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#46 / 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.

 

“It’s over, sister, it’s over…we’ve made that day…we made a beautiful day and let’s make it a beautiful day…that’s what I say.” -Unidentified Man

 

The rest of Jonestown started to react to Christine Miller’s interactions with Jim Jones. I think this is the point of no return. The unidentified man spoke for most. It was time. Similar interactions would eventually shut Miller down. The man calls the past beautiful. For who? So many people were abused and mistreated by the community. Consistently, people were brainwashed. There was even speculation that the community had previously killed numerous people. The past wasn’t beautiful for everyone. This man just wants to make it another beautiful day. We now know that beauty and evil were one in the same in Jonestown. May we all be suspicious of what we call beautiful. In the beautiful things that draw us the most, resides the greatest potential for evil. Though the unidentified man was dead wrong, his words still offer us tremendous warning.

 

Amen.

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