-Rev Melissa Fain-
Jim Jones was a super star. Everyone was looking in his direction, because everyone thought he'd finally figured out a good version of Communism. That's what Jonestown was supposed to be. If the People's Temple could survive in a closed system, then it could be implemented in a larger way. Only it failed... terribly. Jonestown was not the utopia Jim Jones was playing it up to be. When people came to check it out, and someone attempted to leave, everything turned for the worst. Jones' told members to gun down the visitors, and then convinced hundreds to commit suicide by drinking Flavor-Aide laced with cyanide. The babies and kids had the juice forced down their throats. By the time it was through, over 900 humans died in the jungle of Guyana.
Oh did the view of Jones change after that. No longer was he the ministerial darling that would change the landscape of communal living. He was a monster. Stories began to come out of the woodwork. He used his power to convince people to sleep with him. He faked miracles to make it look like he was the "real deal." He possibly had someone killed who decided he didn't want to be part of the People's Temple any longer.
I like to use Jim Jones as an example because he was a well liked person, who had tons of followers, but was ultimately wrong. History doesn't want to admit, that like Hitler, Jones was a media darling at one point. It's situations like those that the Bandwagon Fallacy exists.
The Bandwagon Fallacy is when someone appeals to popularity or the idea that a large group of people do something to validate that something as right. This fallacy can take many forms where ignorance, non-action, and inaction get justified because most people are doing whatever is being justified.
We forget, that historically, a large majority of people can continue abuse and self-harm to a system. The Crusades, Slavery, the mass genocide happening in countries to this day are all examples where our inaction or ignorance rubber stamped terrible actions.
“If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.”
It's easy to play that game. We can take these terrible events and history and raise our flag like we accomplished something by stating, "Not I, Lord! The rest may fall away, but I'd stand for injustice!" Only, the church has a band wagon's today. Sure, no one is getting ripped in two, or gassed. We don't have physical mountains of hair left over as a reminder of our atrocities. Most of the time, being on the wrong side isn't that easy. Only movies have smoking guns, and clearly laid out bread crumb trails. Instead, we have stories. Mountains of stories. We've all heard them, but the church isn't making it their war cry. Why?
We have chosen our new war cries. "It wasn't at my church." "I wasn't there when that specific thing happened." "I wasn't part of that specific event."
For the one who is now an outsider looking in, those words pierce so deeply. Just because no one else in the church is seeking justice, doesn't mean your specific Christian institution is innocent. Just because the event is over and everyone has left who was hurt, doesn't mean the issue is resolved. Just because you sit with thousands of others who are going through the patterns every week, doesn't mean you are on the correct side. That's the Band Wagon Fallacy. I'm circling it, and actually, I'm making it a target. We are not here to save an institution. We are here to save the people. Stop focusing on the place, and maybe you will see we are hemorrhaging.