Who were the Branch Davidians?
Who were the Branch Davidians? In short, the architects of the most significant siege in American history. A siege that ended with 76 deaths and one of the biggest controversies in modern American history.
The Beginnings of the Branch Davidians
It should not be forgotten that the US of A was in some respects formed on the backdrop of religious persecution. Admirable in some respects, but also creating a relative hotbed of new religious movements, many of which have now become mainstream, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists, and it was from the later that the Branch Davidians were derived.
The founding of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church
he Seventh-day Adventist church was formally established in 1863 as an offshoot of the followers of Millersism, the teachings of William Miller, who in 1833 predicted the second coming of Christ in roughly 1843, or 1844. Eventually, they settled on the “biblical date” of October 22nd, 1844. Spoiler alert JC didn’t come, and instead of the second coming, Millerites got to celebrate “The Great Disappointment.”
In 1863 they regrouped as the Adventists, whose core beliefs continued to be the imminent coming of JC and a belief in Sabbatarianism. The briefing here is that the naughty Catholics moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and it should be celebrated on Saturday.
The Church has since flourished into a really successful business, with particular emphasis on spreading Saturday Sabbath.
But, alas like with anything successful, you get offshoots and imitations. Enter the Shepherds Rod.
Who were the Shepherds Rod/Davidian Adventists?
In 1929 Victor Houteff decided he did not agree with everything said by the 7th day Adventists, so did what any rational person would do by founding dos own church. As he now had his own Church, he also decided to make himself President and Prophet sent by god.
Essential tenets of the new faith were that Prophet Victor Houteff felt standards had become lax, and they needed a more fundamentalist approach to things. Who doesn’t like a bit of fundamentalism?
Things went swimmingly until the death of Victor Houteff in 1955, and the take over by his wife, Florence. Florence decided that the apocalypse was ament and gathered the followers near Waco to wait for impending doom.
Sadly impending doom did not occur, but instead, another schism, enter Benjamin Rogen and the Branch Davidians.
Early Branch Davidians
Benjamin Rogen not only named himself President and Prophet of the Branch Davidians, but also managed to keep control of the Mount Carmel site near Waco (where the eventual massacre would occur), and again the group awaited the end of days.
End of days for Ben Rogen occurred in 1978 (when he died), and event which ironically would set about an apocalypse of kinds, enter David Koresh.
The Rise of David Koresh
Cults tend to pass the prophet title around a bit like a kingdom, and thus following the death of Ben Rogen, his wife Louis Rogen duly became the prophet.
In 1981 Vernon Howell moved onto the compound and proved to be a popular member of the cult. Howell then in his late 20’s was particularly popular with Prophet Louis Rogen (then in her late 60’s) and proceeded to start banging her in the hopes of the “chosen one” being born.
Alas, old lady Lois eventually died of old age, at which time Prophethood passed to George Rogen, the son of Ben and Louis.
Howell vs Rogen
Alas Vernon really wanted to be a prophet of the Davidians, and it was fairly soon that they were in conflict. A majority of Davidians supported Howell, which led to George Rogen daring Vernon Howell to raise the dead, even exhuming a corpse to really hammer down his point.
Howell declined to raise the dead and instead held an armed raid on the compound, which lead to the arrest of George Rogen and its takeover by Vernon Howell. Enter David Koresh.
As the new leader of the group Vernon Howell realizing that his name was bit rubbish, and not all that cultey thus changed his name to the much more cool David Koresh. David got his name idea from King David and Cyrus the Great (Koresh is Hebrew for Cyrus).
Things get weird beard in the Branch Davidian Compound
Whilst one might argue that the Davidians had been a little strange from the get-go, what with dug up bodies and the like, but things were about to get a whole heap worse.
Koresh identified himself with the Lamb, who would bring about the second coming of Christ, married multiple women, including some that were already married, and a number of underage girls.
In 1992 Texas authorities began to investigate the sect, and whilst initially not finding anything, it was only to delay the tragic finale to things.
The Siege of Waco
The siege of Waco was a 51-day standoff between the FBI and the heavily armed Branch Davidians, which included physiological attacks, the death of several federal agents, and the eventual storming of the compound. In the end, 76 people died when the siege ended on April 19th, 1993, including David Koresh.
The siege itself, and indeed the justification of the FBI, has drawn considerable controversy since, and there has bee numerous written about the tragic events that included the death of 26 children.
The Branch Davidians today
A sect of the Davidians still exists today that continues to follow the teachings of Ben and Lois Rogen. The group has 1200 members who make great pains to distance itself from David Koresh.