The Branch Davidians were a religious group, which split from the Davidian Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1955. The Branch Davidians as a movement go back to 1930. In popular usage, the name is usually associated with the specific Branch Davidian group led by David Koresh near Waco, Texas, although this group was properly called "students of the Seven Seals."
Other than the standard beliefs shared by all Christians, the Branch Davidians believe:
- Full-body immersion baptism is a requirement of salvation.
- That the fourth commandment requires the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, and that Sabbath falls on Saturday.
- That after death, one is unconscious until the resurrection and judgment day.
- That there shall be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust. The resurrection of the just will take place at the second coming of Christ; the resurrection of the unjust will take place a thousand years later, at the close of the millennium.
- That the sinful, including Satan, will be reduced to a state of non-existence.
- That no prophetic period [meaning prophetic time-setting of the exact date of Christ's coming] is given in the Bible to reach to the second advent, but that the longest one the 2300 days of Dan. 8:14, terminated in 1844, and brought us to an event called the cleansing of the sanctuary.
- That three angels will be sent by God to warn Earth of the second coming of Christ.
- That judgment day will come when Israel is purged of non-Jews.
- That the followers of Christ should wear neat, modest, dignified apparel, abstain from all intoxicating drinks, tobacco, other narcotics, and meat.
- That the second coming of Christ near at hand.
- That the millennial reign of Christ covers the period between the first and the second resurrections, that at the end of the millennium, the Holy City will descend to the earth.
- That God will make all things new. The earth, restored to its pristine beauty, will become forever the abode of the saints of the Lord. The promise to Abraham, that through Christ he and his seed should possess the earth throughout the endless ages of eternity, will be fulfilled.
The Davidian movements, named for the restoration of the kingdom of David, first developed in 1930 from the teachings of Rev. Victor T. Houteff, who pointed out a number of scriptural shortcomings in the structure of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The movement set up headquarters a few miles west of Waco, Texas, and remained unified there until 1955, when Houteff died. Multiple leaders arose to take commend of the movement, resulting in several splinter groups. One splinter group, led by Benjamin Roden, called themselves "Branch Davidians," which came from select Bible passages.
After the death of Benjamin Roden, his wife, Lois Roden, took a leadership role in the Church. In 1983, she allowed a man named Victor Howell (later known as David Koresh) to study at the Mt. Carmel compound outside Waco, but after attracting followers among the movement, he moved to Palestine, Texas. In 1987, Howell and followers he had amassed conducted an armed assault on the Mt. Carmel compound, but were rebuffed. The son of Lois and Ben Roden, George, took control of Mt. Carmel after Lois' death until his arrest for murder, at which time Howell (now David Koresh) took control of the compound.
Mt. Carmel Siege
In May 1992, a UPS driver noticed that a package had broken open on its way to Mt. Carmel, and that the package contained several firearms and grenades. It has been debated whether or not a classified investigation was already under way, as a result of reports of automatic gunfire from Mt. Carmel, but after this incident was reported, there was definitely an BATF investigation of the compound.
ATF agents place Mt. Carmel under surveillance in June 1992. As part of their request for a search warrant, an ATF affidavit claimed there were hundreds of fully automatic weapons in the compound.
On February 28, 1993, ATF agents who had received special forces training attempted to execute the search warrant on the Mt. Carmel property. Koresh, who had been tipped off to the raid, had secured women and children in the interior of the compound, and instructed able-bodied men to take defensive positions on the perimeter. ATF agents approached the compound in unmarked pickup trucks, to meet Korseh, who stood in their path outside the compound. ATF agents opened fire on the dogs Koresh had with him, some Davidians heard the shots, and, thinking Koresh was under attack, fired on the ATF agents. Korseh retreated inside and the agents shot at the defensive positions before retreating. Four ATF agents and five Davidians were killed in the initial assault.
After a friend of Koresh, the sheriff of nearby Waco, negotiated a ceasefire, the Davidians allowed ATF agents to retrieve their wounded and dead from the area immediately surrounding the compound. Later that day, a Davidian was shot on a patrol around the compound area.
A tense standoff ensued for several weeks in which ATF agents prevented any supplies from reaching Mt. Carmel, but did not attempt to attack the compound.
Despite some agreements being reached, such as the release of the children without their parents, by April 19, the ATF decided not to continue the siege and attacked on April 19. Under the cover of assault weapon fire, and in riot vehicles, ATF agents approached the compound and set it on fire, killing almost eighty people, including many children. Davidians who escaped the fire report being fired at as they fled the flames.
Conservative Veterans, Gun Enthusiasts See Police State Behaviors
Bibliography - Further Reading
- Waco: The Rules of Engagement, documentary film, 1997
- Waco: A New Revelation, documentary film, 1999
- Thibodeau, David. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story. HarperCollins, 1999.
- Davidiansda.org website
- Party, Boston T., Molon Labe!. Wyoming American Redoubt Javelin Press, 30 January 2004, 454 pp (first edition, paperback), ISBN 1-888766-07-7 - Conservative Christian Libertarian dystopian fiction novel entirely based around the issue of States' rights and the Tenth Amendment's connection with the Second Amendment right to armed citizen defense against federal tyranny. Contains many references and discussions of Waco and Ruby Ridge.
- Party, Boston T., Boston's Gun Bible. Wyoming American Redoubt Javelin Press, 2008. Contains many references and discussions of Waco and Ruby Ridge.