Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"I Challenge You to a Resurrection!"

This blog is a couple of months late.... oh well...

A lot of majors have senior capstone classes.  My major, religion, happens to be one of those.  This year we're studying the Branch Davidians, Mt.Carmel, and all the related events (

When I came to Baylor University in Waco, TX, a lot of people would make little sly remarks about Waco.  They would say stuff like, "Isn't that where that cult thing happened?"  To which I would smile and nod.  I didn't really know what they were talking about.

Here's the thing.  The event occurred in Spring of 1993.  I was two when this happened, and I am among the oldest undergrad students at Baylor.  Most current Baylor students were either toddlers, infants, or not even born.  This is not accounting for the fact that the majority of Baylor students are somewhat disconnected from the Waco community.  Most students don't really know what happened at Mt. Carmel.

From February 28- April 19, 1993, there was a standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel near Waco, TX.  The police were originally there for reports of artillery and child abuse.  There is no clear indication of who fired first, but somehow shots ended up being fired.  There was then a 51 day standoff between the two groups, as they worked to create the most peaceful ending possible.  Thankfully several people, including several children came out before the end.

On April 19, 1993, there were several gun shots, tanks went in filled with gas, and then a fire started.  This fire killed 76 Branch Davidians, including men, women, children, and their leader, Vernon Howell (who later changed his name to David Koresh).  It is unclear who started the fire.

The Branch Davidians are a sect off of the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, who are a sect off of the Seventh Day Adventists.  Something that they highlight is the book of Revelation, and the end times.  To the Branch, Revelation is a compilation and conclusion to all of the books of the Bible, primarily those of the Old Testament prophets. 

A couple of months ago, my class visited Mt. Carmel.  As we drove up to the site, we were overwhelmed by the memorials set up, and the no trespassing signs (clearly aimed at the government).

The chapel.
We met with the rest of our group and walked into the chapel.  The original chapel was destroyed in the fire.  This place served as a museum and for worship on sunday mornings.  The new building was actually created over the place where the front doors originally were.  These doors were those that the government shot at and put army tanks into.

As we walked through the doors, I was struck by the plain white walls and carpeting.  At the front of the chapel was a little stage with drums, just as you might find in any Southern church.  However, on the sides of it were the 10 commandments hung on two huge tablets.  For an instance I had flashbacks to last semester.

Last November, Westboro Baptist Church came to protest at a Baylor football game.  In preparation for the event, I decided to educate myself by watching many youtube videos on the group.  It was apparent that they had a strong emphasis on teachings of the Old Testament, just as the Davidians do.  I seem to remember some of these churches having the 10 commandments hanging up.  As I walked into the Davidian chapel, I felt like I was walking into one of these videos.

Amongst the whiteness of the walls to our sides were the faces of the previous Davidian prophets.  Victor Houteff, Ben Roden, Lois Roden, and David Koresh were just a few of these.  Sitting in that room and having their faces there was almost surreal.

Dog grave.  Some of the pets of the compound were among the first to be shot.
When we got there we sat down in the chapel.  Charles Pace, who is a Davidian himself (although he did not follow Koresh and wasn't in the Branch) spoke to us.  He spoke rather quickly, but with much passion.  It was easy to tell that this man surely believed what he was saying, even if those of us listening intently to him did not.

Pace started to speak of the theology and the events that actually occurred throughout that time.  Some of what he said we didn't agree with at all.  Examples of this being that Texas will succeed from the United States and become a satellite country of Israel.  This would be where God would send a prophet to judge the world.  In Pace's eyes, the American government, our governmental leaders, and Catholics and Muslims are the problems in the world.  When he spoke of theology, he used a lot of old testament to back him up, specifically Ezekiel.

We were all struck by some of the things he said to us, but we all had an ara of respect as well.  Here is this man that believes so full-heartedly in what he teaches, that he is willing to be out on this land everyday that almost a hundred people, many of whom he knew, died.  He was so determined and passionate about his message.  With seeing that in his eyes and that tone of his voice, it was hard not to see how someone may decide to follow this group of people.

The concrete slab is what remains of the old gym.
After spending 45-minutes to an hour or so indoors listening to Charles Pace, it was finally our time to walk around the site.

The first thing that stood out to us was the size of the compound.  From all of the pictures we had seen of this giant building set to flames, or with FBI around it, we expected to be amazed by the amount of land that this place would have taken up.  We were surprised when we realized that it was not nearly as large as we would have thought.  With the towers gone, it looked surprisingly small.

This is likely the site where most of the women and children passed away in the fire on April 19, 1993.
At some point while we were walking along we remembered that this was the site of 80+ deaths.  Then we remembered where Pace had said that the women and children would have been when the fire happened.  Let's just say that realizing that you are standing on the ground where that many people died in one of the countries largest tragedies is humbling to say the least.

Trying to get through the tunnel into the storm shelter.

This was a storm shelter.  The people tried to get there before the fire, but their only way of entry was blown to shreds.
Burnt items... flashlight and nails we thought

melted glass

Words that we found inscribed into the concrete of the steps of the pool.  Says "DK 92 Boom"... kinda eery.  (DK- David Koresh)

The incident is what inspired the Oklahoma City bombing.   This is a memorial to the people who passed away in it.

In class we have been evaluating different secondary sources, watching documentaries, videos, and engaging on conversation.  For the second half of the semester we have been working with primary documents, choosing a topic of our choice, and writing papers and having presentations.

For my topic, I chose to write on how Baylor reacted to all this... if you want to know more about my research, let me know! :-)

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