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#50 / 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.

 

“And I think I have the right to choose mine and everybody else has the right to choose theirs.” -Christine Miller

 

Individuality is the cornerstone of any relationship with God. We’re created in God’s image. God is independent. To know God is to be independent. When we allow our independence to be taken from us, we are dead. Jim Jones murdered the individuality of the people of Jonestown long before they arrived at these last words. Jones sought to destroy the God in them. Even in the midst of such abuse, god always leaves a still small voice. As Christine Miller arose, God spoke. In her fierce attempt to assert her individuality, Miller is seeking to bring God back into the space. Miller’s efforts are how I know God was in that space. Individuality is always a sign that God is present. Though Miller died with everyone else, I have no question that the divinity in her will never die.

 

Amen.

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