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#11 / 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. 

“They won’t leave us alone.” -Jim Jones

THEY. It’s an odd word. The four combined letters are only needed because US has failed. You see, the distance between peoples is always THEY. THEY sneaks up into the fabric of our lives and the next thing you know everyone is THEY. The further we slip and hide, the more we THEY the world. When these words were spoken, death was near. Jones planned it that way. To complete the task, Jones reverted to a reliable word. This wasn’t the first time the words had been slung around. Constantly, Jones had talked about the evil of the THEY. On the last night, THEY were closing in. Jones wanted to make sure everyone was scared enough of THEY to stick together until they were all dead. We must be cautious of THEY. THEY have a way of isolating and destroying US.

The way to fix Jones’ sentence is simple:

“Don’t leave US alone.” -God

Amen.

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