Branch Davidians, Gallegher and Personal Testimony

Eugene Gallegher’s essay on the Branch Davidian sect explores the nuances of David Koresh’s interpretive system. Gallegher points out a triangle in which Koresh models his specific hermeneutic of biblical interpretation in the form of a triangle: Text, Interpreter and Context. Gallegher admits that this system, even though fundamentally flawed is quite ingenious. David Koresh, a cult leader to most of society, was a man a man that fundamentally interpreted the whole of Scripture (and life’s events for that matter) as completely centering on the book of Revelation. Furthermore, not only was his interpretation on Revelation generally, but chapters 4 and 5 particularly. He considered himself to be the Lamb of God, opening up the seven seals. The fundamental problem with Koresh’s hermeneutic is the fact that he looks at Scripture through this vacuum of Revelation. Gallegher implies that even with this problematic approach, it strengthened Koresh’s power over his students. In moving from the Text itself, he as the Interpreter found himself in it. In a sense, one could argue that he presuppositions about what the text said guided and lead him to his conclusions. Koresh lacked any sense of objectivity while engaging the Bible. He further vindicated his own interpretation of the Text and of himself (Interpreter) by viewing Revelation only in the Context of where he found himself in Waco, TX. Because Revelation repeatedly discusses and draws on images of the persecuted faithful, when the BATF and the FBI engaged in a standoff with him, it further supported Koresh’s claim to fame. At this point, even in hindsight, it’s hard to see a different outcome than the tragedy that took place at Waco. Koresh, by tickling the ears of his blindly faithful through endless manipulative and isogetical study of the Bible, must have known that a blood bath would undoubtedly ensue. The interactions between government agencies and the Branch Davidians were ridiculous on both sides. Perhaps the side of the government was even more ridiculous. In dealing with an extremist religious sect, the more they are persecuted, the more they hold to their beliefs. Why? There is no stronger element in the human psyche other than that of devotion. These people believed Koresh was the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Christ. The government knew they believed this. In trying to subvert Koresh’s authority, they were also trying to destroy the faith and lifestyle of people who devoted all of themselves to Koresh’s teaching. There is no way this event could have been solved with any amount of violence or the possibility of it. Even today, there are still Branch Davidians out there that are waiting for their Messiah to come back and rescue them. They are still (if not moreso) firmly committed to Koresh’s teachings. Why? Because the persecution spoken of in Revelation is something they truly believed happened to them. In undergoing “persecution” and enduring it, it is unlikely that a person would look back and change their minds, thinking instead that they (but more importantly their leader) caused this tragedy to take place. If they were to believe that all they endured was for nothing, it would shatter their understanding of God and their Messiah, Koresh. Gallegher and the stories of Waco survivors show just how dark life can get merely through one man who took a simple-minded narrow view of Scripture and twisted it to meet the desires of his own selfish and deceptive heart.