Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate

Stuart A. Wright

in Violence and New Religious Movements

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735631
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894512 | DOI:
Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate

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This chapter revisits the controversy, recently revived by Kenneth C. G. Newport, that the Branch Davidians had a theological rationale for mass suicide and likely set fire to their own home. Newport couples the theological argument with assertions of “unassailable evidence” claimed in the government’s reports. The chapter challenges this claim. Despite Newport’s largely uncritical acceptance of the official version of events, the reliability of the government’s case is hampered in a number of ways. The chapter also contends that the tragic denouement at Waco has to be viewed in the cultural context in which it emerged. When examined against the backdrop of these disturbing machinations and conditions, the evidence supporting mass suicide at Mount Carmel is hardly unassailable.

Keywords: mass suicide; Branch Davidians; federal raid; standoff

Chapter.  9237 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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