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Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown
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Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  82 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Praise for the first edition:
"[This] ambitious and courageous book [is a] benchmark of theology by which questions about the meaningful history of the Peoples Temple may be measured." --Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Re-issued in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the mass suicides at Jonestown, this revised edition of David Chidester's pathbreaking book fe
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Indiana University Press (first published 1982)
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The value of Chidester's work is in its detailed analysis of the People's Temple's state of "otherness". Chidester demonstrates the relationship between Jones and his audience and while Jones' sermons were public performances, his audience was active in their encouragement of him. Jones interest in socialism and equality developed at an early age. The "otherness" of People's Temple was described with imagery of defilement. Chidester refers to Herberg's "tri-faith interreligious" landscape of Ame ...more
An interesting analysis of Peoples Temple and Jonestown, this book really tries to understand the viewpoint of the members of this group. Probably one of the most interesting analyses, to me, in this book is the amount of difficulty officials went through to get the bodies buried. The various ways in which citizens of Guyana and the U.S. treated the corpses as something other than human, something strange and foreign. I had never thought about how funerals relate to humanity. I'd certainly heard ...more
In Salvation and Suicide, Chidester looks at Jonestown in theological terms. To that end Jones’ worldview is exhaustively explored. He uses Jones’ writings, the accounts of survivors and other available documents and recordings to explore the theology of Jim Jones. Chidester narrates the story of Jones and Peoples Temple offering analysis along the way. Chidester attempts to give humanity back to the participants of the mass suicide/murder. This book contains an index and extensive notes.
Donna Riley
A few years ago I read several books on Jonestown, seeking to learn more about what happened there and why. This was the only book that really helped me understand. Written by a scholar of comparative religion, Chidester's approach unpacks biases against new religious movements and interprets Jonestown in terms of the members' own belief systems.

He does not sugarcoat the behavior of Jim Jones and other leaders in the movement, but he does provide tremendous insight into their actions that takes
I picked this up in my school library when I was in 9th grade because we were required to have books with us for free time. I never intended to read it, but found myself bored one day and decided to start it. Much to my surprise, it was incredibly interesting.

Up until that point, I had never heard of Jim Jones or The Peoples Temple (although I live in Indianapolis- just a few miles from an old Peoples Temple building, actually!) but was quickly hooked.

Very interesting read.
Carrie Andersen
Remarkably clearly organized and thoughtful assessment of the Peoples Temple. My qualms are more about methodology: the voices of survivors and adherents are erased in this account, which makes SOME sense, since there were so few survivors... but there's a huge hole that Chidester could have filled with some expansion from his archival research.
May 11, 2007 Becca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: guyanans
most intelligent scholarly discussion of jonestown so far. actually does justice to jones' ideas rather than just being reactionary and sensationalistic. "let's get gone."
I learned a lot about Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and the power of religion.
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Thoughts on this book. 1 1 Jul 06, 2014 02:47PM  
David Chidester is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town.
More about David Chidester...
Christianity: A Global History Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa American Sacred Space Patterns of Transcendence: Religion, Death, and Dying

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