History and Historiography

Were The Branch Davidians A Suicide Cult?

By Peter R. Quinones

Even people who can’t tell you what government agencies were involved in the Waco massacre will say, “The Branch Davidians were a suicide cult and set themselves on fire!” At a later date, possibly, we’ll look at the fire, and who started it, but for now, let’s see if there is any evidence that the Branch Davidians (BDs) were actually planning to kill themselves.

Davidian Doctrine

The BD’s main focus of study is on the return of Christ. This is evident in the fact that Koresh was famous throughout the world for his exposition of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation. Waco survivor David Thibodeau remembers his first “feast celebration” in Waco, “People started flying in from all over, for this very reason to learn the Seals. And like, one night a group of people would come in from England and another night it would be a group of people coming in from New Zealand, Australia, it was pretty interesting, I kept meeting all these people from different areas of the world, it was fascinating to be honest with you.” (12:52)

The Seven Seals are believed to be a description of what’s to happen before and during Christ’s Second Coming. There are many interpretations of the Seven Seals, and the “Second Coming.” Some include believers being spared from judgment by a physical “rapture,” a “catching up” into the air to meet Jesus. Others have believers suffering through the judgment. None that I can find, including those of Davidian teachings, have believers killing themselves. When asked by this author if the BDs under Koresh were a “suicide cult,” David Thibodeau responded, “Was there a planned suicide? No. We had talked about coming out, I think there was a time when David was really paranoid during the 51-day siege. There was a lot going on there, there were a lot of lies watching the press conferences every day. The FBI would tell us one thing and do something totally different in the press conferences. So, we got that, we’re being screwed with by the Feds. They’re telling us that they’re not going to come onto the property with tanks, then they’re saying in the press conferences they had to bring tanks in because we were doing things to provoke them, which was not true…but no, there wasn’t a plan to kill ourselves.” (38:45)

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