Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

“Drinking the Kool-Aid”

Categories: Iron sharpens iron

“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice….”

(Exodus 23.2)

On November 18, 1978 a religious cult called the Peoples Temple committed one of the most heinous acts of the 20th century—a mass murder-suicide.  Since the cult was mostly about enacting communism, it had enjoyed about fifteen years of support from the political left.  But when the fake faith healings and former members’ accusations of horrible abuse started to garner attention, the cult leader, Jim Jones, decided it was time to flee the United States for Guyana in South America.  There they established a new commune, but unsurprisingly, conditions steadily declined over five years, culminating when the cult’s thugs murdered U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, along with many of his associates, who had traveled to Guyana to check up on alarming reports concerning these American citizens.  Knowing that the jig was pretty much up after that, the leaders decided the best course of action was the “revolutionary suicide” they’d planned and dry-run many times over.

There were about a thousand people in the commune, more than a quarter of them children.  They were directed to ingest a Kool-Aid type drink, spiked with sedatives and cyanide, which Jones had been stockpiling for years.  If they refused, they’d face the guards’ guns.  Parents first gave a cup to their children, and then drank a cup themselves, and over the next few hours, more than 900 people died.

This event popularized an expression: “drinking the Kool-Aid.”  Peer pressure is so powerful that it can induce people to literally, even knowingly ingest poison, rather than being left out, or exchanging former friends for deadly enemies.  We pull out this expression when we see someone engaging in bad, and especially self-destructive behavior in order to fit in with some subculture.  We use it derisively, scornfully.

We also live in society that mirrors Jones’ cult, immersed in political ideology that champions greed and envy, and saturated with disordered sexual practices, including the abuse of children.  This is especially evident during “Pride Month,” in which every individual and every institution is encouraged, then commanded, to drink the Kool-Aid, or else face the wrath of society.  Christian denominations fall like flies, choosing to join with the atheists and the reprobates, rather than the Word of God.  Just recently, the United Methodist Church voted—692 to 51—to lift its ban on ordaining and appointing self-described and practicing homosexuals as ministers.  So-called “gay marriage,” an oxymoron if ever there was one, was an open discussion even in the political sphere, just in 2015.  Only nine years ago, the Supreme Court discovered that the 14th Amendment contains a right to marry a member of one’s own sex, and since then, one after another, religious institutions that profess to serve Christ decide to fall in with the many in rejecting Christ’s teaching on this matter, which is both concise, and thorough.

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

(Matthew 19.4-6)

It’s not a question of whether the gays are icky; standing firm on this point purely out of personal, prejudicial revulsion, as some do, is not standing with Christ.  Jesus was seen by the aloof Pharisees as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners,” and was not ashamed of that characterization (Lk 7.34).  On one occasion, a Pharisee observed “a woman of the city, who was a sinner,” washing and perfuming Jesus’ feet, and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (vv37 & 39).  Seeing her obvious remorse and belief in him, Jesus responded to the Pharisee, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much” (v47).  We must follow Jesus’ example, standing against the tide, in full confidence that Jesus means what he says, knows better than we do, and is able to redeem the worst sinner and make him righteous.  Do we trust in Jesus, or not?

We have many more examples to encourage us.  Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah saw everyone around them bowing to the idol, but they refused, telling Nebuchadnezzar “we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Da 3.18).  Job’s three friends relentlessly badgered him to admit he’d sinned, and he looked like an arrogant, obstinate fool for refusing!  Yet God eventually told them, “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Jb 42.7).  The prophet Micaiah stood alone among “about 400” prophets, all feeding the king the same lie he wanted to hear (1Ki 22.6).  The Apostle Paul stood for truth against other Christians, including elders and Apostles, who were unwilling to fully accept that God had called the Gentiles to Christ. 

None of these were enjoyable—in fact, all were miserable situations, with a strong likelihood of being put to death in some cases!  But we don’t honor the ones who caved in and drank the Kool-Aid.  The world offers a pathetic, synthetic, sickly-sweet alternative that appeals to our lusts, but leads to death; don’t drink the cup it offers!  Jesus offers something far more radical, that doesn’t seem as palatable, but leads to life:

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

(John 6.54)

Jeremy Nettles