#24 / Jonestown Theology: Lenten Explorations in the Valley of Death

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.

 

“There’s no use, Christine, it’s just not worth living like this …” -Jim Jones

 

Is life in and of itself worth living for? The question is continuously tossed around. Jim Jones didn’t believe that life was worth living. Obviously, Christine Miller disagreed. As she surveyed the scene, Miller believed life was the best option. Eventually, death shouted her down. For the gathered, they’d become convinced that life was dead. They were ready to end it quickly. The rush to suicide/murder was a rush to deny the worth of life. God gives us life to give others life. The message of Jonestown is that death simply births more death.

 

Amen.

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