The devastation which occurred at the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, demonstrates the negative outcomes of the beliefs of a cult. In order for us to fully understand this devastation, we must first understand the faction of the Branch Davidian cult and its prophet David Koresh. History The Branch Davidians first appeared in 1942. The name Branch Davidians comes from David’s expression “Get off the dead [shepherd’s] rod and move onto the living Branch” (Branch Davidians History, 2016). It was founded by Victor Houteff who had been a part of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The group followed religious traditions that sees Christ’s return to earth. The religious group were millennialists which means that they believed in the “end of the world”. They believed that in the bible there were clues to when the second coming would occur. Vernon Howell joined the Branch Davidians in 1981 and took over the cult from Benjamin Roden. Howell took over as leader in 1987. In 1990, Howell, who was still the leader of the Branch Davidians, changed his name to David Koresh, which meant ‘death’.
Three years later, the group had over 130 members who followed and believed in the teachings of God and David. Clive Doyle was an Australian who moved to the US to join the Branch Davidian. He left the complex before David Koresh instigated a mass suicide. Doyle writes “We thought of Mt. Carmel as a training ground and haven”. (Gladwell, 2014) Teachings – they followed The Branch Davidians followed the beliefs of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. All members are and focused on the second arrival of Jesus, having different dietary requirements and concentrating on the bible.
Benjamin Roden the leader before David, wanted all the Branch Davidians to follow the feast days throughout the year, for example Pentecost and the Passover. One of the teachings that the Branch Davidians followed and believed was “2,300 day prophecy from Daniel 8:14 may start from David’s death”, the year would be 2000. When the year 2000, came around a cleansing would have occurred. They believed that when the breaking of the seals would occur, Christ would return to earth and a battle would happen and the Branch Davidians would be the main leaders during this.
The difference with the Branch Davidians under the leadership of David Koresh was that he positioned himself as God and that he would open the seven seals and set the end of the world as we know it in motion. The seven seals refers to the seven symbolic seals that secure the scroll that John wrote in the Book of Revelation. We now see that this faction of the Branch Davidians moved from a sect to a cult. But what is the difference between a cult and a sect and why do we care? A sect is a group that has broken from a major religion and follows the teachings of the original group with some variations.
A cult is different to a religion, a cult does not usually have many members, and are mainly seen in a negative light by society and devoutly follow a leader, in this case, David Koresh. In 1993, when the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (AFT) stormed the ground Branch Davidian Mt. Carmel centre for having suspected weapon violations and felt as if it was related to the Apocalypse and the Battle of Armageddon which they had been expecting for many years. When they had anticipated the apocalypse they knew that it would come someday and that the only way would be is if they all died and sacrificed their lives.
They believed they were the only people who would be saved. On February 28th 1993 the ATF raided ‘The Branch Davidians’ Mt. Carmel centre with a search warrant for suspecting weapon violations. As they arrived on the 28th, 4 ATF agents were killed, 16 wounded and 6 of the Branch Davidians were killed. On April 19th the 51 day siege was final over but not after going down with a fight. Over the course of the 51 days David Koresh and his believers were focused on staying inside the Mt Carmel centre.
They believed that if they came out of the building that they would either be killed or taken to jail for suspected murder of the 4 ATF agents. Throughout the 51 days many people had talked and tried to convince the group to exit the building but had no luck. David had repeatedly told people that neither him nor any of the other people inside the building were planning a mass suicide. However on April 19th the Mt. Carmel centre went down in flames when the ATF took it to far and were trying to get people to exit, by placing tear gas inside the building where 76 of the residents lived.
This plan did not work except made it worse by making everyone more aggravated which lead to the conclusion that David Koresh lit the building alight for a mass suicide to occur under his orders. By then end of April 19th there was nothing left of the Mt. Carmel centre anymore. The Branch Davidians mass suicide affected the whole world when it took place. It had a large impact on everyone’s lives, for those who were watching it take place either on the tv or who were watching it happen in person. The people who lived in Waco, Texas didn’t have a problem having a religious community living 100 miles away.
The town actually had quite a close relationship with them. One man said he remembered the day it all happened “My eyes were glued to the TV as those infamous events unfolded in Waco. ” Robert McCurry said “I was in shock as I watched the incredible and horrifying tank assault on the Branch Davidian home. I could not contain my grief as I witnessed the place burn to the ground” (Waco, Texas, 2016). Nowadays the Branch Davidians don’t really affect anyone in Australia or around the world because they don’t have a group or leader who controls them.
There was an Australian Branch Davidian man who escaped from the building before David Koresh set it alight. Australian man Clive Doyle wrote a book about his experiences and how he felt and still feels about the Branch Davidians and the beliefs they followed. His book is named ‘A journey to Waco’. Clive mentioned in the book that “In the government’s eyes, the Branch Davidians were a threat”(Doyle, Wessinger and Wittmer, 2012). Meaning through teachings- BD gave meaning to their followers because / through? David gave teachings that could go on for hours. Made followers believe in him – “made scripture come alive.
He showed that all of the prophets in the Bible were writing more for our day than for their own time. ” He threw out theories and ideas—inviting argument and discussion. (from the Australian) The Branch Davidian cult offered its followers answers to questions that we all want – the secret to happiness, the difference between right and wrong and the answer to life after death. Perhaps we don’t always agree with the answers that a cult may provide for these but mankind will continue to search for the answers to these questions and thus there will always be differing worldviews to support people.