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#22 / 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.

 

“…death is not a fearful thing…” -Jim Jones

 

Repeatedly, Jim Jones used the promises of God to manipulate his followers. Though God tells us not to fear death, I don’t think God ever intended such phrasing to be used to lead people to their death. Jones said these words a short time before everyone was killed. These moments were not about God. These moments were about the Jones believing himself to be God. People shouldn’t have feared death…there should have been joy about getting away from Jones. I suspect there was.

 

Amen.

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