Timothy Miller on Communes in America, 1975-2000
Yes, Miller writes about Jim Jones and People’s Temple, the Branch Davidians near Waco, and Fundamentalists Latter Day Saints, among many other groups you likely never knew about.
Here’s a little bit of my review:
“For readers interested in church–state relations, Miller’s final chapter ‘Communities in the Media Spotlight: Crisis and Controversy’ is the richest. Here he explains that the communities that have made the media spotlight have done so because of crises, which are not the norm but rather the exception. The reasons for these crises, he explains, are both internal and external issues and differ little from crises that occur in US culture outside of communities. . . .
One example of an internal crisis that bled into an external one was the leadership of People’s Temple. Jim Jones (1931–1978), a charismatic Protestant minister initially in Indiana, eventually led followers to California and Guyana, where they established the community known as Jonestown. Many of them later drank Fla-Vor-Aid laced with cyanide in 1978. Increasingly disturbed by mental illness and drug abuse, Jones’ behaviours included involvement in the death of California Congressman Leo Ryan and several reporters, who had arrived at Jonestown to investigate the community following a child custody case with defectors. Behaviours such as Jones’ are the exception rather than the rule, Miller asserts.”