The Branch Davidians for days had been repeatedly asking for word processing supplies. When the supplies finally arrived the night of April 18, 1993, David Koresh got back to work writing his manuscript, in an agreement to end the crisis. Less than 24 hours later, a horrific tragedy was played out on national television….
Back when I was doing youth ministry in early March, 1993, I was setting up one night to lead a discussion with some parents. In the home we were meeting, a story had flashed up on the evening news, and all of us had stopped to learn about what was going on in Waco, Texas. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) had a few days earlier led a raid against the Mount Carmel Center, the home of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. All of the television networks described the group as an extremist religious cult.
One parent leaned over to me, perhaps in incredulous jest, and asked something to the effect of, “So, what keeps this youth group [that I was leading] from becoming something like these crazy people in Texas?”
Well, I was just as bewildered about this news report as this parent was. For a total of 51 days, the drama between Branch Davidians and the federal government (the ATF and the FBI) kept many Americans glued to their TV sets each night, wondering how this bizarre story might unfold. At the end of the siege, on April 19, 1993, federal forces tried to flush out the Branch Davidians using tear gas, but the plan went out of control. A fire erupted, killing 76 Branch Davidians, including 28 children.
Was this simply a story of looney anti-government activists bent on attacking the United States? Or was there more to the story?
Why the Tragedy at Waco, Texas Could Have Been Avoided
The popular story had been that this Branch Davidians group, led by a charismatic leader, David Koresh, a 33-year old guitar player turned wild-eyed preacher, had been stockpiling weapons to be used against the United States. The initial raid in February, 1993, had resulted in the deaths of not only a few Branch Davidians, but several federal agents as well. David Koresh had raped several married women, and also a few teenagers, fathering a number of children, and holding them as hostages. Government agencies felt compelled to step in to seize Koresh’s weapons and release the vulnerable from under his manipulative control.
What had always bothered me about this narrative was that of those who survived the final, fiery destruction of the Waco compound, very few renounced their allegiance to David Koresh and his teachings. In fact, the raids by the government only confirmed the prophetic insights that Koresh had shared with his followers.
Even thirty years later, some now hope for and pray for David Koresh’ resurrection. Other Branch Davidian survivors find other ways to remember David Koresh in positive ways.
How could that be? Could they not see that David Koresh was a nut case?
It just did not add up. A more careful look at the evidence has been needed. As it turns out, the story is far more interesting and complex than the traditional, government-sanctioned narrative. It had to do with how David Koresh read his Bible, and in particular, how he interpreted the Book of Revelation, and how other Branch Davidians became convinced by his teachings.