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#23 / 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 have never, never, never, never seen anything like this before in my life.” -Jim Jones

 

While I’m sure that Jim Jones had never seen people come after him like this before, I’m also sure that he brought the condemnations and pressures down on himself. Whether due to his declining mental health or the evil in his heart or some combination of both, Jones repeatedly inflicted violence on people. Justice was getting very close to Jones. Instead of proving that his statements and actions were true, Jones took the path of a liar and ended it the only way he knew how. After the gunshot, Jones’ soul departed his body. In the midst of it all, we are left to wonder what it feels like to know that your lies brought about a massacre. When he met God, I’m sure he quickly learned how to tell the truth.

 

Amen.

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