Waco’s Lesson, The Religious Don’t Listen To The Religious.

The New Yorker (March 31, 2014) had a poignant article about the siege of the Branch Davidian Complex near Waco, Texas, in 1993.  Most of those kinds of military style attacks on civilians have stopped, but the lessons remain.

The Branch Davidians were a religious sect separated from the Seventh Day Adventists. They were obssessed with the Book of Revelations. Eventually, over 100 armed members lived in a complex under the leadership of a young David Koresh.  Koresh took several women as wives and fathered children. He committed statutory rape with some young girls with parents’ permissions.

A long military siege took place ending in a fire killing four agents and 76 Branch Davidian adults and children.  Several escaped as well.

The focus of the New Yorker article was different than the many things written in the past 20 years.  This article was based on a Davidian’s book about the group.

Apparently, no one was held in the compound against his/her will.  The group was bound, not by its leader, Koresh, but by literal obsession with the Book of Revelations.  The end was near. They wanted to be ready.

Probably nearly all of the small army of military and police surrounding the compound were also Biblical literalists.  But, their literalism was about sin, the cross and virgin birth.

Law enforcement just could not take Koresh’s literalism seriously, thinking he was a con artist. The author survivor says they were not captives, but willing participants in what they thought was an earth moving religious experience.

Religious scholars understood the Revelations obsession and advised not to attack the compound  Their caution did not prevail.


50 Responses

  1. Wanna B Sure

    Jon; Ah, it was the ATF, FBI, and Texas National Guard. All secular authorities ! ! Attorney Gen. Janet Reno authorized the FBI attack. Couldn’t find her religious affiliation if any.
    Your; “Probably nearly all of the small army of military and police surrounding the compound were also Biblical literalists,” is speculation only, and not worthy of consideration. The secular authorities operate under a chain of command, and I strongly doubt religious literalism would have been considered.
    It was indeed a shame the religious scholars that understood the obsession with Revelation, and related apocalyptic eschatology were not considered.

    1. Wanna 1:47 “..is speculation only.”

      That is correct. I tried to say that. Statistically, one would expect the majority Christian all the way up the chain of command. In the article, it said there were dozens of conversations with Koresh during the standoff. He wanted to talk about Revelations. They thought he was holding hostages against their will and that his religious obsession was a diversionary tactic.

      More than one survivor said a common pattern was they would discuss Revelations for hours, they knock off the head into town for beer. There were lots of safe opportunities to pick up Koresh in those circumstances. For some reason they didn’t do it that way.

    2. Wanna B Sure

      Jon; My understanding is, the ATF was in charge of the initial confrontation due to the firearms issue.

      I don’t know how the “Majority Christian all the way up the chain of command.” would be a factor. The ATF, FBI, and Justice dept. is secular.

  2. entech

    One really does have to wonder why God, especially with his injunction about the false use of his name, permits such things to happen.
    We have some who tell us he causes floods and hurricanes etc to punish those that tolerate homosexual marriage and so on, surely these insane sects are more deserving of divine punishment (now not in some nebulous afterlife, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done).

    So reading that they were all there willingly, all in it for the intense religious experience. This must be pretty close to the ultimate in belief and prayer, one that could have been answered, should have been answered. Perhaps they were, perhaps death is the ultimate religious experience, perhaps fear of death is the ultimate cause for religion.

    1. Fr. James

      Oh please. Must you play this old tune every time? Blame God for what the Feds choose to do? Must I bring up free will, again? Do we need to discuss, again, the effects of original sin?

      The people who are being punished nowadays are those who disagree with homosexuality.

      I think fear of truth is the ultimate cause of atheism.

    2. entech

      Oh dear, does your hatred induced misreading never end.
      My question was not to blame God for doing anything but merely asking why he didn’t/doesn’t prevent it.

      The last paragraph was reiteration of an old and not original theme, religion gains it strength from humans being afraid of death. True or not a good theory.

      Fear of the truth? Not really still looking.

      1. Fr. James

        entech, look in the mirror for hatred and misreading. How can you look for truth when you deny that ultimate truth exists?

        1. Wolfy32

          He doesn’t deny it. Why is it so important to you to think that you have the ultimate truth. That others that question your ultimate truth are out to destroy you?

          They question it. That’s all. There’s nothing wrong with questioning the basis of your ultimate truth. And as free willed people, people have a choice to not agree with you. That doesn’t make them evil or wrong, or you evil or wrong. I’m amazed at the level of judgement you cast upon others. We have our own truth that we hold to. It conflicts with yours. It doesn’t make ours right nor does it make yours right. It just is.

