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#49 / 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 cannot separate myself from the pain of my people. And you can’t either, Christine, if you stop to think of it. You can’t separate yourself. We’ve walked too long together.” -Jim Jones

 

In his later ministry, Jim Jones repeatedly claimed that he was God. I guess the claims are what compelled him to try and imitate Jesus so much. The probably with his imitations is that one would think that God wouldn’t have to copy others or rely so much on evil. In declaring that he was taking on the pain of his people, Jones imitated Jesus on the cross. When Jones talks about walking together, he imitated Jesus’ commands to follow him. The problem with all of these statements is that Jones was not acting like Jesus. Jones’ supposed divinity failed when he was unable control himself. Make no mistake, Jesus will guide us all to divinity. The direction is the opposite that Jones was headed. In the end, I know that Jesus turned him around.

 

Amen.

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