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#39 / 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.

 

“But I look at all the babies and I think they deserve to live …” -Christine Miller

 

Babies are hope. I will never forget holding each of our five children after their births. Looking into their eyes, I dreamed of what could be. In retrospect, I believe they looked into my eyes and wondered the same thing. Christine Miller a similar experience. She dared to look into the eyes of the babies of Jonestown. There, Miller found hope. As the seconds perished, hope was hard to come by. In the midst of it all, Miller attempted to save their lives. It was not to be. Death had already gripped the community and would not let go. Jim Jones was too far-gone to stop it. We are not. Babies can save us. Babies are hope. Don’t believe me? Just look to the baby of Bethlehem.

 

Amen.

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