Author Topic: New Yorker - "How not to negotiate with believers" - Branch Davidians revisited  (Read 529 times)

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Offline shnozzola

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March New Yorker article on the 1990's Waco Texas FBI raid, David Koresh, his in-depth bible study (with David's explanations and clarifications), and what went wrong.

[Conflict study scholar Jayne]Docherty points out that the techniques that work on bank robbers don’t work on committed believers. There was no pragmatism hidden below a layer of posturing, lies, and grandiosity. Docherty uses Max Weber’s typology to describe the Davidians. They were “value-rational”—that is to say, their rationality was organized around values, not goals. A value-rational person would accept his fourteen-year-old daughter’s polygamous marriage, if he was convinced that it was in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Because the F.B.I. could not take the faith of the Branch Davidians seriously, it had no meaningful way to communicate with them:

F.B.I.: What I’m saying is that if you could make an agreement with your people that they’re walking out of there and you could—

KORESH: I am not going to tell them what to do. I never have and never will. I show them out of a book what God teaches. Then it’s for them to decide.

F.B.I.: David, these kids need their parents, and we want everybody to be safe. How about the women? Can—will you let them come out of there? . . .

KORESH: Yeah, but the thing of it is that if they wanted to, they, they could.

F.B.I.: Well, I, I think they feel like they can’t because you don’t want them to.

KORESH: No, no, no, no. Let’s stop that now.

The non-religious trying to talk theology with the religious during the raid:


KORESH: In the prophecies—

LYNCH: All right.

KORESH: it says—

LYNCH: Let me, can I interrupt you for a minute?


LYNCH: All right, we can talk theology. But right now—

What Lynch means is that right now there are dead and wounded bodies scattered across the Mount Carmel property and a gunfight is going on between federal agents and Koresh’s followers. For those who don’t take the Bible seriously, talking about Scripture when there is a battle going on seems like an evasion. For those who do, however, it makes perfect sense:

KORESH: No, this is life. This is life and death!

LYNCH: Okay.

KORESH: Theology—

LYNCH: That’s what I’m talking about.

KORESH: is life and death.

Not long after the Waco siege began, James Tabor, the Biblical scholar, heard David Koresh on CNN talking about the Seven Seals. Tabor is an expert on Biblical apocalypticism and recognized the Branch Davidians for what they were—a community immersed in the world of the Old Testament prophets. He contacted a fellow religious scholar, Phillip Arnold, and together they went to the F.B.I. “It became clear to me that neither the officials in charge nor the media who were sensationally reporting the sexual escapades of David Koresh had a clue about the biblical world which this group inhabited,” Tabor writes, in an essay about his role in the Mount Carmel conflict.

« Last Edit: April 13, 2014, 12:03:05 PM by shnozzola »
We have guided missiles and misguided men.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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