Today is Thursday, February 28th, 2013. It is in most ways like any Thursday in winter except that it has a few unusual points of remembrance for people like us who are interested in Worldview issues. Most notable, of course, is that today Pope Benedict XVI stepped down as head of the Roman Catholic Church. For the first time in nearly 600 years a sitting Pope has left office before his physical death. He will spend his remaining years in self- imposed seclusion inside the Vatican and will hold the title of Pope-Emeritus. The College of Cardinals will now begin the secretive process of selecting Benedict’s replacement. For a more complete explanation of that process see my article in the February 26th edition of our online Worldview Made Practical newsletter: http://www.marketfaith.org/who-will-be-next-passenger-in-the-“pope-mobile”-or-how-to-pick-a-pope.
Another significant aspect of this day is that it marks the twentieth anniversary of the United States government’s assault on the Branch Davidian cult’s compound near Waco, Texas called Mount Carmel. On February 28th, 1993, agents of federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) surrounded the secluded living quarters of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh (AKA: Vernon Howell) and his followers. For fifty-one days the ATF laid siege on the well-armed compound. Consequently, on April 19th, 1993, on the direct orders of then Attorney General Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton, ATF agents stormed the fortress with armed vehicles and paramilitary units. Four ATF agents were killed in the attack. Eighty Branch Davidian men, women, and children, along with Koresh, were burned to death when church leaders set fire to their compound as the government agents closed in.
I recall the incident very well because my phone began to ring off the desk from news gatherers wanting more information on the Branch Davidians and other cults like them. I recall thinking and telling them that the tragic attack demonstrated two sad facts.
One is that since America values religious liberty so highly we must tolerate bizarre types of religious perspectives as long as they remain peaceful. In the case of the Branch Davidians, the government’s justification for the attack were the reports that the cult had stock-piled automatic weapons and were planning to begin a war they regarded as Armageddon and the end of days. (Those reports later were deemed highly questionable by congressional investigations of the event).
The other fact is that the Branch Davidians gave a face to what was, and still is, a major problem in America, that is the growth and rising numbers of cults. Unfortunately, we don’t hear as much about toxic cults as we did in the years leading up to the Waco incident. That is probably because the growth of radical Islam around the world has garnered first place in people’s consciousness of dangerous religions. Nonetheless, such groups still exist in this nation and should cause us concern. I don’t think sending in the troops is the way, however, to address these issues. What is really needed is a spiritual revival of authentic Christianity to free cultists once and for all from bondage, religious or otherwise.