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#48 / 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 speaking as a prophet today… I wouldn’t sit up in this seat and talk so serious if I did not know what I was talking about.” -Jim Jones

 

We live in an age of prophets. On every street corner, you can find someone claiming a word of prophecy. Everybody wants to touch the future…but nobody wants to work for it now. There are ways to measure a prophet. I think the best way has to do with social justice. Is the prophet driven by a love for all people or by love of self? By the end, Jones had forgotten all about the people. Death had already set in. Death was inevitable. Prophets are motivated by love not death. In the end, Jones missed it.

 

Amen.

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