feel strong affection” (Ciulla, 2003, p.11). Members of the temple believed that Jones was a good man and they were going to do whatever it took to please him. Jones later realized that in order to have absolute power he must have complete influence over everyone. He sought to accomplish it by making followers believe he had the power to solve all problems and further claiming he was God in the flesh. (Ciulla, 2003).

Yukl mentioned that there are different types of power and the best that fits Jones character is coercive power. This type of power is identified as a person complying in order to avoid punishment. According to Yukl “The amount of position power necessary for leader effectiveness depends on the nature of the organization, task, and subordinates.” http://www.uthscsa. edu/gme/documents/LspasaFunctionofPower.pdf.(Cite this, go to www.citationmachine.net). Any follower who questioned his was punished either physically or financially and at times separated from his family.

The church started small, but eventually accumulated over 5,000 members and received over 20 million dollars from contributions. Jones being the leader held strict control over resources and used it in whichever manner without any resistance. According to Yukl “The higher a person’s position in the authority hierarchy of the organization, the more control over scarce resources the person is...
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