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#32 / 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. 

 

“Applause” -The People of Jonestown

 

People often applaud their own demise. Why? Perhaps, it’s a tactic to distract the mind from what’s coming. Don’t get me wrong…there were pure believers in Jonestown. Those folks applauded out of joy. However, I don’t think those applauders were the majority. In the midst of certain doom, I think most people applauded because they didn’t know what else to do. The problem is that the applause masked any dissent. Everyone simply applauded themselves to death. There was one who put her hands down and stood up, Christine Miller. Unfortunately, no one joined her. Everyone wanted to keep applauding. The applause was a mistake with great consequences. Be careful…applause can be deadly.

 

Amen.

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