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#19 / 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.

 

“You’ve always been a very good agitator. I like agitation because you have to see two sides of one issue…” -Jim Jones

 

People consistently talk about their love for agitators…the problem is that they hate being agitated. For Jim Jones, there was never two sides to any issue. There was only one side, Jones’ side. In this context, it seems like Jones is simply trying to exercise control over Christine Miller in their final exchange. He compliments her in order to lead her to her death. Can you imagine how many people complimented Jesus? Where were they in the end? Why didn’t they try to save his life? Beware of compliments…sometimes they’re lethal.

 

Amen.

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