Question: A few months ago you used the expression “He drank the Kool-Aid.” What, exactly does that mean?
Answer: The original reference is to the mass suicide of Jim Jones, a paranoidal minister, and his cult followers at Jonestown, Guyana in November of 1978. The cyanide laced death drink was probably Flavor Aid, but the market recognition of the name Kool Aid has given it the dubious distinction of being the historical agent.
Jones was a charismatic leader, a “füher figure,” who misled people in their material and spiritual lives, convincing them that there was no alternative other than to go along with the thinking of the group. Even parents, who should have known better, caused their children to drink the poison. The result was catastrophic, for nearly a thousand people lost their lives in his hellish nightmare.
Less specifically, the reference is made in current times to anyone in a position of responsibility who doesn’t speak up and voice his objection to policy or behavior he believes to be wrong. Voicing the truth in critical matters is always the duty of the employee, the citizen, the soldier, the politician, the parishioner, the priest, or the bishop—even if the truth is unpopular with peers or superiors. Fear of telling the boss the truth he doesn’t want to hear, fear of contradicting one’s peers (“group-think”), and a false sense of loyalty to friends in need of fraternal correction are all possible causes for failing to speak the truth. The problem is well explained in an article (available on the Internet) on the consequences of defense analysts “drinking the Kool Aid,” which appeared in Neo-Conned Again—although the setting was military-political, the principles are applicable wherever those with the obligation refuse to “speak truth to power”—definitely including the Catholic Church.
“I will do my duty to God and my country....” “I will support and defend the Constitution....” “I do anathematize every heresy that shall arize against this Holy Catholic Church....” “I will speak the truth to power.”