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.
#2 / Jonestown Theology: Explorations in the Valley of Death
“In spite of all that I’ve tried, a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible.” -Jim Jones
The quickest way to control people is to create a common enemy. Once fear of impending consequences is established, people will do whatever they’re told. There is no clearer modern example of this than Jonestown. In the midst of a manufactured paranoia, Jim Jones led the community to death. The people followed because they didn’t believe they had a choice. They believed life was impossible. It wasn’t. God has never been about impossible. Neither should we be.