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#4 / 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.

 

 

“You can’t take off with people’s children without expecting a violent reaction.” -Jim Jones

 

The children of Jonestown were raised communally. Everyone had responsibility for each of them. They were “our” children. Because of the structure, the children were communally owned. Since Jonestown was built on the idea that the children would eventually carry on the community’s ideals, the residents had no ability to deal with children leaving. It felt like the future was leaving. I believe this is one of the reasons the community reacted so violently.   Children are never owned. The people of Jonestown forgot that. Children are the future. There is no future when children are enslaved to the constructed ideals of the present. Children must be free. If children are not free…you can expect violence.

 

Amen.

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