Recently, we have been looking at cults or as they are more commonly known as today NRMs or New Religious Movements. These groups are often religious or self help groups that exploit how the human brain works to gather members willing to do the most extreme things. NRMs most commonly attract people because they offer a solution or an answer to all problems that people are facing in hard times. This is why the most affected people are often people going through transitional stages in life. While many of these groups present themselves well on the outside, they have a darker truth within them. There are many examples of famous NRMs that go from weird to straight up genocidal. Take Jonestown for instance, where over 900 people were convinced or forced to commit suicide by their leader Jim Jones. His church had offered teachings of equality and peaceful living which brought in many people.
The group I was interested in was the Branch Davidians. This group is most famous for the Waco Siege, an event where the ATF came to the groups compound in Waco Texas. It resulted in a gunfight and 51 day standoff between the groups, where eventually, it is assumed to be an ATF tear gas canister that started a fire killing most inside; a large portion of the killed being children.
But what would motivate a group to do such a thing? Why would people follow David Koresh, the groups leader, as he stockpiled weapons and preached the second coming of Christ and the end of the world?
‘The Branch Davidians’, started off as the ‘Davidians’ back in 1930. They were a sect of the Seventh Day Adventists who were a Christian group that the messiah was not Jesus, and infact, was yet to arrive. The Branch Davidians were then an offshoot of the Davidians when David Koresh came to the group, ascended to the role of leader and proclaimed himself the messiah as prophesied in biblical book of Isaiah.
They also believed in separating themselves from the rest of the world. This created the isolation that creates radicalism in so many cults like it. By isolating the people to the compound, Koresh was able to gain more control over them, just like how Jim Jones did in Jonestown.
People were attracted to the group because of not only Koreshs charisma, a trait shared by most NRM leaders, but also the beliefs spread by Koresh. A lot of people are looking for answers, and having someone tell you that they are ‘The Messiah’ and that you should join their group was convincing enough for most. Once they were in, the preaching of how the outside world is rooted in sin was enough to keep anyone from leaving and radicalized those who stayed.
These tactics trapped and kept people within the cult would then cause many people to lose their lives. In the Waco Siege that would end up being the downfall of Koresh and most of the Davidians.