          1. Fr. James

            Wolfy, everyone in their heart thinks they have the ultimate truth. They just don’t like me questioning theirs. The truth is the truth, it is not mine or yours. It just is.

  3. Michael Ross

    Children murdered at Waco and their ages:
    Lisa Martin 13 Sheila Martin, Jr. 15
    Rachel Sylvia 12 Hollywood Sylvia 1
    Joseph Martinez 8 Abigail Martinez 11
    Crystal Martinez 3 Isaiah Martinez 4
    Audrey Martinez 13 Melissa Morrison 6
    Chanel Andrade 1 Cyrus Koresh 8
    Star Koresh 6 Bobbie Lane Koresh 2
    Dayland Gent 3 Page Gent 1
    Mayanah Schneider 2 Startle Summers 1
    Serenity Jones 4 Chica Jones 2
    Little One Jones 2
    Despite all the information that has been revealed over the years about the Murderous Waco siege and how it could have been avoided, chances local law enforcement had to apprehend Koresh, that the Davidians were unable to leave, etc. the media still continues to spin the story, stressing the “cult” factor and whitewashing the horrific, draconian, unconstitutional actions of the out-of-control Federal Government.

    Jon also is condemning biblical literalism , Sin, the Cross and virgin birth and the “cult factor.” His suggestion that those that attack the compound were also “biblical literalists is absurd. They were from another religion, the statist religion. A religion that he supports.

    1. Wolfy32

      O.k. so you support the child rape in the name of religious experience and religious extremism.

      Interesting that David Koresh is being defended. They tried using tear gas, to simply incapacitate the guards. They didn’t realize the whole place was rigged to burn at the slightest spark. If I remember right it was a tear gas canister that started the whole fricken compound on fire and killed everyone, because the entire place was rigged to blow.

      How can you possibly defend this guy? I’m not saying the military efforts were the brightest ideas on the block. But defending child rapists Just to support your religion. Wow. No wonder this world is so screwed up!

      1. Henry

        Hindsight is always 20/20. However, they knew the young man who had affairs with 77 year-olds and 15 year-olds (Koresh) was militant, had many guns, was searching for the apocalypse to happen to him, and was in town on frequent occasion. Based on this information, even a person without law enforcement or military experience can devise a plan to safely remove him from the situation so they could investigate the charges. I didn’t hear Michael say child rape is acceptable.

      2. entech

        According to all our Christian commentators it was clearly a case of persecution with extreme prejudice.
        Koresh was clearly entitled to all his religious freedom and if the things he did were justified by revealed truth then ????

        1. Fr. James

          entech, uh no. ALL Christian commentators did not say that. How about I say it seems that ALL atheists rejoiced in the deaths of these children? Fair?

          1. entech

            Wanna at 1:47 am
            Maybe you could say not quite, but there is a heavy accent on secular authority and not enough notice taken of extreme religious views.

            Michael at 3:38
            All the children murdered by the state. Says it could have been handled better.

            Henry at 12:57
            Well I am never sure what Henry means. Never the less the authorities got it wrong, I read an overtone.

            Maybe I got carried away with a bit of hyperbole and exaggeration, the Christians are being persecuted is a theme that comes up as much as the fact that they are hated by ALL atheists, so forgive me if I have erred (sinned?)

            It would be fair to talk of rejoicing if any atheist had even mentioned the children that died. It would be expected though!

          2. Fr. James

            entech, it was the secularists who were quick to use violence. But Jon here doesn’t care about the violence or the children. He just wanted to tar all religious people as cultists.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Entech @ Apr 3, 10:19; “Maybe you could say not quite, but there is a heavy accent on secular authority and not enough notice taken of extreme religious views”.– I disagree. When Waco “went down”, there was a large amount of “cult” being thrown about. No, the “extreme religious views” were clearly and loudly noted at the time.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            It should also be said that at the time, the 7th Day Adventist Church was taking every opportunity to distance itself from the Branch Davidians, (a derivative), telling everyone the Davidians were an extreme group. A good example of when error begets more error.

  4. Janet Reno has said the only reason she unleashed the assault that was ultimately made was because she had been convinced there were children inside who were being actively abused. Was this true? I’m sure there were people who made that case to her. In the end, it was her decision to make. Had the issue of child abuse not been a factor, I doubt whether anything would have happened to these end-times fanatics, except to be remembered as a bunch of religious kooks.

