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The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an Apocalyptic Sect
Kenneth G. C. Newport
Oxford University Press, 2006
400 pp., $97.00
Richard J. Mouw
The final countdown will begin in March of 2012. Around that time a huge comet will strike the earth, causing an explosion that will in turn trigger a variety of horrific plagues, bringing severe physical suffering, many deaths, and widespread anarchy. An account of the exact nature of these coming events is hidden in the Scriptures, and the mysteries contained therein can only be discerned by a prophet who is known to his followers as the Chosen Vessel. Those who accept his teachings will be saved. All others will perish in the terrible days that will soon arrive.
This is the scenario sketched out in great detail in a recently produced book-length manuscript, "March 2012 A.D.: It All Begins As Foretold," that can be read at www.sevenseals.com, the website of the Branch Davidians. Yes, this group is still around, composed of folks who were not present when their Waco compound was destroyed by fire, along with a handul of the nine survivors of that conflagration.
Even though David Koresh and 79 of his followers died in the destruction that occurred in April 1993, the continuing Branch Davidians do not see that as a defeat. Like the death of Samson, Koresh's demise was for them an important victory, an essential part of the divine plan. To be sure, the victory did not conform exactly to Koresh's own predictions, but this too makes perfect sense, as the Branch Davidians now explain it on their website: just as Samson had to become "literally blind" in order to destroy the temple of the Philistines, so too it was necessary for David Koresh to be made "spiritually blind to the part he fulfilled" in the unfolding events of the end-time.
What all of this shows is that the Branch Davidians are engaged in an ongoing theological project. And to recognize that is important for understanding the character of the movement, and especially for correcting some common misperceptions of what they were about prior to the events of 1993. In the popular imagination, for example, the Branch ...