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#31 / 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’m tired of being tormented to hell…” -Jim Jones

Without question, Jim Jones was very sick when he massacred Jonestown. Sometimes, sick people want everyone they encounter to feel their pain. Selfishness leads to warped thinking. Jones didn’t want to die alone and decided to take the community with him. This contrasts starkly with Jesus. Every step of the way, Jesus sought to sacrifice his life. Jones sacrificed his life for no one. Quite simply, Jones led hundreds to their death because he was scared to die alone. Contrary to Jones’ statements, his actions had nothing to do with Jesus/God. The only thing Jones had to do with was Jones. Hell is being selfish right up until the very end. Jones’ torment came from within.

Amen.

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