    1. Wolfy32

      People make decisions based on what they know, then after the decisions are implemented everyone sits back and judges whether those decisions were appropriate or not from their background… If they had been in the situation with the knowledge available at the time, would those judging have made the same decision also? Impossible to know, but, there’s something to be said that don’t judge me unless you were there in my shoes.

    2. realist 1:24 I mentioned in the blog there was statutory rape–he needed to be rung up. There were weeks of negotiation when a way to resolve it all was up in the air. It’s easy to Monday morning quarter back–I’m just saying when we get into religion it’s hard to understand someone else.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Key words: Fanaticism, apocalypticism, compound, full auto guns, bunkers, families, young girls, cult of the personality, etc. What could possibly have gone wrong. Should have been a clue. The FBI has profilers. Koresh could have easily been stopped a week before on the road to town was reported in the news.

        1. Wolfy32

          I agree, I don’t know the specifics on timing, why things waited until a show down. Who knows when government is involved. Maybe a political distraction to allow the passing of some major laws that wouldn’t have otherwise been passed if the news was reporting on the laws instead of on Koresh. For all we know Koresh caused the early stages of the patriot act to be passed! HA!

          Lots of possibilities. We only know what we’ve been told about an event that happened over twenty years ago.

  5. Michael Ross

    One of the tragic aspects of the Waco story is that Christian evangelicals were either supportive of the government’s murderous behavior or were indifferent to it. Since they (we) did not stand up for the innocents at Mount Carmel, the same out of control government is coming after us. We’ve circled the wagons and retreated inside our church walls and are praying the Feds wont break inside and burn us out like they did the Branch Davidians.


    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    ~Martin Niemoller – German pastor who opposed Hitler

  6. Fr. James

    Koresh was a cult leader. The problem was not the book of Revelation, but Koresh. There are secular cults as well. A small group like this is not indicative of all religious belief or believers.

    What is interesting is that those who ultimately gave the order were themselves not religious and were very secular in their outlook. It is easy for them to take such action against religious believers because of their own bias.

    1. entech

      In fact the secular authorities were persecuting those poor Christians.

      Sorry, maybe not Christians, at least not Catholics as you have been known to say about other denominations.

      1. Fr. James

        entech, I am not fond of the idea of persecuting religious people in general even if they are not Catholic. Would that atheists felt that way about those they don’t agree with. I refer you to the Declaration on Religious Liberty in the documents of Vatican II.

  7. H.P.Drifter

    FJ, I would like some proof of the fact these people were bias and way? Something concrete, you sure make a lot of statements with no back up.

    1. Fr. James

      Janet Reno was a secular liberal noted for a lack of any religious belief. Do you have any evidence that she spent her free time teaching Bible studies and working with Mother Teresa?

      1. Wolfy32

        Does it matter? I’m not saying the best decisions were made. However, that said, what decisions would you have made if you had been in her position and were constantly given information that they have been building up weapons and military arms, had reports sexual assaults and abuse of children?

        What decisions would you have made? Surround the complex and pray for them while they continue expanding fortifications?

        1. Fr. James

          If she were a Christian and the cultists were atheists…well think about how that would be portrayed on this blog.

          I would have tried to avoid killing all those children. Patience is a virtue.

  8. H.P.Drifter

    You sure to blame Atheists for everything that goes wrong, without any back up as well. More Catholics have done more damage in the name of Christianity that any other group period.

    1. Fr. James

      So you don’t like me blaming atheists for everything. Then you blame Catholics for everything.

      You really don’t see your own hypocrisy and double standard there? Really?

      1. H.P.D.

        No, I do not see my self as a hypocrite, I do see you trying to manipulate your words to get out of answering the question. Stalin learned all his tricks at the seminary, and enlisted the Russian Orthodox Church to help him out.

        1. Fr. James

          No, Stalin dropped his faith because an atheist and a Mass murderer. I see a connection here. In fact he virtually destroyed Christianity in Russia, like a good atheist would.

  9. Fr. James

    Okay Jon, what will be your post tomorrow? Another one on how religious people are really dumb? Maybe one blaming us for global warming? Or how about one that claims that Jack the Ripper was in fact the Archbishop of Canterbury? Perhaps you will say that since we are all so evil that we should simply eliminated physically, after all aren’t atheists all just like Stalin and that’s what he did. I just can’t wait to see what old canard you will recycle.

    1. entech

      Have a cup of chamomile tea and rest for a while.
      Jon has never said religious people are dumb.
      No one blames you for global warming, some deny it is happening, are you saying that it is?
      Jack the Ripper, unknown, nothing but speculation and fodder for a few stories and movies.
      I thank you have the last reversed, it is you that says atheists are evil because they have no reason to be moral.

