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#10 / Jonestown Theology: Lenten Explorations in the Valley of Death

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Wikimedia / Nancy Wong

Wikimedia / Nancy Wong

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. 

 

“We can’t go back.” -Jim Jones

 

Can we go back? It’s a timeless existential question that has consistently troubled the human mind. You can’t convince a people to destroy their bodies without convincing them that there’s no path back to life. Suicide is a decision devoid of a future. One would think that any spiritual leader would seek to offer hopeful words in such a dark moment. Not Jones. His primary interest was death. Honestly, it couldn’t come fast enough for him. Before the day was over, bodies littered their compound. It didn’t have to go down like this. With a hopeful word, the people could have been saved. Alas, it was not to be. Know…you can always go back. Redemption will find you there. The past is no match for Jesus.

 

Amen.

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