‘Mad Man in Waco’: The haunting rock ballads of cult leader David Koresh

Charles Manson wasn’t the only rock & roll cult leader. As you may have learned from watching the Paramount Network’s new miniseries Waco, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians was also known to pick up the axe from time to time…

In an era plagued by gun violence and incessant mass murders, the siege at Waco remains to be one of the most memorable shootouts in American history. As several sources have depicted the tragedy, the situation at Mount Carmel could have been handled more delicately by the ATF and the FBI, who conclusively relied on force as a method of negotiation. What began as a federal search warrant for a suspected cache of illegal weapons, erupted quite literally into a gun battle between religious cult zealots and the United States government. The standoff lasted 51 days, until the iconic conclusion on April 19th, 1993, when a tear gas attack by the FBI prompted a fire that would engulf the Mount Carmel Center. By the close of the standoff, a total of 76 people would die—including leader David Koresh.

The Branch Davidians arose in 1955 from a rupture within the Shepherd’s Rod, a derivative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The original sect was led by self-proclaimed prophet Victor Houteff who, twenty years prior, had established its headquarters at the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas. When Houteff unexpectedly passed, many disagreements within the church brought about splinter groups like the aforementioned Branch Davidians, now led by the quasi-prophet, Benjamin Roden. Similar to the doctrines preached in the Shepherd’s Rod, the Branch Davidians believed they were living in the final period of Biblical prophecies, right before absolute judgement and the second coming of Christ.

David Koresh joined the Branch Davidians in 1981. Known then as Vernon Howell, the Koresh of his early-twenties seduced Lois Roden, the now-widowed leader of the commune, who was in her late sixties. The following year, Koresh declared himself to be the true prophet of the group and relayed that he had been instructed by God to bear a child with Lois, who would be considered the “Chosen One.” Upon Lois’ death, her son George Roden took over leadership of the Branch Davidians and exiled Koresh from the compound in fear of his rising influence. This was up until 1989, when Roden was convicted of murdering follower Wayman Dale Adair because he was believed to have been sent by Koresh. The former Vernon Howell then changed his name to that of celestial significance (after King David and “Koresh” being the Biblical name of Cyrus the Great) and he, along with his followers, raised enough money to buy-back Mount Carmel from the US government. From that moment forward, David Koresh became the final prophet of the Branch Davidians.

David and the Bros
Besides stockpiling weaponry, Koresh lived above the law through his teachings of the “New Light Message.” The men who practiced at Mount Carmel, even those who had committed alongside their wives, were to now lead a celibate life. The women, however, would be sexually and reproductively committed to Koresh, who insisted upon a harem of available women known as the “House of David.” The reasoning was, you guessed it, because of God’s commandments, that Koresh was to hold “spiritual weddings” with any woman that their Lord had instructed him to. Many of the women of the Branch Davidian cult became wives of Koresh, several of which had already been legally married—or were underage. At least one follower in particular, Michelle Jones, had her first child with Koresh when she was fourteen years old. The two had begun a sexual relationship years prior while her older sister, Rachel Jones-Koresh, remained the prophet’s only legal wife (whom she also married when she was fourteen). The parents of Michelle and Rachel Jones had been lifelong Branch Davidians and had given David permission to bed & wed their daughters.

It is believed that Koresh had fathered over fifteen children with the women of the group. He expected his children to be perfect and that they would eventually become the ruling elders after the apocalypse and the alleged second coming of Christ. The ideology of the Branch Davidians was heavily focused on Judgement Day and it was Koresh’s prophesy that only he could open the “Seven Seals” as foretold in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. This action would bring about the calamitous end of times, wherefore those devoted “Koreshians” would be led into the heavens by their divine leader. Koresh and his followers’ reaction to the standoff at Mount Carmel was that the Seven Seals had been opened and mankind’s decimation was upon them.

Just a day before the initial raid at Mount Carmel, the Waco Tribune ran its shocking, multi-part expose’ on the cult of David Koresh titled “The Sinful Messiah.” Among the story’s heinous depictions of child abuse, statutory rape, polygamy, paranoia, and a heavy artillery, another persona of David Koresh had also been characterized—that of a rocker. At 22 years of age, Koresh was kicked out of his mother’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston for trying to marry the pastor’s daughter. An aspiring musician, Koresh then moved to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a rock star. His attempt was considered an “utter failure,” and this is what led Koresh to Waco, Texas.

It could be said that David’s rock ambitions were what led him to literally try to become Jesus Christ. Plenty of rock stars regard themselves in self-idolatry, so the career trajectory checks out.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Bennett Kogon
09:48 am