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 don’t think nothing is impossible, if you believe it.” -Christine Miller
In a very public final engagement with Jim Jones, Christine Miller tried to save her community. Miller’s words were words of tremendous beauty. She believed that hope could hold back evil. The community wasn’t having it. Eventually, Jones and others cut her off. Many would say that she failed. Everybody still died. It is unfair to judge Miller in such a way. Miller’s words should be judged in context. As death approached, Miller’s hope was the last positive words that many of her listeners ever heard. I believe the words followed the listeners from death to life. Hope is immortal.