918 People Dead / 40 Years Since Jonestown : Words to the Official Memorial Service in Oakland, California

918 People Dead / 40 Years Since Jonestown : Words to the Official Memorial Service in Oakland, California November 18, 2018
*Early LA Times Cover / Before They Knew How Many People Had Actually Died

*For many years, I’ve been a theologian of Jonestown.  The 918 people who died have long been my teachers.  Though November 18, 1978 seems like a long time ago, it feels very fresh to me.  The words.  The pictures.  The cries.  The screams.  When I was first asked to come to Oakland to deliver these words, I was terrified.  How does one speak to the families and loved ones of 918 people?  Ultimately, I was unable to go…but I sent these words instead.  I hope they loudly proclaim my admiration for the social concerns of the people of Jonestown from Evergreen Cemetery to the world.  Surely, God loves us all.

The Resurrection of Jonestown


Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood

North Texas

Public Theologian

Frequent Contributor, The Jonestown Report


Is this a time to reflect upon death?  A common question that is bound to elicit a common answer.  Surely, we have had enough of common thought when it comes to Jonestown.  Everyone seems to be able to explain everything with one word…evil.  Unfortunately, things are always much more complicated than that.  To some degree, even justice exists far beyond explanation…it is somewhere out there in that inexplicable space of transformation.


Let’s just go ahead and get it over with, Jim Jones was a real piece of shit…but we all are from time to time.  In the midst of this remembrance, those who remember Jones mostly…remember wrongly.  The outcome of the tragedy at Jonestown actually has nothing to do with Jones.  Soul after soul was transformed into the fullness of justice that they’d always dreamed of being.  You see, I don’t believe in death without resurrection.  Those who cling to the sting of death have not followed the saints of Jonestown…oh no…those saints are marching on.  Salvation is found in marching with them.




They’re marching against racism.


“Fuck the police!”


They’re marching against sexism.


“Bash patriarchy!”


They’re marching against homophobia.


“Love is love!”


They’re marching against transphobia.


“I am who I am!”


They’re marching against ableism.


“There’s nothing disabled about me!”


They’re marching against economic oppression.


“Healthcare is a right not a privilege.”


They’re marching…oh God…they’re marching.


As we battle the evils of our present, may our energies not be enslaved to the past.  Do not look for the souls of the departed in Jonestown.  They are not there.  They are here.  Feel their flame of justice my friends.  Let it burn within you.  May it devour all of us…until we burn as brightly and as fiercely and as strongly…as they did…as they do…and as they will forever.


Now may the fire of God…the fire of the people of Jonestown…guide your heart, mind, body and soul…so that you might get up off your asses and follow them.


Amen, amen and…Hallelujah… amen.

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