Monday, February 9, 2009

Waco Under Fire, Part One

Ms. Jewell taught seventh grade keyboarding. She always found games to make typing enjoyable. She died the year after I had her class in Waco, Texas—part of the Branch Davidian cult. I have not thought about Ms. Jewell for some time, but my memories were recently rekindled when I watched the documentary Waco: Rules of Engagement. As I wrote this, I found I had lots to say, so I’ve broken this post up into to separate blogs; the second half will be posted tomorrow.

There were no hints from her that her life was troubled; she took quite a few sick days (perhaps to deal with the custody battle between her ex-husband, who found out his 12 year old daughter was pledged to be married to David Koresh; he won and her daughter later testified before Congress that Koresh molested her while reading the Bible to her.), but that was it. I would never have suspected she was involved in a church several miles away in La Verne preparing to leave for Waco, Texas.

Even today, whenever I hear a story on Waco I always instantly think of Ms. Jewell, a soft spoken Hawaiian living in SoCal, and how on Earth did she become she became involved with a radical movement in Texas.

As it happened, Ms. Jewell was a bit of a wild child in the early eighties, but tamed herself when she found God via Seventh Day Adventist church—which is where Branch Davidians branch off from.

The reason so many new age cults spring off from the Seventh Day church is because of how much emphasis they put on prophecy and the book of Revelations—if you encourage people to have visions you are bound to have people break away claiming to have visions contrary to the churches teachings. And that's exactly how the Davidians started.

David Koresh suffered from dyslexia, but managed to memorize the entire New Testament by the time he was a teen (I believe Stalin did the same thing). By the time he was 24 he had broken away from the Seventh Day church (a dispute arose when he told the pastor of the church he was attending that he had vision that said he was to give his daughter to him in marriage), and was involved in a Seventh Day offshoot (The Davidians); it is alleged that he began having sexual relations with the 78 year-old leader of the church. When she died, her son wanted to take over, so Koresh goes away to build a following. He eventually returns with a gun tooting posey to reclaim the church and, I am not joking about this, the son dug up a dead body and told Koresh to make it rise from the dead; Koresh had him arrested for digging up the dead and took over the church!

The son later murdered another person involved in the church, and, I believe is still in jail to this day.

In between the disputes with the woman's son, Koresh went to Jerusalem, believed he was the chosen one (he didn't believe he was Christ, contrary to what media frequently reported) that was supposed to reveal the seven seals of Revelations. He recruited more heavily when he returned (including in La Verne, California where the Davidians had a small following and where I assume he meant my teacher).

The ATF started building a case against the Davidians once Koresh had once again regained control of the church and was living in the compound. The Davidians had been stockpiling weapons (that were obtained legally), and the ATF charged that they had illegally modified them. Why did they have the guns to begin with?

One, protection—they were anti-government (they weren't radical enough to start war on the government, but they did believe the government was out to get them and they needed them for protection—oddly, it turns out they were right); two, they were selling and trading them at gun shows—this was actually one of the biggest ways they got money.

Even though Koresh and his followers were known to venture regularly outside the compound at restaurants and stores, the ATF decided it would be better to surround the compound and surprise them with a warrant; the documentary alleges that they filmed the whole thing, and probably planned to use it as PR to show the world how great the agency was and why they needed them (they were in danger of losing funding). It's at this surprise attack that the real controversy starts. They knock on the door to issue the warrant, Koresh comes out completely unarmed, and someone fires. The ATF says it was someone inside the compound fired, but it is more widely held that probably an agent accidentally fired the gun, and then it all backfired.

Koresh goes back into the house and the group begins to fire back in self defense—like I said, they believe the government is out to get them, so it makes sense to them that the government would be shooting at them.

At one point, a man inside the compound, Wayne Martin, calls the police and tells them that there are women and children inside and they have to stop shooting; the sheriff tries to contact the ATF, but for some odd reason they have no radios or phones—just fax machines to send press releases to media outlets!

Two hours later the ATF finally runs out of bullets and retreats. The FBI is now brought out to handle the situation and clean up the ATF's mess.

Read the second half here...

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