Friday, April 18, 2008

Jane Devin, Jim Jones, and the Fundamentalist Mormon Church

Lately, it seems my horizons on the net are expanding as I make new internet friends. These are people who, like me, seek to connect over the amazing phenomenon that is grandmother spider’s greatest modern day accomplishment. We’re all little spider babies traversing the world wide web. It’s cool when we bump into someone we can relate to. It has me thinking back on when I was just out of high school, publishing a silly little newsletter called “Feminine Connections” and writing as many hand written, snail mail letters as I could for the same reason.

To connect with people of a like mind.

One of my most wonderful discoveries as of late is Jane Devin at her website of the same name. Jane is a wonderful writer who isn’t afraid to tackle the most unsavory of topics while providing her personal spin in a sympathetic yet brutally honest manner. She also takes time to praise her favorite celebrities and personalities, perhaps a muse, someone she finds inspiring for one personal reason or another. I really dig this, as I am an enormous fan of both Rosie O’Donnell and Roseanne Barr (the 2 Rosies), as well as their opinions and charitable work. Although, I have to admit my obsession with Dolly Parton (always the Dolly Momma to me) surpasses regular fandom. I mean, any celebrity who channels Jesus, whispers to dolphins, or embodies a guardian angel is more than okay in my book. Jane seems to have a knack for discovering those celebrities whose light shines much brighter than the rest. And so, I find Jane refreshing, and I find myself going back there again and again.

Today my calendar at work spontaneously cleared, so I was screwing around on-line and ran into an article Jane wrote on Jonestown in November 2007. This struck a chord in me particularly given all the media coverage on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Eldorado, Texas. There are 416 children embroiled in a media circus that threatens to make O.J.’s trial look lame.

There are 416 children whose future is at stake.

At least these kids may have a chance.

Jane’s article on the Jonestown tragedy is here. Her reflection and outrage speaks for itself.

It’s very powerful stuff, and it got me to thinking.

There were 287 children who died in Guyana in November of 1978. There were 287 children who didn’t get a chance, whose final struggle was only hinted at in forensics, and whose ultimate demise was left to burn a hole in the memories of Jonestown survivors forever.

I was close friends with a man who survived Jim Jones and The People’s Temple, and he and I spent much time talking about his experience over about 12 years beginning in 1990. We worked together. It was difficult for him to make sense out of it all, primarily because the brain washing he suffered was so efficient that it skewed his perception of reality. He left The People’s Temple a young man before Jones moved his flock to Guyana, and he always felt getting out early made his experience less valid somehow, particularly in the face of those who died. I can assure you he suffered, as well. He lost a brother in Guyana, and he never got over it.

The time he spent in the People’s Temple, after his mother abandoned him and his siblings there, were most impressionable years, the time when a boy creates a sense of who he will become. This fellow, my once friend, spent those years very, very close to Jones himself , hanging out and getting in trouble with the Reverend’s children. He suffered the abuse, humiliation, and sustained brain-washing which was “Father’s” greatest gift to the tender children in his flock. He got the paddle behind the podium. He suffered the sleep deprivation. He drove up and down the California Corridor tucked into the overhead baggage carrier in the church’s bus caravan. My friend maintained, even into his late forties, that Jones was a magic man, somehow superhuman, capable of preaching all night on his pulpit, pushing everyone into debilitating catharses, without needing to take as much as a piss break. When he left the church, my friend went into hiding, convinced that Jones would send his henchman to kill him. After all, so many of those who left did reach an untimely and mysterious death in the San Francisco, Bay Area. The media made sure that message was loud and clear. When the media announced post-mortem that Jones was addicted to amphetamines, my friend didn’t believe it. It didn’t matter that Jones was dead. The threat was there embedded forever in my friends’ mind, and he carried it with him, raw and unrefined, every single day of his life.

The children who died in Guyana are gone, their chance at life stolen early on by a false prophet, a strung out, predatory charismatic. The children coming out of the compound in Eldorado, Texas, even the 13 year olds who are married and having children, still stand a chance. If they are brought out of the church, they’ll have to be deprogrammed. Some will survive, some won’t. Others may strive to get back into the only world they know, their comfort zone, be it heaven or hell. Maybe a few of them will go out into the world to make their mark, holding forever with them the knowledge that they came this close to suffering the religious high-jacking of their free will. Still, these children aren’t dead yet!

If what they are saying about the abuse going on inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Eldorado is true, then returning those children to their brainwashed mothers would be like sending my friend back to Jonestown in Guyana knowing he was going to die anyway … wouldn’t it?

I don’t know if my ex-friend would agree with me. He felt himself somehow separate from the pain he knew other People’s Temple and Jonestown survivors felt. Maybe it was his pride, and maybe he didn’t feel worthy. Besides, he and I don’t speak any more. He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, and had a problem with drugs and alcohol. He self-medicated because the Church left him thoroughly untrusting of medical professionals and society in general. When 2002 rolled around, 12 years into our friendship, he was inebriated by noon every day. I had to let him go, and he wouldn’t speak to me after that.

In her blog, Roseanne Barr has very specific comments that you can read here. She rarely minces words. Rosie O’Donnell wonders if the media coverage is a government diversionary tactic. She’s always on the lookout for a conspiracy, that one. I don’t know what Dolly thinks. She rarely weighs in on this sort of thing, but she’s got Jesus and gravity, so she’s just fine, riding the comet of success that is her Capricorn right at this point in Earth’s astrological history.

I believe the children in Eldorado stand a chance, and so are worth the effort it’ll take to prove the presence of abuse in the sect and extricate them from their church. Their path won’t be easy. They’ll miss their mothers for sure. At some point when they grow up, they’ll have to face their demons as adults … something my friend couldn’t do.

As fucked up as this world is, there has to be more than just a handful of those children who might just do well, don’t you think?

I think Jane would agree.

End Note: I picked up the picture at the top of this article somewhere on the web. When I figure out where it came form, I'll be sure to post credit accordingly.


tony said...

What a great Blog you have. I am so glad you found Jane. She has been an inspiration to me for over a year now. And i like you had to read this Guayna story again. Aso the children in Texas, are going to need a lot of help. I widh they would let some of us Take them in our homes, to help them see the real world. This world is not all bad and evil, as this church proclaims, but the children will never get to have the freedom of choice, if something is'nt done.

Donna L. Faber said...

Hi Tony ... thanks for the compliment! I'm glad I found Jane, too. She sure is thought provoking!


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