Acting as a Christian, Not as God:
The Inclusion of Jim Jones’ Name

As a historian, I am delighted. So often, especially in events that carry a lot of symbolic weight, small details like “who” can get left out. It’s never as simple as the split between “good” and “bad.” I fear the line between the two is not so dramatically marked, and those who insist on one usually end up insisting that they are on the “good” side of the line.

On the other hand, as a plain old human being, I am made uncomfortable by having Jim Jones’ (and some others’) names on the monument. But I know where that discomfort comes from, and in pastoral situations I’ve always found it a good idea to listen to those closest to the situation and see what their interpretation is.

And so as a Christian, I have to vote with the group that wants Jim Jones’ name there. Since I belong to a faith that hold out the possibility of healing and forgiveness, and since I am not God and therefore don’t know whether that process has occurred in someone’s life, I figure it’s not MY place to figure out who is “worthy” and who is not.

(Karen Stroup, Ph.D. was an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – serving on the board of trustees of the Disciples Historical Society for six years – and was a professor in religion and psychology. She was also a regular contributor to the jonestown report . Her articles appear here.

(Dr. Stroup died on January 21, 2012 at the age of 54.)