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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

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  107 Ratings  ·  9 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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Susie Meister
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
May 17, 2011 Suzi rated it liked it
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
Donna Riley
Jan 05, 2013 Donna Riley rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 30, 2016 Fishface rated it really liked it
I became aware of this book on the anniversary of the Jonestown massacre and snatched up the first copy I found. I had never really gotten my questions about Jonestown answered. This book really delivered -- it not only gave the facts of the case, but placed them in the context of religious-group suicides through history. The author defies the reader to call the People's Temple a cult. He points out that using that word dismisses the philosophy of thousands of People's Temple members who truly b ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
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.
May 07, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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.
Carrie Andersen
Sep 16, 2012 Carrie Andersen rated it really liked it
Shelves: fall-2012
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.
Jul 13, 2010 Joe rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and the power of religion.
May 11, 2007 Becca rated it it was amazing
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."
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David Chidester is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town.
More about David Chidester...

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