How much truth is there to the conspiracy theories that the FBI deliberately killed the Branch Davidians?
Today we’re going to delve into the deepest, ugliest corner of urban legendry: conspiracy theories claiming that the US government deliberately attacks and kills its own citizens. In this case it’s the infamous 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas resulting in the deaths of some 75 people inside. The accepted narrative is that the Davidians, intent on apocalyptic death according to their prophecies, committed mass suicide as the federal agents entered the compound with armored vehicles; while the conspiracy theory holds that it was the federal agents who set the fires in a successful effort to murder the entire population inside. Today we’re going to examine the claim, and find out how we know what we know.
The Branch Davidian sect, originally an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had been on its land outside Waco for nearly 60 years when young Vernon Howell took it over in the aftermath of a 1987 armed raid. He luckily escaped conviction, changed his name to David Koresh (telling his followers that Koresh meant “death”), and assumed the role of prophet. A few years later, a confrontation with federal authorities led to a six week siege that ended with the complete destruction by fire of the compound as tanks rolled in with tear gas, killing Koresh and 75 other Branch Davidians inside.
The conspiracy theories came thick and fast. The most prominent were popularized by a pair of independent filmmakers, Linda Thompson (who was a full-throttle conspiracy theorist best known for her film Waco: The Big Lie) and Mike McNulty (who was more measured, and received an Academy Award nomination for Waco: The Rules of Engagement). We’ll take a look at the two most commonly repeated claims:
Last week the world has seen yet another failed doomsday prediction, but far from this being the preserve of either the Mayans or modern day “preppers”, established religions and even esteemed scientists have also had their fair share of failed predictions. However, now we are left wondering what the next big end of world prediction will be.
Numerous, by Kelly Rogers , out now on Amazon Kindle, is a thriller written around the Papal Prophecy, by Ireland’s first ever saint, Archbishop Malachy, who correctly predicted each and every pope until the very last, as well as his own death. The 900-year-old manuscript still lies in the Vatican archives.
Modern-day readers may believe that this book has no relevance to our lives today, but think again. St Malachy’s prophecy predicts that the final pope will usher forth “The End. When the terrible judge will judge his people.” We currently see the penultimate pope, Joesph Ratzinger , in the Vatican and exactly what “The End” will be we can only guess at… But we’re sure this is going to be the next big thing in doomsday predictions!
The Modern Day Doomsdayer
Californian preacher Harold Camping took a very public climb-down in May 2011 when his end-of-the-world prediction failed to materialise, after a nationwide billboard and radio advert campaign. This was not Camping’s first failed foray into the world of divination; he inaccurately predicted the world would end on the 6th September 1994 and consequently some followers gave up homes, savings and jobs. When the end failed to occur he revised the date to September 29 and then again to October 2.
He said, “I don’t have any responsibility. I’m only teaching the Bible. I don’t have spiritual rule over anybody… except my wife.” We imagine everyone, including his long-suffering wife, will take any further predictions with a liberal pinch of salt.
2000 reasons to not believe
Many luminaries over the centuries predicted 2000 and the end of time, including: Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy; Edgar Cayce , world famous US psychic and healer; Sun Myung Moon , founder of the Unification Church; and even the esteemed and revered Sir Isaac Newton .
This also has to be the least original prophecy in history. At the turn of the first millennium many people expected Christ to return and ‘the end’ to arrive with him. Our prediction: expect more of the same for the year 3000.
The TV Evangelist turned would-be US president
Ex-Baptist minister and US TV evangelist Pat Robertson said that “God told him the end was coming”, but to avoid catastrophe we all needed to “pray real hard”. We can only assume that the world did just that as no cataclysm arrived.
Robertson’s power of prophecy has also evaded him in his own life; evidently not seeing his total defeat as a Republican presidential candidate in 1988.
We all know how tenacious Jehovah Witnesses can be when it comes to door knocking and it seems that they’re equally as dogged when it comes to doomsday predictions. They first predicted Armageddon in 1914, when disaster failed to appear they revised their prophecy to 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.
No Method in the Madness
Charles Wesley , one of the founders of the Methodist church, predicted the end in 1794, as did the Shakers. Despite his obvious error Charles’ brother, John, joined in and predicted that 1836 would be the year of the Great Beast and would herald the beginning of the end.
However, Charles Wesley clearly had his shaky convictions; he begged to be buried in an Anglican not Methodist grave just before his death.
The Millerites were never right
William Miller (founder of the Millerites, now the Seventh Day Adventists) predicted the end would come between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. The dates came and went with nothing occurring so the date was revised to April 18th. Again nothing happened and the date was changed to October 22, 1844. Miller continued to wait for the end until his death in 1849, which certainly was the end for him. However, the modern-day church that Miller founded continues to claim to this day that the date was correct, but as it was an event that occurred in Heaven it went entirely unnoticed by us on the Earthly plane.
The Jupiter Effect
The Jupiter Effect was written in 1974 by two astrophysicists, John Gribben and Stephen Plagemann . Predicted for 10th March 1982 when all nine planets would align and create a gravitational pull that would cause a “huge increase in sunspots, solar, flares, and/or earthquakes”. Gribben later claimed it never was a prophecy but a theoretical “what if?” However, people did believe that it was actually going to happen, the credentials of the theorists adding weight to the calculations. And indeed an effect was measured on Earth – a 0.04 millimetre high tide!
- The History of the End of the World: Mayans and Other Silly Apocalypse Predictions (247wallst.com)
- History’s biggest doomsday duds (after the Mayan apocalypse) (constitutioncenter.org)
- After Mayan Apocalypse Failure, Believers May Suffer (livescience.com)