(Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Baptist pastor, theologian and activist living and working in Texas. Dr. Hood’s extensive work has appeared in numerous media outlets. He is also a regular contributor to this site. His complete works may be found here. Dr. Hood was unable to attend the memorial service at Evergreen Cemetery on November 18, 2018, to deliver this address.)
Is this a time to reflect upon death? This common question is bound to elicit a commonanswer. 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 say it right at the outset: 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.
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.