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#16 / 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.

 

“I’ve always put my lot with you.” -Jim Jones

 

There is Christ and there is Anti-Christ. In what might sound like the words of Christ, Jim Jones declared that he was putting his lot with his community. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be true. Jones was pushing the community to a suicide that he would not fully emulate. When the time came to die, almost everyone in the community took a lethal dose of cyanide. Afraid of a similar death, Jones shot himself in the head. I can’t imagine Christ pushing people to a painful suicide and then taking an easier route. When someone tells you they’re with you, make sure they mean it. There’s nothing worse than finding out that someone is a liar when you need them the most. Christ is about truth. Anti-Christ is about lies. When observing Jones, I don’t think it’s hard to figure out which category he falls in. There is Christ and there is Anti-Christ. Choose wisely.

 

Amen.

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