God is never lost. In the midst of great evil, God is there. I have long wondered how Jonestown fits into such ideas. In the 1970s, Rev. Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple founded the settlement in the jungles of Guyana. After a few years of communal living, Jones led his followers to commit a mass suicide/murder that left over 900 people dead. The last words the community ever heard were recorded. Jones’ words are beyond disturbing. Evil resonates with every syllable. Even in the midst of such, I refuse to believe that God was absent during such terror. Lent is a time to look for God in death. To honor the victims of Jonestown, I’ve decided to seek God in the last words they heard in the order that they would have heard them. In those evil words of death, may there also be something for us. These devotions should never be mistaken for an apologetic for Jim Jones or anything he stood for. This is a search for God.
#1 / Lent in Jonestown: Theological Explorations of Death
“How very much I’ve tried my best to give you a good life.” -Jim Jones
I’ve heard this type of language my whole life. Such assurances are about the speaker not the hearer. Those who utter such words do so in order to gain control. They expect a certain response. The good life is lived not given. I can’t imagine God ever using Jones’ words. Love is a choice not a demand. The people of Jonestown moved to Guyana in search of something more. When the dreams became a nightmare, Jones wanted to feel the control one last time. The people were just desperate for life. So are we.