Coffin on Rev. Jim Jones and the Pentagon

That story about the Pentagon’s $1.5 TRILLION (flawed) fighter jet reminded me of a particularly brash, “did he really just say that?” pulpit moment. In November of 1978 the Rev. Jim Jones and over 900 of his followers committed mass suicide in Guyana. About a month later William Sloane Coffin drew an extended Jonestown comparison as a way of critiquing out of control military budgets. From his Dec. 3, 1978 sermon at Riverside Church:

When I consider the terrible events of Guyana, I keep returning to one question: when at two in the morning, they were going through the Kool-aid drill for a simultaneous suicide, didn’t someone understand the possibility of what might happen? Suppose someone had said, “This is crazy. I’m not going to take this drink. We’re not going through with a mass suicide, ever, so why the drill?” That, at least, would have brought home some reality.

I suppose they took the drill, many feeling, “Well, it can’t happen.” If it seemed a little much, “Well, you have to take the bad with the good.” Besides “Rev. Jones is a real Dad to us. He makes us feel good, he has given us security, he has provided direction for our lives.”

Today the Pentagon is Rev. Jones. Once an honorable institution, it is showing signs of the same paranoia and meglomania that afflicted  Jones in his last months. Like Jones it has conditioned us, in our case by ever rising military budgets, against which we have not protested, so that we are in the same danger as Rev. Jones’ followers of passively giving over to the Pentagon the power to cause our own destruction. The proposed civil defense is the Kool-aid drill without the cyanide, a preparation for mass suicide of unthinkable proportions–what of the millions who won’t be included in the drill? Of course it is called a test of patriotic loyalty to prove that we are willing to die for our country.

It’s it time for somebody to refuse the drill? Isn’t it time for somebody to say “This is crazy”? And who should refuse to drink from the giant vats of the Pentagon, if not those who take the cup of salvation with their Lord and Savior? Those who are made strong by the blood of Christ can have nothing but contempt for the poison proffered by the Pentagon. In the name of our coming Savior, the Prince of Peace, we refuse it.

I really wish I could’ve seen the in-person response.


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