    2. H.P.D.

      I have, they are very dumb, easily manipulated and very often mentally ill as well. Take a pill with your tea, you are going to need it. I think your superiority complex is built on BS, it is a testament to your ill will toward Atheists and non believers a like, just because we don’t believe like you do, does not make us any less human beings, with rights and personal integrity. As a professional accuser you seem to have no personal integrity at all. Just another loud person among many, uttering nonsense with every movement of your jaw. Like Jon says your fun to have on the blog, you are the epitome of ill will and ill thoughts, nice of you share your no thinker status with all that read the blog.

      1. entech

        Drifter, are you becoming mellow, I can’t remember you being so understanding of another’s problems

      2. Fr. James

        Dumb like Bach, Mozart, Newton…we have done this before. As for ill will. Read your last post to me.

    3. Wolfy32

      You’ve helped me understand why my parents hate Catholics. My grandmother spoke of a time when the lutheran church was across the street from the catholic church in a small itsy bitsy town of ND (more like a village) God rest her soul, she had been around 100 years. She said that stones were literally thrown at each other Sunday mornings across the street.

      That’s how much prejudice and hatred there was among Christians. I apologize, didn’t mean to offend, between Christians and Christian wannabes that will never be good enough to be considered Christian.

      It’s nice to see that nothing has changed. I could picture you as the priest of that little catholic church subtley encouraging the congregation to turn their backs on the Lutherans and if a stone or two got thrown, you’d not look as you snickered.

      The ironic thing is that later in life, my Grandmother was saved. Yup, saved from being Lutheran by going to a evangelical crusade of some type. From then on she was pentecostal / Assemblies of God, realizing the evil of her ways in being Lutheran, she woke from her sinful life and never looked back. That moment forward my mom and extended family on my mom’s side was Assemblies of God, and now, my dad teaches Sunday school courses on the end times and prophecy, when the end is coming. They’re mixed on global warming, whether it’s real or not. Depending on the day they think global warming is the start of God’s wrath and judgements on earth as prophesied in Revelations. Other days, it’s just a conspiracy.

      So you see, I was raised to believe the catholics and lutherans were evil. I went to a catholic university for a year and my mom chastised me that she doesn’t like what they’re teaching me and that it’s wrong for me to be going there. In their eyes, father, you are evil for being catholic, along with lutherans, they’re tolerant of baptists and methodists, and evangelical lutherans, Efreeists, and a few denominations that show emotion. But catholics are the main group excluded from heaven in pentecostals’ minds, and well, the non christian groups need saving too according to the pentecostals… Just as Athiests, pentecostals, lutherans, baptists, methodists, 7 th day adventists, episcopaleon, and jehovas witnesses, menonites, muslims, heteroites, hindus, taoists, Budhists, Baha ists, scientologists, and I’m sure I”m missing a few thousand, all need saving from their beliefs in your eyes.

      1. Wolfy32 12:54 Great essay. We’ve several personal stories here that are something like yours. Of the several hundred people who follow this site, there must be many, maybe the majority who have similar ones.

        That you grandmother came to think of Lutherans and Catholics as sinners is a very logical conclusion in mind of a religious person. Fr. James’ thinking is not much different than hers–it’s just that outsiders are another group that doesn’t know the truth.

        In the tiny community where I grew up there were no Catholics and it was considered a “fake” religion. The only group that channeled with God were the Swedes. No, wait. The Swedes who were Lutherans were sinners that God disliked.

        1. Fr. James

          Jon, you are just as hateful as anyone. You are just convinced of your “truth” as I am of the truth. Comparing St. John Paul to Fred Phelps? Utterly vile. Your thinking is no different from any fundamentalist.

      2. Fr. James

        Wolfy, people can always find an excuse to hate Catholics. Lutherans can and did find reasons. Atheists need no reason at all. I was in a parish once where there was a fundamentalist church that hated Catholics in town. I don’t remember us throwing stones. They preached against us, but we paid them little heed. On the other hand I got along great with the Lutheran pastor and we prayed together frequently. We also disagreed on a variety of issues. Many members of my extended family are Protestant, in fact my parents still are. We get along fine.

        I think your problem is that I firmly state the truth and believe it. That is sometimes shocking. Of course the atheists are stating what they think is “true” in the same way. I would get along with them fine, however they post hate and falsehoods about us and I will correct them whether they like it or not.

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