Practical Application of the Word of God
I sincerely hope that it was just this one person under the age of 40 who has no idea where this phrase came from, but the current state of uneducation in the United States tells me that this person is not the only one who doesn’t know.
So it’s time for a little history lesson first. The idiom “drinking the Kool-Aid” is a derivation of the original idiom “don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”
In 1978, 910 people, including men, women, and 303 children, who were members of a cult – The People’s Temple – led by Jim Jones committed suicide in Jonestown, Guyana by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Jones died by shooting himself.
The People’s Temple was not a religious organization, although it purported itself to be one. Jones rejected organized religion and the Bible and God (he had started out as a United Church of Christ minister), and instead made up his own teachings and made himself the god of the group.
Although he was clearly sociopathic and mentally ill to an objective observer, he was extremely charismatic and persuasive, luring people into the cult with the promise of realization of many of the ideals the Hippies and Flower Children of the 1960’s believed in, but never saw materialize.
Jones’ targets were these people: idealists who were disillusioned with failed hopes and dreams. Jones promised that those hopes and dreams could be fulfilled within the People’s Temple.
And the people bought it hook, line, and sinker. Once they were in the People’s Temple, they were told to cut all connections to anyone outside the group. They were told that Jones’ was special and could make their hopes and dreams come true.
They were repeatedly told that Jones was the only source of knowledge and authority in their lives: slavish obedience, subservience, devotion to as well as unconditional belief in the omnipotence of Jones was rewarded; disobedience, rebellion, questioning, and unbelief resulted in harsh, tortuous punishment.
In other words, Jones’ followers were conditioned to stop thinking, to never question, to blindly follow whatever he said to do.
Jones was a predator, sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing his “family,” and he was violent toward anyone who disagreed with him or who wanted to leave the cult. He was also a chronic drug abuser, if not an outright drug addict, resulting in ever-increasing paranoia about everything and everybody.
In 1977, Jones and his followers moved the People’s Temple to Jonestown, Guyana to escape increasing scrutiny of him and the cult in the United States.
However, Jones’ gig was almost up that late November day in 1978, because the few people who had somehow managed to escape his clutches and many concerned family members of cult members were able to get a United States government delegation to agree to investigate human rights abuses against Jones and the People’s Temple.
Because of Jones’ complete control over the members of the People’s Temple, his word was law. He convinced the majority of the people in Jonestown that the United States government was the enemy and were intent on destroying what they had built.
Jones terrorized them into thinking that the United States military would attack them and slaughter them mercilessly. Then he presented the alternative: drink the Kool-Aid and die an easy death.
910 people obeyed without questioning.
So the idiom “drinking the Kool-Aid” refers to believing lies as if they were truth and shutting the brain off to critical thinking (and asking questions) and blindly following somebody or something, no matter what a person is being asked to do.
Although at one time drinking the Kool-Aid was the exclusive domain of cults (religious or pseudo-religious or mystic – think Charles Manson here – groups of people brainwashed, brain-dead, isolated from everyone but the group members, and led by deeply flawed, if not outright crazy, substance-abuse-drenched snake charmers who were wolves in sheep’s clothing), it has now become entrenched in society at large.
Not drinking the Kool-Aid is the exception now everywhere in the world rather than the rule. And if you refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, you’re divisive, disagreeable, negative, critical, weird, too serious, or just thinking too much.
The pressure to drink the Kool-Aid comes at us full-force from all sides all the time. Sometimes it comes straight at us. Sometimes it blind-sides us.
But sometimes – in fact, most of the time – it comes at us so subtly that it’s almost imperceptible.
Therefore, if our spiritual and mental guards aren’t fully in place – the apostle Peter refers to this as girding up the loins of our minds, our discernment honed by constant use and experience, our lives built on the Rock, and our unwavering conviction that the sole source of absolute truth is God’s word, then we will drink the Kool-Aid without even realizing we’ve drunk it.
If we finally realize that we’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, by the time we realize it, it may be too late because we’ve already gotten a fatal dose of the metaphorical cyanide in our system.
So, what’s the antidote?
Who in your life and where in your life is the Kool-Aid being offered? Are you aware of it? Do you know it? And what is your response to it?